Under universal credit part-time works deemed to be doing too little to find full-time work will face having their housing benefit costs sanctioned by the government.
The current system sees housing benefit paid directly to landlords and sanctions only applied to out-of-work benefits, for example jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under the government’s flagship welfare reform, if a tenant is working less than 35 hours a week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA their housing element can be sanctioned instead.
Landlords have expressed concerns that by extending ‘in-work conditionality’ to the housing element rent arrears could arise.
Sue Ramsden, head of policy for neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said that until now, it has been unclear whether the DWP would allow housing costs to be exempt. “We are pressing for DWP staff to have regard for the need for an alternative payment arrangement to be put in place at the same time that the sanction is imposed.”
Policy and practise officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing has said: “It will depend on the instructions given to DWP administrators about how strictly the sanctions are implemented in the case of part-time workers who are in receipt of benefit as a contribution to housing costs.”
Currently no research has been carried out to look at the impact the sanctions could have on arrears. Currently over a million people are in work but rely on housing benefit to met their housing costs.
A DWP spokesperson said: “It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence. Any reductions to benefits as a result of a sanction are applied to the universal credit benefit as a whole rather than a particular element of it.”
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