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Newsletters: March 2019

March 2019 Newsletter

Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information. 

In this issue find out more about:

And also:

  • Regulations abolish Tax Credits - but those already getting TCs are unaffected.
     
  • The 53 week rent year - explaining it to UC claimants
     
  • Welfare Reform training - that will make a difference - Book now!
     
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!
     
  • This month's really useful standard letter.
     
  • This month's really useful tool! 

EEA Nationals
& UC

Many EEA Nationals - who were previously claiming legacy benefits - are being refused UC. Why is this?

When someone makes a claim for UC - even where they are already claiming a DWP benefit - the DWP are insisting that the claimant re-verifies their ID and if they are an EEA National they have to prove that they pass the Habitual Residence Test (HRT) all over again ie that they are an EEA National who can claim benefits.

But even EEA Nationals that do have the right to claim UC are being refused. This appears to be for a number of reasons including:

  • DWP staff not always asking the right questions, and not looking into all the different 'routes' the claimant could have to being able to claim.
  • DWP staff not always applying the rules correctly - particularly around 'genuine and effective' work.
  • Claimants struggling to provide the detailed evidence the DWP are asking for. 


The whole process takes weeks and in that time the claimant may have no money - but until they have 'passed' the HRT, they are not able to receive an Advance Payment - as they have not proved that they qualify for Universal Credit.

So in an attempt to help EEA Nationals get the right decision quickly we are devising a new 'Help Pack'. The aim is to:

  • Present in a simple way the rules regarding which EEA Nationals may be able to claim UC.
  • Provide them with letters they can take to their HRT interview to ensure the DWP consider all the different 'routes' they may have to claiming UC.
  • Provide claimants with information on the type of evidence the DWP will be looking for, so that the can get this prepared and take it to their HRT interview.


Please take a look at the help pack and the letters and let us know if there are any other resources you feel would be useful.

We hope you find it helpful! 

Click here for the help pack

SDP Gateway causing confusion
 
In January a new 'gateway'  condition was introduced that stops some disabled people from being able to claim.

But these new rules are confusing and many people are missing out on what they are entitled to.

Some claimants are being told they can claim HB when in fact it should be UC - by the time they make the right claim they've missed out on £££££ of help with their rent.

We have developed the following to help you:

Universal Credit
& RTI Problems

Many UC claimants are experiencing problems with the RTI system - the system the DWP use to verify their earnings.

We have recently improved the information on the website and devised a couple of new standard letters to help you provide the correct advice and information to your customers on this issue.

One letter tackles the real problem of the DWP using wages the claimant has not received due to an error with the RTI system - we have even heard of situations where a different claimant's wages have been used!

Other RTI issues are harder to challenge - but here are a few Key Facts:

The UC Regulations state that it is the wages as paid to a claimant in an Assessment Period that should be used when, working out the claimant's entitlement to UC for that period.

BUT they do allow the DWP an element of discretion - so a claimant could request a different approach where:

  • They have been paid early due to their normal pay day being a non-banking day.
  • The DWP have used the date the employer reported paying the wages rather than the date the claimant received the wages.
  • Where the claimant is usually paid monthly, but they get paid twice in one Assessment Period because of the way their wages and assessment period work - they can request a common sense approach ie taking one month's wage into account for each assessment period*.

*Last year there was a High Court decision looking at this issue - the trouble is the remedy the High Court suggested is not really workable - so we are waiting to hear from the DWP whether they are changing anything following on from that decision.

Click here for more information and letters

The rules for
Mixed Age Couples
are changing.


This change is estimated to save the government £1 Billion over
the next 5 years!


Our new leaflet encourages mixed age couples to claim Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit now to safeguard their future income.

Click here for more details

If you would like a supply just let us know - info@housingsystems.co.uk

Universal Support

From April 2019, Citizens Advice take over Universal Support


Their service will be available to allow claimants to access their support in a way that's right for them, and this will be:

  • Face to face,
  • Over the telephone, and
  • On-line through webchat and online advice content.

Their aim is to assess the claimant's level of needs and ensure each claimant accesses the level of support that will work for them.

They will start by checking that Universal Credit is the right benefit for the claimant.

If it is then they will help with the initial claim ie :

  • Setting up an email account
  • Setting up a UC account
  • Helping claimants with their initial claiming 'to-dos'
  • Accessing UC phone claim services
  • Accessing DWP home visit support.

They will also help claimants:

  • Verify their identity
  • Provide additional evidence
  • Prepare for the practicalities of their first monthly payment
  • Access conditionality easements
  • Apply for Advance Payments and other financial support.

And they will offer access to longer term support where appropriate by signposting or referring claimants to other support service - within Citizens Advice or through other organisations.


Tax Credits Abolished!
New Regulations which took effect from 1st February 2019 prevent new claims for Tax Credits from most claimants, including Pension Credit Age claimants.

The only people who are now able to make a new claim for Tax Credits are working age people or mixed age couples who ‘fail’ the Severe Disability Premium Gateway Condition (ie those who cannot make a claim for Universal Credit).

 
This has implications for those claimants of Pension Credit age - including mixed age couples.
 
What is happening for existing Tax Credits claimants?

Those already on Tax Credits can continue on Tax Credits...…..

So, until they need to claim UC:
  • Anyone with a current Tax Credit award which covered 31.1.19 can remain on Tax Credits.
  • And they can renew their award for the next tax year.
  • Anyone who is already getting Working Tax Credit can have Child Tax Credit added on to their TC award if they become responsible for a child.
  • And anyone who is already getting Child Tax Credit can have Working Tax Credit added on to their TC award if they start working enough hours to qualify for it.
  • Also anyone who has made a claim for a period which ended on or before 30 January 2019 can pursue that claim.
Click here for more information

Wrong advice leaving claimants worse off

Job Centres wrongly advising people to claim Universal Credit
The chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field has written to the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd about, "extremely worrying evidence that some jobcentres have been moving claimants to universal credit even when their circumstances have not changed. This seems to be happening without consideration of whether the move will leave claimants worse off over all."

He has asked Amber Rudd to confirm whether jobcentres have been encouraged or instructed to move claimants, either individually or in groups, from legacy benefits to universal credit and, if not, provide an explanation of why this is happening.

Click here for the letter. And click here for the groups of claimants who can be worse off on UC.

NOT ALL CHANGES MEAN A CLAIMANT HAS TO CLAIM
UNIVERSAL CREDIT


and many claimants are over £50 a week worse off on Universal Credit

Use our Need2ClaimUC? mapping tool to help make sure you are giving the correct advice.

Click here for our Need2ClaimUC? mapping tool
Universal Credit and the 53 week rent year

Why is the 53 week rent year and Universal Credit a Hot Topic at the moment?

There has been a lot of confusion about what this year being a 53 week year will mean - some commentators are saying that UC claimants will find their UC award one week short this year, whilst others are saying the opposite ie no loss at all.

Our 'take' on it is that a UC claimant who lives in rented accommodation is missing out on about a day’s help with their rent from UC for each year they are on it.

This is because when the DWP convert a weekly rent into a monthly rent they always assume a 52 week rent year - ie covering 364 days (7 x 52), but there aren't exactly 52 weeks in a year so years are either 365 days long or 366 in a leap year. This means that if the claimant doesn't pay that extra day themselves this then 'catches up' with them on their rent account once every 5/6 years - ie whenever there is a 53 rent collection year due to there being 53 Mondays in a financial year.

So there is a week's Housing Costs Element 'missing' which has accumulated over a 5/6 year period - so a claimant who has been on UC throughout those 5/6 years receives one week’s less help with their rent than they need.

The trouble is the one week’s 'debt' shows on the rent account - not as a slowly accumulating debt - but as a sudden jump in arrears, because the full week’s rent will be debited on the Monday of the 53rd week.

Ideally a landlord would be collecting a day and a bit more rent per year over the 5/6 year period.

Ideally - if looking for a long term solution that's fair to all UC claimants - then the DWP should be working out the rental liability over a 5 year period ie weekly rent x 261 (4 x 52 + 1 x 53) / 5 / 12. Not too sure we'll be able to convince them of that!

So how do you explain to tenants on Universal Credit that they need to start paying an extra day's rent a year?

This is the best explanation we could come up with - feel free to use it:

"Your landlord charges your rent weekly, but Universal Credit is assessed and paid monthly.

Because of this, Universal Credit only pays 364 days in a year, even though there are always 365 days in a year (and 366 every leap year).

So your Universal Credit is always going to be one day short each year (or two in a leap year).

Why is this?

The DWP work out your monthly rent by multiplying a week’s rent by 52 and dividing by 12.  This would be fine if there were exactly 52 weeks rent in a year but there aren’t. There’s always an extra day in the year- or two in a leap year.
(For the mathematically minded, it’s because 52 times 7 is only 364).

You won’t normally notice this but every few years when the extra day falls on a Monday* it will show on your rent account as a full week’s debt.
*As this is the day your rent week starts.

Unfortunately 2019 is one of these years.

The DWP have said they won’t pay any extra Universal Credit to cover this.
 
Will this affect me?
If you are clearing your rent account every week or month – reducing the balance to zero - then this won’t be a problem.
But where you pay your rent every month by using the same system as the DWP (ie your weekly rent times 52 and divided by 12) then you’ll be a day short every year (two in a leap year) and will have to make up that extra.

If you think you are going to be affected by this please contact us."

 


Need Training in 2019?

When you understand Universal Credit, you can make smart decisions about what to do next!

We are now taking bookings for 2019
Please contact us asap - dates are disappearing fast!!


Please see the website / our training brochure for more details of the training we offer - 
Our popular in-house courses cost just £965+vat for up to 16 delegates - that can work out at only £60+vat per delegate!


 
Click here for our training brochure

This month's useful standard letter
Non-dependant only staying for a temporary period?
 
Then they are not a non-dependant and there should be no non-dependant deduction against the tenant's help with housing costs ie Housing Benefit or Housing Costs Element in UC.
This is because to be a non-dependant, the person staying in the home has to be 'normally residing' there.

So, we have two letters to help tenants challenge a non-dep deduction in this situation
For HB claimants - Standard Letter ND2
For UC claimants - Standard Letter UC HC2

NOTE: If the HB Office / DWP accept that the claimant's home is not the 'non-dependant's' normal home then they will not be allocated a bedroom under the size criteria - so you have to make sure that having the 'non-dependant' treated as not normally residing with the claimant is the best option! 

 


This month's useful 'tool' !

In addition to highlighting one of our standard letters in each newsletter, we thought you may find it helpful if we also remind you each month about the many tools which are at your fingertips too!

Have you seen our.....?

 

ESA Help Pack
 

Packed full of useful information to help ESA claimants:
  • Information on the points and descriptors
  • Sample answers to the medical questionnaire
  • Tips on attending medicals 
  • Flowcharts
  • Letters

Find it here.


Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank

 
Every month we give you the chance to win £50 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 cheque from us, and will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

Well done to the Jan/Feb winner - Joanne from Guinness
 - a £50 cheque is making its way to the St Paul's Foodbank in Crewe.

To enter this month's competition, just email the answer to the question below to us byFriday 12th April 2019 for your chance to win.

This month's quiz question is.....

Saul is on Universal Credit. He is reaching pension age and will start to receive his State Pension next month...…


Which of the following statements is true?

Statement 1
Saul's Universal Credit will end as he will no longer be working age.
Special rules allow him to receive UC for the whole of the Assessment Period he turns pension age - although any state pension or HB he receives which 'overlaps' with the period he is on UC will be treated as income for that last UC assessment.


Statement 2
Saul's Universal Credit will continue - but any state pension he receives will be taken into account as income and reduce his UC award £1 for £1.

Statement 3

Saul's Universal Credit will end as he will no longer be working age.
It will end from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period in which he turns pension age - and he cannot get any top up from Pension Credit or Housing Benefit until he is pension age - meaning a potential gap in his benefits.
The only way to avoid this gap is if he makes an advance claim for Pension Credit.


Find the answer here 

and email your answer to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

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