Saturday, 20 December 2014

Ministers may increase direct payment exceptions

More people might be switched from direct payment of benefit under universal credit than ministers first thought, a civil servant has said.

Graham Mowat, of the universal credit directorate at the Department for Work and Pensions, said there has been a ‘big shift’ in ministers’ thinking about the numbers of people who might struggle with direct monthly payments.

Under universal credit, due to be phased in from October, a number of benefits, including housing benefit, will be merged into one monthly payment paid direct to households. The DWP is however looking at alternative arrangements for claimants deemed to be unable to cope with direct monthly payments. These arrangements could include switching payment for housing costs to the landlord, splitting payments between partners or paying more frequently than monthly.

Mr Mowat, speaking at the National Housing Federation Finance Conference in Coventry yesterday, said: ‘In terms of alternate payment arrangements, we always said we would fund these, the big shift in the past year has been moving on ministerial, special advisors’, and secretary of state’s thinking about what the acceptable level of volumes might be, particularly at the outset.

‘[There is] also a recognition now from ministers that there might be some people who are on alternate payment arrangements into the longer term.

‘The big change has been the volumes and we are working at the minute to try and get those volumes into the public domain.’

Mr Mowat also said he acknowledged the communications from the DWP on universal credit have not been ‘up to the mark’ and there will be more in the future.

He defended the aims of direct payment of benefit to tenants.

‘In 1982, when people were still responsible for paying their own rent, before we started to pay it directly [to landlords], the vast majority of people paid the rent,’ he said.

‘One of the things universal credit seeks to do is to focus more on what people can do as opposed to what they can’t - to focus on people’s capability and to dispel this notion that everybody on benefit is vulnerable and incapable.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • Colin Mcculloch

    Is this the start of the U-turn on UC?

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  • Chris

    And who will pay the admin costs for this - let me guess, it will be added to the rents.

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  • Surely best way, if they continue with the mad cap scheme, is to let the tenants decide if they want the rent paying direct to the landlord - not much different to deciding to pay by Direct Debit. For people of limit financial resources it is time this was finalised for those currently receiving benefit every 2 weeeks to go to a 4 week payment (when rent is generally due monthly) will be enough of a complication and they will need time to organise their limited resources.

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  • Trevor Galley

    So there has been a ‘big shift’ in ministers’ thinking about the numbers of people who might struggle with direct monthly payments. A quote from Victor - I don't believe it! On what planet do our Govt live on?

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  • Gavin Rider

    "One of the things universal credit seeks to do is to focus more on what people can do as opposed to what they can’t - to focus on people’s capability and to dispel this notion that everybody on benefit is vulnerable and incapable."

    I don't think ANYBODY has been saying that EVERYBODY on benefits is vulnerable and incapable. I don't think anybody even had this notion.

    What the government were warned about time and time again was that a significant MINORITY of benefits recipients would struggle with direct payments and would get into arrears.

    It would be nice if the government and the DWP actually dealt with the REAL situation instead of inventing scenarios to try and make their soft-shoe-shuffle around the problems that they initially denied would exist at all seem less like a full-blown retreat.

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  • Tony Cook

    It's a great idea - give tenants the power to manage their own finances. Allow them to join the rest of the human race and see beauty in standing orders and the expense account.

    What I don't get is having the sanction of direct payments removed, even as a last resort opt-in, when the only remaining option is to send in the bailiffs?

    It's same old story. First they treat you like a child to inflate their own importance. Then they encourage you to stand up on your own two feet. And if you're not up and running immediately, they slap you down with a "I told you so. Now do as you're told". An unjust punishment for breaking the unspoken rule

    However there is no attempt at rehabilitation it's all retribution, metaphorically speaking the act of corporal punishment is to be an execution - it's the short, sharp "Goodbye. You're the weakest link" of Anne Robinson. Bullies go for the weakest link to break the chain.

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  • Gavin Rider

    ...well I didn't see that coming!

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  • The con dems have already imposed £24 Billion of benefit cuts onto
    the poorest people in the country , and many of these are repeating
    annual cuts to cause massive shortfalls in these people meeting
    their ever increasing costs of living , and then these people are having
    to face the UC system of paying benefits at the end of a 4 week period
    How are these people supposed to cope with these collassal benefit
    cuts and then deal with "direct payment".
    For example , social landlords want their rent paid weekly in advance
    and do not allow any 4 week waiting period.
    Meanwhile , Banks are getting their "mortgage relief " benefit
    payments still paid direct to them , unlike social landlords who
    are going to have to confrount their tenants about these due payments.
    The Universal Credit system seems like another drastic benefit cut
    ontop of all the recent cuts that the poor are being hurt by.

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