Councils given powers to recoup 80% of temporary accommodation spending in £70m UC reform

Councils will be able to claim back over 80% of the money they spend on temporary accommodation after the government announced new reforms to the Universal Credit system.

As part of the £1.5bn support package announced in this week’s Autumn Budget, the DWP has revealed it will look to prevent losses of £70m by allowing claims from the government rather than the specific claimant.

The announcement also included detail on the partnership between the DWP and Citizen’s Advice, which will be extended to provide more face to face contact with UC claimants.

In a statement to parliament, David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, commented: “In April, as a short-term measure, we will change how claimants in temporary accommodation receive support for their housing costs to ensure that local authorities can recover more of their costs and can therefore continue to offer this valuable support to those who need it most.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their finances. However, personal budgeting support and digital skills training are provided to claimants through universal support, delivered through local authorities.

“Building on this, we are exploring with Citizens Advice the scope for greater collaborative working to help claimants locally as they move to universal credit.”

The measures were included as part of the initial announcement which involved reducing waiting times for payments by one week to deal with housing issues.

The changes prompted Jo Miller, president of Solace, an organisation that represents CEOs and senior managers in councils across England, to praise the government for paying attention to the needs of local authorities.

She said: “The announcements about the changes to Universal Credit certainly indicate that the government is now listening to what we and others have been saying about the dangers inherent in its original policy design.”

The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, also stated that the reform was a “very welcome step” towards fixing the problems caused by UC.

“These changes should make a significant difference to the millions of people who will be claiming Universal Credit by the time it’s fully implemented. We’ll continue to keep a close eye on the roll-out of Universal Credit and make sure they do,” she added.

“The next step will be to make changes to work incentives, so that no one is left worse off under Universal Credit than they would be under previous benefits.”

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