Agenda item

Welfare Reform Update (Standing Item) (Agenda item 6)

Adrian Mills – ARP Strategic Manager (Benefits).

 

Minutes:

The ARP Strategic Manager (Benefits) presented the report.

 

Universal Credit (UC)

 

Further Government Budget announcements included the following improvements:

 

·        Live Service closure 1st January 2018

·        Removal of seven waiting days prior to claim start date from 14th February 2018

·        Claims from 14th February 2018 would now usually be paid in one month and seven days rather than one month and 14 days

·        Claimants could request a 100% advance payment, increased from 50% from the 14th February 2018

·        Temporary accommodation cases to be assessed in Housing |benefit from April 2018.  Whilst this applied to new claims, existing cases would only migrate to Housing Benefit following specified change of events

·        An extra two weeks Housing Benefit to be automatically awarded from April 2018 when Universal Credit was claimed

·        Improvements to process for private landlords to request an alternative payment arrangement (direct payment to the landlord).

 

Many of the aforementioned improvements/enhancements would come into force very soon and there still remained a number of issues in relation to how these would be administered.

 

The programme to migrate existing Housing Benefit customers had been delayed by 12 months and would now commence in July 2019 with a corresponding delayed completion date of March 2022.  Conversations were on-going with Local Housing Authorities and DWP in relation to this schedule.

 

Councillor Houlder referred to the alternative payment arrangement for private landlords and asked if this was going to be a major issue.  It was noted that DWP did not release this date and ARP did not have access to it.  However, with the budget announcements in December 2017, it was much easier for landlords to request a direct payment than it was before.  Landlords could apply for direct payment of the housing element of Universal Credit to themselves.  These improvements would ultimately have a positive effect on arrears and homelessness.

 

Social Rented Sector Rent Restrictions

 

Government had responded to consultation on funding for supported housing in which it had indicated it would not implement Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in social housing; further proposals included:

 

·        Short-term supported accommodation to be funded via grant to Upper Tier Councils - no longer funded through Housing Benefit. Concerns remain as to how this would operate in practice.

·        Long-term supported accommodation would be funded as it was now - via the welfare system.

·        A new ‘Sheltered rent’ would be introduced – for which gross eligible rent (inclusive of service charges) would be regulated by the social housing regulator. Assistance in this type of accommodation would continue to be paid via the welfare system. ‘Sheltered rent’ would be subject to a cap, the calculation of which maintained a link to formula rent.

·        A local strategic plan would be required by Upper Tier Councils, setting out how funding would be used to meet identified local need.

·        A National Statement of Expectation for supported housing funding would be introduced.

·        April 2020 had been indicated as the implementation date.

 

Referring to the government’s approach to supported accommodation (i.e. hostels) ARP was waiting to see how this looked and there could be grants available to upper tier councils.  DWP needed to ensure that it was capturing the correct data.

 

The Chairman was pleased to announce that Adrian Mills, the ARP Strategic Manager (Benefits) had been the recipient of a silver award in the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards in the Reinventing Local Services Category.  In this particular category there had been 39 entries with just 3 entries shortlisted.

 

The report was otherwise noted.

Supporting documents: