Welcome to the latest Universal Credit update, for May 2016.

Housing association Universal Credit data and service feedback

Our latest survey is now live, please complete it by 7 June.

Many thanks for providing your latest data and service centre feedback in response to last month's survey. You told us that:

  • there are at least 10,788 known housing association tenants or households claiming Universal Credit
  • there are 4,291 Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) in payment (39.8% of the total claims)
  • total arrears stand at £4.8m, amounting to £87,000 per housing association and £444 per claimant
  • cash collection rates stand at 90.9% on average.

Your feedback shows that the following issues remain:

  • The Apollo List is still being mentioned, with 36% of housing associations being asked if they were on the Apollo List.
  • There seems to be a lack of willingness among the staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to disclose information.
  • Housing associations are reporting a variable service between service centre staff.
  • Tenancy agreements which are more than six months old are being refused as evidence, because they are being deemed out of date.
  • APAs are being paid to tenants in error.
  • Very few new claim notification letters are being received.
  • There are ongoing challenges around third party deductions.

For more information, please read the full data analysis and service centre feedback.

Latest Universal Credit data from the Department for Work and Pensions

The DWP released its latest Universal Credit statistics on 18 May. The data, which includes claims up until 5 May, shows that:

  • there are now 247,801 people claiming Universal Credit
  • males make up 66% of live claims, compared to 34% of females
  • males aged 20-24 make up 19% of all live Universal Credit claims
  • the proportion of people who have been on Universal Credit for more than six months is 40%
  • the proportion of live claims made by people not in employment is 61%.

Further details can be found on the gov.uk website.

Universal Credit contact details urgently needed

The deadline for setting up your dedicated email address for new Universal Credit claim notifications is Friday 27 May. The DWP recently extended the deadline for housing associations to get in touch with:

  • a single dedicated email address
  • confirmation of the most appropriate postal address, as a back up.

At the moment these notifications are being sent by post and some letters are being sent to the wrong address, or are not being received for other reasons. Under the new process notifications will be sent to you by email, which should make the system more reliable and enable you to get your tenants' needs responded to much more speedily. 

Your dedicated email address should be in a similar format to universal.credit@sociallandlord.org (or .com, .co.uk, based on your organisation's normal domain name). Webmail addresses such as Hotmail and Gmail can't be used as the DWP is unable to send to these types of email addresses.

For further guidance, please read the DWP's covering letter and Q&A.

The email address you provide will also be used for the new digital service when it goes live in your area.

Live service improvements made by the Department for Work and Pensions

Apollo list and disclosure: The DWP has given a new flow chart to its telephony staff, as guidance for handling calls. It specifically states that the Apollo List should not be mentioned to housing associations as the list relates specifically to Housing Benefit within local authorities. As soon as we receive a copy of this new guidance from the DWP we will forward it, along with a list of the questions that the DWP will need you to answer when they call you for clarification. If the Apollo List is mentioned when you call the service centre, please do find out which service centre it is and feed it back to us via the surveyIt has also been confirmed that passwords do not need to be used when asking the DWP for information.

Tenancy agreements: Guidance about tenancy agreements has been sent to all of the DWP's telephony staff, clarifying that these are not to be considered out of date if they are more than six months old, but that the DWP does need to confirm rent. 

The DWP is also bringing in changes to the Housing Benefit Stop Notification process, and will also be introducing a new Rent Verification form. We will provide updates on these as soon as we have them.

Department for Work and Pensions operations update

The DWP is increasing the number of housing teams, which should ensure your queries are answered more speedily and effectively.

The DWP is also trying to prioritise APAs by assessment period, putting APAs received towards the end of the assessment period into payment. The automated APA email reply has been amended accordingly.

Migration of existing legacy benefit claimants onto Universal Credit

The arrival of the digital service means that existing legacy benefit claimants may migrate onto Universal Credit if they have a change in circumstances. The DWP has provided guidance on the specific changes that would trigger migration onto Universal Credit. 

Best wishes

Gareth Bevan
Policy Officer
National Housing Federation

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