One of my recent bulletins comments on the DWP announcement that its Universal Credit would be rolled out to 12 new council districts, starting from June 2014. Since then I’ve heard from a number of my RSL and Private Sector clients that they’ve already received notification, from their respective councils, of notional start dates, allowing them to start making suitable preparations to support their tenants through the UC process.
DWP has also issued a draft “Landlord Managed Payment” and “Third Party Deductions” for rent arrears application form to existing site housing providers. A polished version of this will be used by all landlords seeking “payment direct” and monthly repayments towards rent arrears accrued by existing tenants at their property address.
Alongside this, the National Housing Federation has reported that DWP has agreed to set up a “specialist housing team” for universal credit; something I urged them to do, nearly three years ago, when it became apparent they had no conception of just how complex the “housing costs” element and rules on “safeguarding” landlord payments would prove to be.
The Federation has made a statement to the effect - ”The Federation, alongside our member housing associations, has been working closely with DWP since the introduction of universal credit. We have collected evidence of the housing association experience of universal credit and run regular forums to ensure that operational issues are fed directly back to DWP. As part of this ongoing engagement we have held monthly meetings in the original Universal Credit pathfinder sites in the North West, as well as the newer live running sites. We are therefore pleased that at a recent meeting, DWP set out some practical improvements which will be made to the universal credit live service.”
The improvements include:
- A new specialist housing team within the Universal Credit service centre
- Improved communications between housing associations and the universal credit service centre, including a dedicated phone line & e-mail facility.
The federation added: “We welcome the practical improvements that are being made, and are committed to continued joint working, to ensure that universal credit is implemented without adverse impacts on housing associations and their tenants.” The NHF also provided access to a DWP/NHF/Pathfinder meeting minute which provides further detail.
Not surprsingly, demand for Universal Credit training, especially in the north west has significantly increased, over the past month or so. I represent a number of RSLs involved in the existing rollout so have first-hand experience of what’s been happening. So if you’re interested in finding out more about the existing Pathfinders or “Live” roll-outs, please get in touch. Alternatively, examine Feedback from the sessions has been “excellent”.
If you require further information on this and/or our range of services (including website member forum, regular UC bulletins, Calculator etc) e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me on 07733 080 389