HQN Rent Income Excellence Network News
Each week, Tony Newman and Sue Beasor, associates for The Rent Income Excellence Network (RIEN), go over the biggest and most relevant news stories, reports and publications for members, while providing their own analysis and comment.
For more expert analysis, briefings and best practice for those involved with income collection, tenant arrears, benefits, Universal Credit and customer support, be sure to join RIEN. You can find out more here.
Members of RIEN can download the full weekly updates from Tony and Sue here.
News update 12 April 2019 – by Tony Newman
Study found Universal Credit causing hardship a year and half ago
Ministers have been accused of sitting on a report that reveals the degree to which UC is causing hardship.
The joint DWP and HMRC report is dated November 2017 but was only released last week.
The study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move, found that 60% of people who are struggling to pay their household bills report the move to UC as being the starting point for their problems.
More than half of UC claimants were surprised at the waiting time for their first payment.
‘The power to wreck your life’: Tens of thousands of disabled people denied benefits for extra month
According to research by The Independent, tens of thousands of disabled people are being left out of pocket for increasing lengths of time while they wait for wrongly refused benefit claims to be overturned, The Independent has learned.
New figures show the average wait for the first round of an appeal against a rejected personal independence payment (PIP) claim has soared from 29 days to 54 days in the year to January.
The DWP claims it costs too much to confirm benefit deaths
Bill Tanner of 24 Housing reports that Commons correspondence shows the DWP hiding behind the “disproportionate cost” of investigating and publishing the number of claimants of UC, attendance allowance, and employment support allowance that have died within six months of having their applications rejected.
Rising Council Tax bills risk pushing people into poverty
Rising council tax bills are contributing to working families being in poverty, a think tank has warned.
The Bevan Foundation said a rise in poverty rates was caused by a mix of “rising living costs, low income and cuts to the welfare system”.
Average rent for UK property now £1,217
Annual growth hotspots include Edinburgh City (5.97%), Nottingham (4.28%), and Blaenau Gwent (3.76%).
DWP does not record why claimant ‘commitments’ aren’t accepted
Parliamentary questions have revealed that the DWP does not record the reasons for UC claimant commitments not being accepted.
The questions also revealed that the contracted “health assessors” are subject to independent rather than departmental audit, with the feedback going back to the provider.
News update 5 April 2019 – by Sue Beasor
UC creates ‘systematic indebtedness’ for new claimants
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has said that ‘universal credit is creating systemic indebtedness and arrears for new claimants’. Policy lead Jeremy Hewer referred to the five-week wait universal credit claimants experience when claiming their first payment, meaning that two monthly rent debts are raised before a payment is even made.
The ‘Verify’ system is letting down UC claimants and needs to change
This failure has led to only 38% of universal credit claimants successfully verifying their identity online, according to a recent National Audit Office report. This leaves the majority of claimants waiting until their first appointment at the jobcentre to be able to prove their identity and to access an advance payment. It is reported that emergency appointments are available, but at busy times these can take weeks, and sometimes close to a month, to secure.
Read more… (registration required)
Landlords with tenants on Universal Credit should get a tax break, Iain Duncan Smith says
Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who oversaw the design of the policy, told a conference in London that property barons who let homes to social tenants should pay less tax.
Help to claim
The DWP has updated its universal credit publicity material to reflect a change of provider for Universal Support (now known as ‘Help to Claim’). From April 2019 Citizens Advice (in England and Wales) and Citizens Advice Scotland will deliver this service to anyone who needs support to make a new Universal Credit claim.
DWP does not record why claimant ‘commitments’ aren’t accepted
Parliamentary questions also reveal contracted “health assessors” are subject to independent – not departmental – audit.
News update 29 March 2019 – by Tony Newman
Poverty increases among children and pensioners across UK
Inequality spiked as a result of rising incomes among the wealthiest households and the second year of benefit caps and freezes on the lowest income households.
Pathways from Poverty: Strip DWP of responsibility for ill and disabled people
A scathing report says that public trust has dropped as a result of sanctions and a “botched” welfare reform programme.
“Pathways from Poverty,” published by the thinktank, Demos, calls for the DWP to be stripped of responsibility for assessing sick and disabled people.
DWP could face imposition of regulator and standards
Minister tells Work and Pensions Committee the idea of a DWP regulator and standards is “worth exploring” as applied to other government departments.
Rent hikes already hitting tenants ahead of fee ban – with more landlords quitting market
Rents are starting to rise as landlords and lettings agents prepare for the tenant fee ban.
New calls emerge to scrap Section 21 notices to help families out of ‘rent trap’
An insurer has called for Section 21 evictions to be abolished, warning they are contributing to a lack of security for the increasing numbers of families living in rental accommodation.
Top ten tips for Universal Credit
RIEN Lead Associate Tony Newman has produced the below video outlining the top ten tips organisations should bear in mind regarding the roll out of Universal Credit
RIEN members can also download their copy of the presentation slides here (membership login required)