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Committee report echoes SFHA worries over Universal Credit

Public Accounts Committee report raises concerns over Universal Credit.

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The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has released a report that raises more concerns over the implementation of Universal Credit, which echoes many of the worries that have been expressed by the SFHA, that the system as currently implemented is “causing hardship for claimants and additional burdens for local organisations and that it refuses to measure what it does not want to see”.

Commenting on the report Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive, said:

“I may not go so far as the claim by Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, when she says of  the DWP that it has an “apparent determination to turn a deaf ear to the concerns of….frontline organisations”, as the SFHA has seen positive and welcome moves from the Department such as the development of a landlord portal system  and scrapping of the seven day wait before a claim can be made; the enthusiasm and commitment of staff in local Job Centres to support claimants into work is also to be commended.

“But the JobCentres have no influence over the operation of Universal Credit payments. The reliance of the DWP’s direct payments to landlords on a four weekly system that was not designed for monthly Universal Credit payments puts an incredible and unnecessary burden on housing associations’ rent management which also denies claimants the comfort of being secure in the knowledge that their rent has been paid.

The SFHA along with housing federations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have set out five key changes that need to be made to enable Universal Credit to work both for claimants and stakeholders. We would urge the DWP to heed these asks and implement the changes to prevent further significant harm.”

The Four Federations’ Five Asks are:

  • The granting of implicit consent, that exists with legacy benefits, which enables support workers to intercede on behalf of claimants
  • The provision of a third party payment system that is coordinated with the Universal Credit payment system to individual claimants and the enhancement of the landlord portal to provide information automatically that  landlords can request now, but have to make individual approached for, namely start dates housing payments , the date of payment and the amount that will be paid.
  • The reform of Universal Support Delivered locally so that claimants can get all the help they need to make and to maintain their claim
  • The restoration of in-work allowances that were cut by the Chancellor in the 2015 autumn statement
  • The removal of the two child limit and the lower benefit cap.
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