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Newsletters: August 2021

 

August 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information. 

In this issue find out more about:

  • UC claimants to see a cut - removal of the £20 Coronavirus uplift
     
  • Late ID verification - DWP is catching up from last year
     
  • Post Office card accounts - ending soon
     
  • Better off or worse off on UC? - who could be better off once the £20 pw uplift has gone?
     
  • Moving home - recent question
     
  • Back pay of LCWRA Element - recent question
     
  • Online training - our Autumn programme
     
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a box of chocolates for you!

£20 pw cut
to Universal Credit

We all welcomed the £20 weekly increase in payments for those claiming Universal Credit (and Working Tax Credit) introduced by the government at the start of lockdown last year - this was initially set to be in place for a year. However in his Spring Budget on 3rd March 2021, Rishi Sunak announced that the £20 increase in UC would remain in place for a further six months, until the end of September 2021 (with WTC claimants receiving a £500 lump sum payment). 

Despite calls for a further extension it is looking like this lifeline - that has helped so many - will be removed as planned, meaning that the majority of Universal Credit claimants will then see a reduction in their Standard Allowance of £20 per week (£86.67 per month) from October 2021.


When will UC claimants first see the drop?
From the Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) which ends on or after 6th October 2021 claimants' UC awards will include the normal, lower, standard allowance of:
£257.33 - single claimant under 25
£324.84 - single claimant age 25+
£403.93 - couple both under 25
£509.91 - couple one or both age 25+.

Any MAP which ends on or before 5th October should still include the higher amount.

Are claimants being warned?
The DWP is now notifying claimants through their UC journals about when their UC will reduce. See our new Hot Topic for further details.

Impact

Although provided as a safety net and aimed to 'make work pay', recent research has shown that even Universal Credit claimants who have jobs are falling into poverty - with in-work poverty being at a record high. And one in six working households were living below the breadline just before the pandemic.

Anti-poverty campaigners and MPs have said that the extension should stay and it comes at a time when many will face other pressures. Even former Conservative welfare ministers have written to the Chancellor urging him to make the £20 increase permanent to avoid sending families into financial crisis.


Many organisations are campaigning for the uplift to be left in place permanently - on the grounds that people were already struggling before the Coronavirus pandemic.

Get involved
In last month's newsletter, we highlighted the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's 'Keep the Lifeline' campaign - one of many putting pressure on the government to keep the uplift. They are encouraging as many people as possible to write to their MPs.
They have produced template letters for:
  • UC claimants - click here
  • ESA, JSA & IS claimants - click here
  • People who are not directly affected by the cut but are concerned about the impact it would have on people they know or wider society - click here 
     
Don't forget
The amount of a Third Party Deduction taken from a claimant's UC award for certain debts - including rent - is based on a % of their Standard Allowance. So when the £20 uplift is removed, this will mean the amount of any Third Party Deductions will also drop.
Hot Topic here
Need up-to-date Universal Credit information for your customer facing website?

Click here to find out more...

 

Catching up with ID checks

You may remember that during 2020 there was an unprecedented number of claims made for Universal Credit and staff had to be re-deployed from other departments to process claims.

One of the measures put in place to enable as many claims as possible to be processed on time was that if someone was not able to have their identity verified online, their claim was processed anyway.

The DWP has started to follow up on these claims. They are contacting claimants, asking for documents to prove their identity. 

We have heard of one claimant who was unable to upload ID as requested because she is not IT literate, her daughter helps with her online claim and her daughter was isolating. Her claim was cancelled back to the start and she was left with a huge overpayment! She sought advice and she has made a new claim for UC. She is also challenging the decision to cancel her previous claim.

Top tips

  • It is always worth reminding claimants to watch out for, and respond promptly to, messages on their journal (or letters or text messages if they have an offline claim).
  • Remember that claimants should be given one month from the date of request to provide evidence; extra time should be allowed if reasonable and the claimant requests this. If someone's UC claim is closed before the appropriate time limit has been allowed this would be grounds for challenging that decision.
  • And if somebody does not have documents to prove their ID, the DWP can (and should) ask some biographical questions instead
Click here for more info
Post Office
Card Accounts ending

The government's contract with the Post Office to provide Post Office Card Accounts ends in November 2021. So, the DWP has been asking those who have their benefits (including State Pension) paid into a Post Office Card Account to provide details of an alternative bank, building society or credit union account. 

Claimants need to ring the DWP Customer Service centre on 0800 085 7133 to provide new account details.

Those who have not provided new account details will start to receive their payments via the Payment Exception service instead. This new arrangement will start from the end of August 2021.

More about the Payment Exception Service here

Better off on UC?

The extra £20 per week in UC was one of the factors in working out whether someone could be better off on Universal Credit. As there was no £20 uplift in ESA / JSA / Income Support or Child Tax Credit, some working age claimants opted for UC instead.

Now that the £20 Coronavirus uplift is disappearing, fewer people will be financially better off if they claim UC, when compared with their legacy benefits.  Some could still be better off though (and some could be worse off) so it is worth checking.

Remember:

  • Only certain changes in circumstances trigger the need for someone to claim UC.
  • There is a lot of poor advice and information out there, so whist someone doesn't want to delay claiming if UC is their only option, it is always best if they check that this is their only option - some claimants can be over £100 a week worse off on UC. You can use our Need2Claim UC tool - see below.
  • Once someone has hit the 'submit' claim button, there is no going back - so claimants need to be sure they want to claim UC and it is the best option for them.
  • Always do a thorough check - you can use our UC calculator to estimate what they could get on UC and email us at info@housingsystems.co.uk if you are not sure.
  • Think about future changes that could affect the award - will they still be better off afterwards?
  • Ask if the claimant has any deductions or other debts that could be taken from their UC award - whilst the rate of recovery under UC is better than it was - many of these are set at a higher rate under UC and are non-negotiable. Take these into account when working out whether they'd be better off.
More info on who could be better off on UC
And who could be worse off on UC
Have you seen our  
Need2Claim UC?
Mapping Tool?

It takes less than one minute
to find out if a change in your customer's circumstances is likely to trigger the
need to claim UC or not. 
Need2Claim UC mapping tool
Recent question:
Does she need to claim UC?

Question - We have a 63 year old tenant who is transferring tenancies from a general needs house into a sheltered property in the same local authority area. She does not need much support - so we don't think she will count as living in specified accommodation. She gets Income Related ESA, Housing Benefit and Personal Independence Payment. 
Will she have to claim Universal Credit?  

Answer - She does not need to claim UC if she is on Housing Benefit already and she is moving within the same LA area. The move is just a 'change of circumstances' and her existing HB claim can continue for the new address.
She will need to notify both the HB office and the ESA dept as soon as she moves.  
There is no need for her to claim UC - but there is nothing to stop her from claiming either! So watch out - as UC might not be the best option for her. If she does claim UC, both her ESA and HB will end!

Have you seen our 'Triggers' summary sheet?
Recent question:
Can UC withhold arrears?

Question - My customer claimed UC nearly two years ago and has waited this long for a Work Capability Assessment to be completed. She has been found to have a limited capability for work & work related activities. The LCWRA Element has been added to her award and she is also owed over £6800 in back pay. However, the DWP are now saying she cannot have any of this - it has to be used to clear other DWP debts. Can they do this?

Answer - No, that is not correct!
The DWP guidance says,
"as a matter of policy arrears are not withheld if the following circumstances apply....where a payment is made at a ‘safe rate’ which excludes a particular component of the claim pending verification (for example, verification of housing costs/rent, Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) arrears due from the start of the claim), then once that component has been verified we would not withhold those arrears against outstanding debts."

The claimant should raise a complaint about this and request the payment is made to her. This may mean that the overpayment/s is recovered from on-going deductions instead.

You could contact the DWP Partnership Manager in case they can help too.

It might also be worth contacting CPAG's Early Warning System about this – they are interested in where UC is not working correctly for claimants.

More info on UC arrears payments here
Our Autumn training programme
Online Workshop

Be Prepared: 
Current and future Hot Topics


This workshop is designed to look at the upcoming topics and changes and how they might affect your customers - and your work load
13th Sept am - £79+vat
click here to find out more...
Online Workshop

Missing UC Payments

Aimed at those working in Income Teams this online workshop highlights the payments many UC claimants are missing out on.
14th Sept am - £79+vat
click here to find out more...
8 week Blended Learning

UC The Essentials

Aimed at new staff this blended learning programme combines
E-Learning and online Workshops to give learners the 'must have' information about UC.
Starts 23rd Sept - £245+vat
click here to find out more...
Blended Learning

Calculating UC

This practical training combines
E-Learning courses and two Workshops to focus on how
UC is calculated with hints and tips on how to maximise entitlement.
w/c 27th Sept - £125+vat
click here to find out more...
Online Workshop

EEA Nationals & UC for Lettings

An essential online Workshop for anyone working in lettings - investigates the new rules that took effect on 1st July 2021.
6th Oct pm - £79+vat
click here to find out more...
Want to know more about:

Our Online Training?

We have Workshops, E-Learning courses and Blended Learning courses - all written and presented by experts, designed especially for people supporting social housing tenants.
Click here for more info.

Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank and a box of chocolates for yourself!

 
Every month we give you the chance to win £50 for your local food bank.  

Congratulations to Becky from Caring for Life who won our July quiz! A £50 donation is being made to Caring For Life's own food bank.


Why not enter our competition and possibly win a donation for your local food bank? The winner will be selected at random and can nominate a food bank of their choice to receive a £50 donation from us, and they will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 17th September 2021 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question:

A Universal Credit claimant who has earnings cannot get a Funeral Payment
True or False?


Find the answer on this page: click here

And email your entry to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

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