Latest Public Sector News

13.11.14

DWP announces Universal Credit guidance for social landlords

A package of guidance for social landlords to help them prepare themselves and their tenants for Universal Credit has gone live today, the Department for Work and Pensions has announced.

The support pack has been designed to give social landlords practical advice on how to ensure their tenants are prepared for the new benefit.

The controversial Universal Credit brings together six benefits and tax credits into one monthly payment that ministers say will help people to get into work quicker. They say it “closely mirrors the world of work”, encouraging financial responsibility and prepares people so that they do not suffer a shock when they move from benefit payments. A key feature is that claimants will receive their housing element as part of their monthly payment and are responsible for paying their landlord themselves.

The new benefit has been beset by delays and criticism. In November last year PSE reported the Public Accounts Committee release of a report that criticised “alarmingly weak” and “extraordinarily poor” management of the programme, saying it had failed to develop a comprehensive plan. The programme has also suffered from major IT problems and a total of £600m was written off last year when the project was ‘reset’.

Universal Credit has undergone several big timetable revisions. By April this year, under the original blueprint, around one million people were due to be claiming UC but the actual figure was about 7,000. In September work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith announced that the revised timetable of a 2017 national rollout would be accelerated to 2015-16. 

Lord Freud, minister for welfare reform said: “Social landlords have been playing a vital role in welfare reform and supporting tenants who are already receiving Universal Credit. There is great work happening in the sector.

“Universal Credit is now available in one in 10 Jobcentres and will be in almost 100 by Christmas, with national roll-out beginning early next year – so now is the ideal time to boost preparation activity.

“For the first time many tenants will be paid their Housing Benefit directly and I would encourage landlords to think about identifying tenants who need support to prepare for this, and put those who are ready onto a direct payment early.”

The amount that can be deducted from a claimant’s Universal Credit if they fail to pay their rent has been increased from 5% up to 20% of the Universal Credit standard allowance, which will ensure claimants are back on track with payments quicker. The minimum amount that will be deducted is 10%.

Communities minister Kris Hopkins MP said: “Universal Credit helps claimants and their families to become more independent through simplifying the welfare system. I welcome this initiative to help social landlords and tenants prepare for Universal Credit.

“I’ve been impressed by the work I’ve seen that social landlords do in supporting their tenants and it’s clear to me they have a vital role to play in helping them to make this change. A large number of social housing tenants will over time move onto Universal Credit so I would encourage landlords to get involved.”

(Image: c. Rui Vieira/PA Wire)

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