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Newsletters: April 2018

UC: April Changes 2018Newsletter

Welcome to this special newsletter - looking specifically at the Universal Credit rule changes taking place in April 2018

In this issue find out more about:

  • Two Week HB Run-on- What is it and who gets it?
  • Surplus earnings / Self-employed losses- regulations finally take effect
  • Temporary Accommodation- new claims for help with rent from those on UC supported via HB
  • Changes to the DHP rules-for UC claimants moving into specified or temporary accommodation
  • New rules when suspending conditionality- for some UC claimants who have previously been found fit for work or treated as fit for work
  • Changes to the backdating process- for new UC claims under the Full / Digital UC service
  • Providing Supporting Evidence -for UC claims: time limit reduced to 14 days
  • Work allowance- slight increase
  • Free School Meals -new rules from April for UC claimants in England
  • Help with Mortgage Interest- SMI scheme replaced by loan
  • Rent Increases-verification required via landlord portal

Two Week HB Run-On
What is it?
&
Who can get it?

The introduction of a two week run-on in HB (or what the DWP call a Transition to UC Housing Payment) for those moving from legacy benefits to Universal Credit was first announced in the government's Autumn 2017 Budget.

This change has now been confirmed and will apply to all new UC claims(who qualify for it) made on or after 11th April 2018.

What do the rules say?

So from April 11th 2018, new UC claimants who were on Housing Benefit immediately before their UC claim was made and whose HB endeddue to the claimfor UC will be entitled to a twoweekTransition to UC Housing Payment.

What about claimants moving out of specified accommodation?
Claimants moving out of specified accommodation are not entitled to theTransition to UC Housing Payment.

The DWP confirmed this for us, they stated: 'A Transition to UC Housing Payment cannot be made to those moving out of specified accommodation as their HB is not ending because they have made a claim for UC but because they are moving home. Instead, as they are not excluded from being a UC claimant and getting HB for specified accommodation they could get HB for their notice period for up to 4 weeks under the 'normal' HB rules.'

 

How much will a claimant get?

TheHB for this two week period will be awarded on the basis that the claimant is a UC claimant (even if their UC award has not been decided yet).
Because the rules are that anyone on UC is entitled to maximum HB (ie UC is a 'passport' benefit for HB), the amount of HB paid during the two week 'run-on' period will be the maximum HB regardless of the claimant's income ie rent less ineligible services, less Bedroom Tax reduction, less non-dependant deduction.

What about the Benefit Cap?
The HB two week run on - or what the DWP are calling 'Transitional UC Housing Payment' will be classed as 'welfare' for Benefit Cap purposes - so if the claimant's HB was being capped before they went onto UC, the two week payment will also be capped. However the HB rules say that where a claimant is in receipt of UC then the cap no longer applies. So onceUC is awarded the cap should then be lifted for those two weeks and the payment made.

What about on-going deductions for an overpayment?
If a deduction was being made in respect of recovery of an HB overpayment this can stay in place for the two weeks.

Who receives the payment?

Where the claimant is making a new claim for UC and is not moving home, then the two week 'run-on' will be paid to whoever has been receiving it- landlord or claimant.

Where the claimant has moved home, the two week 'run-on' will be paid directly to the claimant. Claimants may be required to provide up-to-date bank account details to theLA to enable this.
If the claimant has moved to a new LA area, the 'run-on' of HB will be paid by the ‘old’ LA (ie. it will be a continuation of the existing claim).

Doesn't it just reduce the claimant's first UC award £1 for £1?

No. TheTransition to UC Housing Paymentis not counted as income for UC purposes.

Will everyone who claimsUC after being on HB get the two week run-on?

The HB must have ended because the claimant has made a new claim for UC rather than for any other reason.

So watch out for those with a gap between their HB ending and UC starting - even if this is just a matter of days.

And where a claimant is making a claim for UC following the death of their partner who was the HB claimant, then we do not believe the two week run-on will apply - as the HB award is ending because ofthe death of the claimant, rather than because their partner has made a new claim for UC.

We also understand that HB claims will need to be adjusted manually to pay the correct run-on period.

Why introduce this rule?

The purpose of the change is to help minimise the risk of rent arrears when claimants move from HB to UC.

In his statement to the House of Commons on 23rd November, David Gauke, Secretary for Work and Pensions stated:

"From April, for new claimants already receiving support towards their housing costs, we will provide an additional payment of two weeks of their housing benefit to support them as they transition to universal credit, helping to address the issue of rent arrears for those who most need it."

Example 1

Penny has been getting Income Support as a lone parent. When her youngest child turns 5 she is advised to claim Universal Credit (she lives in a Full / Digital UC area). Her last day of Income Support is 12th August 2018, and she makes her claim for UC on 13th August 2018.

Her claim will start on 13th August andbe assessed on 12th September; and she will receive her first UC payment on 19th September. As she is moving from legacy benefits onto UC and her HB award is ending because of this, she is entitled to a HB two week run on – so her HB entitlement will not end until 26th August 2018.

Example 2

Simon is moving to a new LA area and his new home is in a Full / Digital UC area. He has been getting Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit and so the move triggers the need for him to claim Universal Credit. He moves out of his old home on 8th May 2018, and makes a claim for Universal Credit the same day.
His Jobseekers Allowance comes to an end from the day before his claim for UC ie 7th May 2018. As his HB is ending due to the fact he has made a new claim for UC, he is entitled to the two week HB run on. This is an extension of his old award which should therefore end on 22nd May 2018 and be paid by his old Local Authority. But because he has moved home this part of his entitlement needs to be paid directly to him.
Simon was having his HB paid directly to his landlord at his old address and so he will need to provide his old LA with his bank details so that they can make the payment directly to him.

Example 3

Stuart has been getting Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit. He has been found fit for work as he has failed to score 15 points on his medical and so his IR-ESA is brought to an end – his last day of entitlement is 7th June 2018. As he lives in a Full / Digital UC service area he has been advised by the Job Centre that is only option is UC*. He doesn’t fancy having to go on UC and so does nothing.

The HB Office are informed that his IR-ESA has ended and so suspend his HB claim and request up-to-date income information from him – but he doesn’t respond. On 28th June, after a few weeks of borrowing from friends and family Stuart makes a new claim for UC. He has not provided the HB Office with the information they need to re-instate his claim for HB and so they end his award from 8th June on the basis of an ‘adverse inference’ decision.

Because the Regulation used to end Stuart’s HB award is not Reg 8 of the UC Regulations, Stuart is not entitled to the two week HB run-on. Stuart couldtry toget his HB award re-opened and awarded up to 27th June on nil income grounds:he would then also be entitled to the two week run on.

*He does have another option – which is to request a quick Mandatory Reconsideration of the ESA decision that he is fit for work and then go on to Appeal if necessary – he can stay on HB under a nil income until the Appeal is lodged and, once lodged, (as long as he is not caught by the 'repeat fit for work rules', request that his ESA is re-instated –click herefor more details.

 

Surplus Earnings Rules

Are introduced but will not affect many claimants.

Find out morehere.
Surplus Losses Rules

For self-employed claimants

Find out morehere.


Changes for those living in 'temporary accommodation'

These new rules will apply to allNEWUC claims made on or after 11th April 2018;those claimants already on UC and living in temporary housing will continue to get their rent funded through a Housing Costs Element based on LHA rules.

What do the new rules say?

From 11th April 2018, UC claimants deemed to be living in 'temporary accommodation' - as defined by the UC Regulations - who make a new claim for UC, will have their rent and service charges covered by HB rather than a UC Housing Costs Element.

NOTE: There is a strictdefinition of 'temporary accommodation', and these rules will only apply to those living in temporary accommodation that falls under this definition.

More information and definitionshere

Changes to DHP rules

for those UC claimants moving into 'specified' or 'temporary' accommodation

From 11th April 2018 the Discretionary Financial Assistance Regulations 2001 are amended to allow a Local Authority to award a Discretionary Housing Payment to a UC claimant for any Monthly Assessment Period when the claimant would have been entitled to a Universal Credit Housing Costs Element were it not for the fact that they were living in 'specified accommodation'or 'temporary accommodation' as defined by the UC Regulations.

This means that even where for part of aMonthly Assessment Period the claimant might not have been getting HB or a Housing Costs Element in their UC (eg because they moved out during the MAP), so long as they require further financial assistance with their housing costs then they will be eligiblethroughoutthe period of that Monthly Assessment Period if they have been living in 'specified accommodation' or 'temporary accommodation' as defined by the Regulations.


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New rules when suspending conditionality

Who is affected by this change?

These rules affect those UC claimants who have previously been found fit for work, or treated as fit for work, who subsequently request that their work search/preparation requirements are temporarily suspended due to a period of ill health.

What do the new rules say?

From 11th April 2018 a UC claimant who is a jobseeker and who suffers a health condition will not be able to have their work related requirements temporarily suspended* if the health condition they are reporting is the same as, or substantially the same as, the condition they had when they were previously found fit for work, or treated as fit for work.
(Someone can be treated as fit for work if they failed to attend a medical or failed to provide evidence or submit a questionnaire).

*Jobseeking UC claimants can otherwise have such conditionality suspended for up to 14 days (maximum twoperiods in a year).

Will this rule always apply?

This rule will not apply if:

  • The claimant has been referred for a further Work Capability Assessment - in which case the work coach can suspend or reduce any work related requirements.
  • The last decision on fitness for work was regarding a decision about Income-Related ESA or 'Old-Style' Contributory ESA^.
  • And the work coach does have the discretion to suspend conditionality if it would be unreasonable to expect the claimant to comply with their work related requirements.

 

^The new rules will apply to those found fit or treated as fit for work under the UC Regulations or under the ESA Regulations 2013 ie for New-Style ESA, but not under ESA Regulations 2008 ie for Old-Style Contributory ESA or Income-Related ESA.

NOTE: Similar changes are being made to Jobseekers Allowance.

Example

Helena has been getting Universal Credit since January 2017. Her award did include a Limited Capability for Work Element (assessed under the UC Regs) due to her bad back. But in March 2018 she was found fit for work and so she has been claiming as a jobseeker ever since.

It is now May 2018 and her back has been playing her up and so last week shecontacted her work coach and was hoping to have her work search requirements suspended for a week or two. But her work coach has explained that she is not able to do this because she is presenting the same health issue as she had when she was found fit for work and there is no apparent difference in her condition.


Changes to the backdating process

Under the Full/Digital UC service there have been issues when a claimant has requested a backdate:

  • Delays in making a decision on the backdate have also delayed the claimant's first UC payment.
  • Some claimants have withdrawn their backdate request - and therefore lost out - in order to receive that first UC payment.
  • Where a claimant has had their claim backdated then this affects their Monthly Assessment Period - whichstarts on the date the claim is backdated to rather than the date of claim.

From 11th April 2018 the rules are changing that should prevent these problems.
The DWP will havethe discretion to allow a first assessment period that can be shorter than one month, to incorporate a backdate, thereby not having to wait until a decision on the backdate has been made before assessing and paying any UC the claimant is entitled to.

Click herefor more information.

Providing supporting evidence

From 11th April 2018 where a claimant has a change in circumstances that would mean their UC will increase ie a beneficial change, they only have 14 days (rather than a month) to provide any required evidence.
Work allowance

From 9th April 2018 the work allowances will increase by 3% to £198 (lower rate ie where there is a Housing Costs Element) and £409 (higher rate ie where there is no Housing Cost Element – except for those claimants living in temporary housing under the new rules).
Click herefor more info.

Free School Meals

In England - new earnings limit for all new applications from 1st April 2018.

Click herefor more information.




Help with Mortgage Interest
becoming a loan

New Regulations will take effect from 6th April 2018 that replace the existing support for mortgage/loan interest for owner-occupier housingand replace it with a system of loans. The new rules affect bothnewand existing*claimants.

The loans are secured on the claimant's property as a 'second charge' (effectively a secured loan on top of the existing mortgage). Loans are repayable on the sale (or transfer) of the property or on the claimant's death (or when the last member of a couple dies).

If there is insufficient equity when the loan is due to be repaid, whatever is available from the sale will be used to repay it and the rest is written off.

The amount the claimant is entitled to, to help them pay their mortgage/loan interest, will no longer be added to their maximum UC when their Universal Credit is assessed - although there is protection for some.

Those UC claimants receiving help with their mortgage interest have been contacted regarding this change and have been offered the loan.

Only those who have accepted the offer will continue to receive the support.

More informationhere.
Universal Credit

Rent Increase/Decreases: Full/Digital Service


Landlords on the Portal will receive an automated verification request for every Universal Credit tenant who reports their change.

These will need to be actioned to ensure the correct housing amount is paid.

Housing costs will continue to be paid at the existing level until the landlord and claimant have cleared their actions.



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