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 21 June 2019 – by Sue Beasor

Housing costs shortfall – Supreme Court decision

The government has gone on the defensive over a Supreme Court ruling over the use of benefits to cover housing costs. The DWP minister, Will Quince, said “the same considerations and choices faced by people not in receipt of benefits should also face those claiming benefits”. Anti-poverty campaigners see the Supreme Court ruling as showing that it is unlawful to expect families to rely on funds for basic living expenses when HB does not cover the rent.

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Universal Credit

Research has found that many armed forces veterans with complex needs report overwhelmingly negative experiences of universal credit, fit-for-work tests used to gauge eligibility for disability benefits and benefit sanctions. Veterans found it difficult to navigate what some described as a bewildering social security system, with universal credit adding an extra layer of complexity, the study commissioned by the Forces in Mind Trust charity said.

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Bereavement benefits

Bereaved families are being denied benefits worth up to £7,700 because the government will only make payments to married couples, ten months after the Supreme Court ruled that this was unlawful.

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DWP advertisement

A group of disability charities have lodged an official complaint over the government’s ‘seriously damaging’ Universal Credit adverts. The Disability Benefits Consortium,  a coalition of more than 80 disability charities, has submitted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about the ‘deliberately misleading’ ads. A survey of almost 500 disabled people by the Disability Benefits Consortium found that while 70% struggle to pay for food under Universal Credit, 85% had seen their health worsen since being moved to or starting on the benefit.

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DWP apologises

The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after some benefits were stopped has been given a personal apology by government officials. Jodey Whiting had some payments halted after she missed a capability assessment because she was in hospital with pneumonia.

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News update 14 June 2019 – by Tony Newman

Universal credit responsible for increasing rent arrears in Scotland, MSPs say

In a report published by Holyrood’s Social Security Committee on Wednesday, MSPs indicated that the level of arrears has increased since the new benefits system was introduced.

The committee noted evidence from Scotland’s Citizen’s Advice Bereau network, as well as from other stakeholders, which suggested that the incidence of rent arrears is far higher amongst tenants receiving UC.

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Millions more universal credit claimants to have rents paid straight to landlord

Under new rules, private renters will be offered the chance to enrol in a system that could make their budgeting a lot simpler by having their housing element paid direct to their landlord.

The new system will not be available to social tenants and it is unclear whether DWP will look to expand the scheme.

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Universal credit delays a factor in sex work, government accepts

The government has dropped its hardline refusal to accept that destitution caused by five-week waits for universal credit payments has been a major factor in forcing some women to turn to sex work.

Giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, the minister for family support, Will Quince, apologised for a memo his department sent to the committee last month and said it “did not very well reflect my views on this issue”.

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Government to seek volunteers for first switch to universal credit

Sources close to the pilot said that the DWP plans to ask benefit claimants in Harrogate, which is piloting the first phase of the managed migration to universal credit, to opt in to using the new programme at work-focused interviews at job centres.

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More than 5m people in Britain suffer low-paid, insecure work

More than 5m workers across Britain are in low-paid and insecure work, leaving families struggling to make ends meet, according to a campaign calling for more firms to offer guaranteed hours to their staff.

According to research published by the Living Wage Foundation, workers in Wales, the north-east and West Midlands experience the highest rates of low-paid insecure work in the country.

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British children in poverty denied basic benefits by Home Office, report finds

Policy of no recourse to public funds for some immigrants makes their children second-class citizens, says study.

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UK wage growth faster than expected

Wage growth beat market and economist expectations in the three months from February to April.

Pay rose by 3.4% compared with a year ago. After taking inflation into account, wage growth was 1.4%, official figures show.

The unemployment rate remained at 3.8% and has not been lower since the October to December 1974 period, the Office for National Statistics said.

The employment rate for women was 72%, the highest on record.

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News update 7 June 2019 – by Sue Beasor

Universal Credit updates

The DWP has updated its webpage about universal credit and childcare to clarify that claimants need to provide the full cost of the childcare to the DWP before the end of each Universal Credit assessment period.

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The DWP has published its latest landlord engagement newsletter, which can be found here.

Windrush generation will not lose benefits after compensation payouts, government confirms

The government is expected to introduce new regulations to prevent members of the Windrush generation losing out on the financial support they are entitled to, after fears that claiming compensation could lead to a loss of benefits.

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Raising of the retirement age for women

Campaigners are going to the High Court for a judicial review into how the government raised the retirement age for women. Women born in the 1950s claim the rise is unfair because they were not given enough time to make adjustments to cope with years without a state pension. The retirement age for women has increased from 60 to 65, in line with men, and will rise to 66 by 2020.

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Unnecessary disability reassessments for disabled pensioners to be phased out

New PIP claimants whose review would have been scheduled after they had reached state pension age will receive an ongoing award with a ‘light touch’ review at ten years.

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HMRC technology halts phone scammers

Technology developed by HMRC has reversed a growing trend of phone scamming, the government has said. HMRC phone scams (where fraudsters pretend to be calling from the HMRC) have increased significantly in recent years. The technology has allowed the HMRC to block the scammers using numbers beginning with ‘0300’ and other numbers will now be easier to spot.

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News update 31 May 2019 – by Tony Newman

Universal Credit: 120,000 people on the DWP benefit have fallen behind on rent payments, with some being evicted from council houses

The controversial benefit is leaving an ever-growing number of people in rent arrears, with the number of claimants evicted from council houses reaching an all-time high.

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DWP probes Universal Credit fraud case

A Department for Work and Pensions minister will investigate a fraudulent loan company that stole an applicant’s identity to apply for universal credit.

Fraudsters offering fake low-cost government loans took an applicant’s details and applied for Universal Credit, pocketing the money for themselves.

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NUJ condemns DWP adverts as an insult to disabled people

Ann Galpin, chair of NUJ disabled members’ council and co-chair of the TUC disabled workers’ committee, said:

“We are appalled that these misleading wraparounds and features have appeared in the Metro today, coinciding with the release of Philip Alston’s report on poverty in the UK, which heavily criticises austerity and welfare reform.”

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Young adults benefit from better pay

The proportion of low-paid workers in Britain has fallen to its lowest level since 1980, a think tank has said, with young adults particularly benefitting.

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Edinburgh food bank users ‘on brink of starvation as supplies run low amid soaring demand’

Benefit payment delays one of most common reasons why food banks are only choice.

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Soaring rents widely expected with scrapping of tenancy fee

Survey shows 59% of the UK are unaware of the Tenant Fees Act and 17% believe fees are being introduced not removed.

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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)