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DWP hear concerns of associations on managed payments to landlords at Glasgow event

Fourth SFHA/DWP Information event raises concerns over payment processes.

Neil Couling CBE, Director General of the Universal Credit Programme, was there in person to hear the concerns of housing associations and local authority landlords for the need to improve the payment system for Managed Payments To Landlords and Third Party Deductions as Universal Credit Full Service is rolled out to Scotland, at the joint event, hosted by the SFHA and DWP, looking at the impact of Universal Credit, held in Glasgow’s Trade’s Hall on Friday, 23 March.

In her opening address to what was the fourth of such events held with the DWP since 2015, SFHA Chief Executive Sally Thomas paid tribute to the staff of housing associations, local authorities and the DWP who had worked to improve the processes used in Universal Credit to support tenants and improve rental payments. Denise Horsfall, Work Services Director for DWP Scotland, outlined their plans to geographically align the Scottish Universal Credit Service Centres that would enable claimants and Job Centre Work Coaches far easier direct contact with case managers.

SFHA Policy Advisor Jeremy Hewer referred to the recent report of the Work and Pensions Committee on Project Assessment Reviews of the Universal Credit Programme, which credited  the DWP with managing to pull the UC Programme from the brink of failure in 2013 and which was “now run more professionally and efficiently with a collective sense of purpose.” He also highlighted concerns over the mismatch between the monthly deductions from an individual’s UC payment for a Managed Payment to their Landlord and the four weekly bulk payments made by the DWP to Third Party Creditors, and echoed the desire of social landlords that development work to synchronise deductions and payments would be given priority. Referring to the monthly survey sent out by the SFHA to member to gauge the impact of Universal Credit, it was evident that there had been little change in the average level of arrears of Universal Credit claimants in arrears, which over six months had been consistently twice the average level of arrears of those not on Universal Credit.

Sally Thomas urged all associations to return the monthly survey, as the higher the response rate, the greater the weight of argument that could be made to fix Universal Credit that could be made to the DWP and to the UK and Scottish Government, There is still time to complete the survey for February, which will close at 9am on 18 April.

In his response, Neil Couling assured the audience that the full Business Case for Universal Credit due to be submitted for treasury approval  “would blow their socks off.” He also explained that the resources available for Universal Credit development were finite, so changes, such as those announced last November to scrap the seven day wait and institute a 2 week housing benefit extension for those making the transition to UC, would inevitably mean balancing development resources from other programme development, such as the rollout of the Landlord Portal.

In the subsequent breakout and Q & A sessions, many delegates returned to the issue of the Managed Payment / Third Party Payment schedule, the difficulties it caused to effective income management, the potential threat to the successful implementation of Scottish UC Choices and the distress it causes to claimants. Having the DWP present at the highest level meant that all these concerns were both communicated and heard, making it more likely they would be addressed.

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