Universal Credit Full Service – What have we learnt so far?

Debbie Larner writes in today’s ‘Inside Housing’ ebulletin – “Universal Credit is right in principle but problematic in practice unless slowed down… There are now so many concerns about the biggest change to our welfare system in 40 years that it is difficult to understand how David Gauke, the secretary of state for work and pensions, can just press ahead…”

These issues are not news to the DWP – they were writ large in the evaluation of their Direct Payment Demonstration Projects three years ago. The concept of Trusted Partner Status was one of many positive and proactive responses by social landlords to the findings which found that c30% of tenants needed alternative payment arrangements.

Guess what? Our experience here at Bron Afon three months in to Full Service UC is that 32% of the first FSUC entrants need APAs. It’s all very well rolling the much needed Landlord Portal & TPS out to the UK’s largest landlords, but these should have been an integral part of full service roll out from day 1 as should a much more pragmatic and compassionate approach to transition.

It has taken 5.8 weeks on average for the 70% of initial FSUC claims made in July by our tenants to receive their first payment. By mid September, 3 in 10 of this first intake were still waiting, with end to end times between claim and payment forecast to be around 9.6 weeks. A one-off transitional payment of HB towards essential housing costs over the waiting period would ease an awful lot of unnecessary hardship, even for Government.

Speeding up access to advanced payments sounds positive, but early repayment requirements often just postpone the pain. Interesting by comparison how student loan payments kick in when ‘affordable’ (and debts may be heading towards being written off) and Help to Buy repayments are deferred for 5 years.

Until these issues are properly addressed, ‘full’ service will leave far too many households Running on Empty.

If you’re at One Big Housing Conference over the next couple of days, come along to my workshop session to find out more!

Ian Simpson
– Bron Afon Community Housing