Social landlords receive more information about universal credit

  • After numerous conversations with the social housing sector the Department for Work and Pensions is now seeking to use powers designated to Iain Duncan Smith to share details of new universal credit claimants with housing providers. /images/rent_due.jpg

    Until this new development social landlords were reliant on being informed by their tenants of any switch to the new benefits system, which made it difficult for landlords to provide help to new claimants, reports 24dash.

    In its consultation document, published today, the DWP said: "The intention is that, under the proposed amendments, social landlords would have responsibility for assessing whether their tenants require appropriate types of advice, support or assistance in relation to managing their financial affairs. In order for the landlord to make such an assessment, it is proposed that the Secretary of State will share details of tenants who have made a claim for or have an award of universal credit. It is considered that such data sharing by the Secretary of State is proportionate under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998."

    Julie Vickers, director of business support at New Charter Group, which operates in an area where UC has been live for 18 months, said the current arrangements made it difficult to know who was claiming the new benefit.

    She explained: "Universal credit came to Tameside in April 2013. This was a really great opportunity for us to be at the forefront of the roll out of this new benefit, and to get ready for the full migration which many will recall was due in October 2013. It's oddly disappointing 18 months on, only 36 of our tenants are actually in receipt of UC so the learning for us has been minimal. Rent collection rate for those in receipt of UC is low and we have had to ask for managed payments for the majority of those tenants claiming. Of course, there could be many more tenants claiming UC that we don't know about as we only find out when the tenant tells us, so it is possible that there are a number of people out there who are happily managing their rent."

    The consultation document says a change to the 2012 Welfare Reform Act will be required to allow the proposals to happen.

    It states: "Existing legislation does not provide DWP with a power to routinely disclose information about all claimants receiving UC with a housing element to social landlords. Current legislation only allows relevant information to be shared by the Secretary of State, or a person providing services to the Secretary of State for prescribed welfare purposes, mainly relating to the benefit cap, and removal of the spare room subsidy [bedroom tax]. The policy intention now is to make amendments to the Social Security (Information-sharing in relation to Welfare Services etc.) Regulations 20121 using powers in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 to widen the existing welfare purposes for sharing information with social landlords. The additional welfare purposes would be to allow the Secretary of State to share limited information with social landlords to enable them to assess and provide appropriate types of advice, support or assistance in relation to managing their financial affairs. The information shared by DWP with social landlords will be aimed at identifying any tenant (a person with liability for paying the rent) who has made a claim for Universal Credit (UC) with housing costs or is a UC recipient (with housing costs)."

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Responding to the DWP Consultation: Housing Benefit Reform - Supported Housing "Found the seminar very informative and gave an interesting and full insight into current thinking about the consultation.  Michael was a very engaging and knowledgeable presenter and encouraged interaction with the audience which led to further relevant points being shared with the room.  I shall certinaly look out for future events!" M.E. - Care Housing Association

 

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