Thursday, 27 April 2017

DWP to rule on direct payment exceptions

The Department for Work and Pensions will decide in which cases payment of the housing element of universal credit should go direct to the landlord.

The Local support services framework for the government’s flagship welfare reform, published today, states it will be up to the department to make exceptions to normal payment rules such as paying the housing element of the credit to landlords.

In most cases universal credit will be paid to the claimant, on a monthly basis. For many this will be a change to existing welfare payments, as benefits are usually paid more frequently, and housing benefit often goes direct to the landlord.

Housing associations and private landlords have raised concerns about the changes, with many predicting an increase in rent arrears that could damage their ability to borrow from lenders at favourable rates.

The framework published today lists the groups who might qualify for additional support with universal credit, the types of support that might be appropriate, and outlines local structures for the delivery of these services.

The department will be responsible for managing and administering where payments should be made direct to landlords, splitting payments between two adult members of a household, and increasing the frequency of universal credit payments.

Local delivery partners will be able to identify cases where alternative payment mechanisms may be needed, refer claimants to the department, and mediate ‘between landlords and claimants to help a claimant retain a tenancy’.

Groups that could qualify for extra support include homeless people, those with mental health issues, domestic violence victims, and households supported by the troubled families programme. They will be offered help with budgeting and using the online universal credit system, as well as a range of other support, with the aim of eventually moving them off the advice programme.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud said: ‘Universal credit will prepare people for the world of work by getting them to access the benefit online and budget their money in the same way people in work budget. But we know some people will need extra support to manage this, and we’re committed to ensuring that no one falls through the cracks.

‘We are working with local authorities and local services to determine who will need this extra help – be it money advice services, face-to-face support or help to get online – and how best to deliver it.’

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