Thursday, 29 January 2015

Criticism prompts universal credit changes

The Department for Work and Pensions has re-drafted universal credit regulations in response to sector concerns about service charges.

Rules relating to service charges were rewritten ahead of the publication of universal credit regulations this week. The move comes in the wake of criticism from landlords and the Social Security Advisory Committee over the original wording.

Draft regulations for the new universal credit, which replaces a host of income-related benefits from next October, were published in the summer listing just three categories of eligible charges. This sparked fears that tenants and landlords would be unable to claim benefit for up to 13 charges.

The new draft includes four categories of payments, including payments for the up-keep of communal areas, to maintain a good standard of accommodation, for communal services and for ‘accommodation-specific charges’. The DWP will publish guidance in the next few weeks setting out exactly what charges will be eligible.

Chris Smith, a housing benefit consultant, warned that the regulations were still unclear and that charges used by some associations, such as for concierge and security services, could become ineligible. ‘Some of these charges are so high tenants would not be able to pay them,’ he added.

However, Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said he expects the vast majority of charges will be covered. The DWP said it does not intend to change service charge eligibility.

The government has also changed the wording of regulations relating to benefit for victims of violence who have to leave their home. An earlier version restricted payments to victims of violence by partners or family members, which led to concerns that victims of racist attacks and abuse by non-partners in shared houses could be unable to claim. The revised regulations allow payments to all victims of ‘violence in the home’.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Eric Smith

    What really annoys me about "THE BEDROOM TAX" is that people who under occupy through no fault of thier own will have to pay this, as there is not enough single persons homes two bedroom properties will still be taken up and so on. Tennants that are receiving low benefits could have as little as £30 per week to live on some on Jobseekers could have even
    less, What comes first your home or starve and anyone that thinks that all people on benefits are scroungers or scumbags want to try living on basic benefits for a few months.

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  • Rick Campbell


    The government actually listened?

    Oh my days and there was I believing Cameron when he said "We are raising more money for the rich" during PMQs yesterday.

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  • Joe Halewood

    No Rick, The government has been found wanting in its rush to bring politically motivated policy into practice and when it was subsequently told of the impact (which it tries to keep secret by the government not publishing consultation responses in breach of the rules) it begins to fiddle with regulations to try to mitigate the disaster the original ignorance would cause in political as well as economic terms.

    This government,like previous ones it must be said, is massively ignorant of supported housing and the role HB in this case plays. So when it decides to change HB (which it calls welfare reform though only HB tends to get cut and not welfare benefits) as part of some populist bull that the electorate will swallow it has had some huge surprises which mean higher economic and higher political cost - no government wishes to be seen as the one which closes all DV refuges for example!

    This is just one of a number of cases of what the coalition will say it shows they do 'listen' (taking supported housing out of UC and excluding it from the overall benefit cap most recently) - Yet if they hadnt been so ignorant of it in the first place there would be no need to change would there?

    There is still a lot of confusion over these issues and the supported housing sector are still right to be concerned over this apparent U-turn as it needs further explanation. So we see the coalition buries this U-turn in an 83-page (alleged) memo!

    As an example of the lack of Coalition pre-thought and frankly stupid policy we still see that the highest level sex and other have greater rights to access suitable housing that women fleeing violence or individuals and families made homeless through no fault of their own. While that is somewhat emotive, the point is valid and used to show the huge level of ignorance the government has in the area of supported housing.

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  • Melvin Bone

    'This is just one of a number of cases of what the coalition will say it shows they do 'listen' (taking supported housing out of UC and excluding it from the overall benefit cap most recently) - Yet if they hadnt been so ignorant of it in the first place there would be no need to change would there?'

    So you are saying that they DID listen then? Which they did...

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  • Joe Halewood


    (a) When you publish a policy proposal without thinking of its consequences
    (b) When you publish a policy without doing a full impact assessment and have no idea of its consequences
    (c) When it is pointed out to you that the policy will cost more economically
    (d) When it is pointed ut that the policy will cosst you politically
    (e) When despite being informed of (a) to (d) above you dither for over 12 months and do nothing, and
    (f) when you sneak out a few minor changes but still cant get it right and still dont see the dangers and the economic and political cost and still dont understand the consequences...

    Then I prefer to state those points of fact.

    If you wish to give credit for any party apparently listening and seeing this as a postive you hide the real issue - that of policy being made without the government knowing or even considering its consequences - both of which are dangerous governing by whatever party is in power.

    At this point there are still dangers they - the coalition - have not seen so you cant even say they have 'listened' because they still dont see and realise the impacts and consequences fully.

    This is the same coalition who knew in July 2011 that the overall benefit cap would cost more than it saved yet still are going ahead with it. The intransigence of the coalition in maintainign their political dogma is staggering in the welfare reforms and tiny U-turns in comparison are not the actions of a listening government.

    One final point - these changes are welcomed yet the coalition is not promoting them and making political capital out of this shows we are listening etc. The reason for that is in doing so it reveals just how WRONG they were in the first place and it would expose further more costly mistakes such as the overall benefit cap position - that is a political risk too far for the coalition.

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  • Melvin Bone


    So all legislation should be 100% correct and never need changing at all?

    Those were the rules under Stalin weren't they?

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  • Joe Halewood


    No of course not. All I am asking for is for the impacts of policy proposals to be evaluated and considered before a policy is enacted. A reasonable request and one that every policy should have but of course some aspects are always not thought about.

    However, this coalition has proposed policy with scant forethought and not considered any of the impacts on supported housing. Or on the real economic cost of policies - the woeful impact assessments they have done dont mention these.

    Moreover the make huge basic errors. UC for example means in its process that a claaimant is assessed for every benefit. As a classic example of not doing real impact assessments these include assessing claimants for all benefits as a one-stop shop process and ones that are they entitled to now but dont claim and so the overall benefit bill will go through the roof and add a minimum of £20bn per year to the bill.

    The DWP publisshes a list of the benefits not taken up now and expresses these with costs. The latest ones show that a minimum £20bn is now unclaimed which will have to paid out through UC. Yet the UC impact assessment doesnt take real account of this and the latest revised one (and revisions mean they accept theyve made mistakes) puts the non take up amount at just £2.5bn when it is at least 8 times that!

    In the same way Osborne put in 4G costs so that it appeared the government is borrowing less than forecast we see the same duplicity goign on with welfare benefit costings. That reveals a knowing duplicity and a lack of basic impact assessment (which is all I am calling for and is reasonable) ahead of politically motivated and dogmatic policy that is not properly costed.

    All govts miss out some impacts and that is to be expected, yet when the mistakes are so costly and so bl**dy obvious then we shouldnt praise the govt of the day for finally 'listening' but we should state what the situation is and its a very dangerous and all too prevalent one with this coalition. Cameron wants to even reduce these woeful impact assessments that he calls red tape - the rest of us call it transparency and accountability. So if you want to make Stalinist or despotic allusions then its Cameron you should be calling here.

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  • eric Smith.
    I am with you on the bedroom tax we don't have any money spare either when we moved here we were working and it was the only house we could afford to rent and afford the council tax.If we could afford now to move into private let the tax payer will pick up the bill for it,which is dearer than social housing .we are using 2 bedrooms because of different illness but because we are a couple we are only expected to use 1 bedroom. Quite a large number of people are going to be affected and when people find out next year all hell is going to let lose after all there is not enough smaller homes for us to move into.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Joe: 'All I am asking for is for the impacts of policy proposals to be evaluated and considered before a policy is enacted.'

    Which no government has really ever done properly ever. Policies on education are enacted without properly consulting teachers, Benefit policies enacted without consulting frontline staff... Hence Teacher strikes, Poll Tax Riots, Countryside marches and Anti-war protests...

    Remember how long it took government to figure out that maybe women should get a vote...

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  • Rick Campbell

    UC changes include Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans being transferred to 'the parish" ... a retrospective move?

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