Posted by: Carl Brown13/07/2012
‘The regulations will be amended, nothing will change’ - it’s a phrase that we’ve heard repeatedly from the Department for Work and Pensions press office over the last fortnight.
The Welfare Reform Act has long passed into law but the DWP is now consulting on the nuts and bolts of the detailed regulations that sit under the act’s framework.
This week Inside Housing has reported on two cases where sloppily-worded phrases have left the DWP acknowledging it needs to re-draft parts of the regulations.
First, it realised its draft bedroom tax regulations will exempt housing association tenants whose tenancies date from before 1989. The department admitted this was an ‘error’ and will change the regulations to prevent tenants exploiting the loophole. Judging by reader comments on Inside Housing’s website, this has had the cruel consequence of giving some affected tenants false hope that they won’t be hit by the penalty.
Then, as we report today, sector experts realised that the universal credit regulations would no longer allow victims of violence by non-partners or family members to claim benefit for temporary accommodation costs. The DWP, in an attempt presumably to simplify rules, appears to have used the term ‘domestic violence’ as a catch all term for all violence in the home, when its meaning for the purposes of the legislation is restricted to violence between partners or family members. This would have meant that people who cannot live at home because of the threat of racist violence by strangers, or by housemates in shared accommodation, would be unable to claim benefit for temporary accommodation.
Again, the DWP says it will change the regulations.
The department also says it does not intend to reduce the number of service charges which will be eligible for housing benefit – despite many sector experts warning that the new rules do just that. The DWP is in discussions with landlords around this issue and it is understood changes to those regulations may also be on the cards.
The draft regulations are in their early phase, and are subject to informal consultation and discussions in parliament. However, the fact that so many u-turns have already taken place poses serious questions about the robustness of the work carried out by DWP officials.
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