DWP meets NHC members to discuss Universal Credit issues

Last month the NHC facilitated a roundtable in Leeds for NHC members and the Department for Work and Pensions representatives from the Universal Credit Programme Team. Among the DWP delegates were Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme and Elaine Baker, Universal Credit Programme (Strategy).

The session provided members the opportunity to share their organisations’ and claimants’ experiences since the implementation and roll out of Universal Credit across the North, with the DWP Universal Credit team. The session also gave the NHC and DWP the chance to work together to iron out some issues and make the whole process clear and simple from a claimant’s perspective.

The topics and issues discussed are outlined below, including an update on how DWP is addressing some of the issues.

DWP Context:

  • Strategic Landlord Group was established around 2 years ago, to ensure landlords across the country are listened to. If anyone would like to be part of this group please ask your local Partnership Manager for further details.
  • A new Q&A bank for partnership managers have been set up. All queries that are fed through to the subject matter expert are shared wider through this bank so all Partnership Managers have access to the same information, to encourage consistency across all the managers. All questions should be raised via this bank. The answer bank is an internal DWP product. If landlords wish to raise a question they should raise it through their partnership manager – details of which can be found in the landlord support pack.
  • If anyone is having any issues with either lack of engagement or support with your Local Partnership Manager, please get in touch with Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme andrew.clarke1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
  • Local Partnership Managers are the first point of contact for all across the housing sector, and escalate any issues through a single point of contact.
  • UC is a huge culture shift across DWP who appreciate there are issues. DWP are working hard to address these and put various approaches in place to ensure the process and rollout is more simple and effective.
  • There is an Action Plan in development across DWP around issues relating to housing as it is recognised that there are a number of concerns and issues. DWP will keep NHC updated.
  • DWP encourages the sector to supply evidence of the issues experienced, rather than anecdotal evidence. At a local level this would be through your partnership managers. Strategy-related issues can be reported through the NHC who will then inform the DWP Social Rented Sector strategic group.

Issues reported by NHC Members:

  • Notifications
  • In some cases there is no tenancy reference or NOI to refer to and in other cases they do not correspond to any on the systems.
  • Landlords are unable to support the tenants appropriately, as the landlord is not aware that they are on UC.
  • Some members across the North West indicated that notifications are starting to come through. It is not clear if this is because the North West has had UC for longer as they were part of the pilot but the general feeling is one of ‘if it can work there, why not everywhere else?’
  • Various inconsistencies.

Update: New claim email notifications

Landlords should now be receiving emails notifying them that a claim has been made where an email address has been provided. The NHC understands that receipt of these notifications is still patchy and DWP are aware of this, stating that as it’s a new system it will take some time.

If your organisation has not yet provided an email address, you will still receive notifications by letter – please see the implementation note from the DWP if you want to set up an email address for notifications.

The DWP introduced a new rent verification process from 3rd October. If the claimant comes into the JobCentre and provides the correct information, a new claim notification is sent out as usual. If not, the DWP sends out a rent verification form. The form includes the same information as the new claim notification and asks for rent verification, acting as a notification that a claim has been made. It can be sent back to the DWP via secure CJSM email system. There have been some issues reported suggesting the CJSM system struggles, given the number of emails now being sent through it. These issues have been reported to  DWP.

Alternative Payment Arrangements

  • Where this works, it works very well, but where it doesn’t there are huge concerns.
  • APAs are not necessarily the first port of call for landlords as they are mainly used for those unemployed (administration can be extremely problematic for those on zero hours or variable hour contracts, as income changes weekly). Some landlords are intensifying their support levels in these cases.
  • NHC Members would like to use the learning from the Trusted Pilots to address some of the issues with APAs.
  • There are multiple versions of form UC 47 in use.
  • Delays – There is a DWP action plan focusing on this as well as on building capacity and resources in service centres.
  • Various inconsistencies.

Update: A change was made in June 2016 to APAs in full service only. They are now being paid by the Third Party Deduction (TPD) payment system, which may create issues with timeliness (the TPD system pays out monthly, whereas APAs were previously paid on the anniversary of the claim for each individual claim). DWP is looking into any further changes they can make to solve the issue but this was brought in with no consultation. Landlords in the full service who do not currently receive electronic schedules for their TPDs can apply to do so.

The DWP has provided an information pack about the electronic schedule:


Work Coaches

  • Questions were raised around what their role is and what they can and cannot do.
  • DWP is reviewing the relationship of Work Coaches and claimants and recognises that at times the landlords are better placed to pick up some of the support. This will be picked up through the Trusted Partner Pilots.
  • No APA form available for work coaches. A solution is in progress as part of the working group set up for the UC 47 process.
  • Various inconsistencies.

Claimant Consent/Disclosure

  • There is an issue around what can be shared or not shared with a landlord.
  • There are inconsistences depending on which service centre you speak to and which advisor.

Update: DWP has produced a guide for landlords, Universal Credit: Housing costs and disclosure, which provides some detail about the disclosure process. DWP is looking at ways to improve responses to queries and are piloting a specific number for associations and Local Authority landlords to use with queries. The NHC will receive feedback on this in due course. There is no equivalent to the housing team in full service, which the DWP is aware is an issue for associations operating in the full service.

The internal guide for Partnership Managers to use with their local landlords will also be available.

Update: Trusted Status

All landlords will be able to apply for trusted status in due course. This will allow landlords to nominate on trust those claimants who will need additional support in the form of APAs. DWP will then process the APAs generally quicker and without questions.

The current pilot areas have been expanded for another six months. Lord Freud is keen to see trusted status widened out quickly so DWP are in the process of developing appropriate plans.

Update: Universal Support Delivered Locally

DWP has released an evaluation of Universal Support Delivered Locally – the framework for the delivery of local support to Universal Credit claimants that may require transitional support, in particular due to digital and personal budgeting support needs. 

The focus of the Universal Support trials was on helping vulnerable residents adjust to new aspects of the way UC is designed, including monthly budgeting or making and managing their claim through online self-service. The trials also explored different models of partnership working between Local Authorities, JobCentre Plus and organisations that can provide forms of transitional support.

Currently, this is done directly by Local Authorities or subcontracted by them, with funding from DWP, under the Personal Budgeting Support banner.

Four key stages of how support is designed:

  • Identification/engagement of participants;
  • Triage/assessment;
  • Referral and case management of support;
  • How support was delivered;
  • Different approaches can be appropriate in different areas such as integration, co-location, dispersal of functions and different partnership management approaches.

Another important driver of the success of a trial was the speed and strength of how quickly relationships between different local partners were developed on the ground. The evaluation identified other elements as important to the successful delivery of the Universal Support element of Universal Credit:

  1. Clear and common success measures;
  2. Right governance, partnerships and management to oversee these locally;
  3. Claimants can be identified, engaged and screened through different channels;
  4. Co-location and integration are further explored and the benefits (where evident) are harnessed;
  5. The right systems and process are in place to enable effective local delivery of support – in particular around data sharing, local service mapping and case management.

The full evaluation can be found here.

Next Steps:

  • The NHC will continually engage with the DWP UC team and report back any issues and concerns for NHC members and facilitate a follow-up session in 2017 to assess further how the implementation of UC is working and whether issues have been resolved.
  • If anyone is experiencing issues with either lack of engagement or support with your Local Partnership Manager, please get in touch with Andrew Clarke, Delivery Partners & External Engagement, Universal Credit Programme andrew.clarke1@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
  • Local Partnership Managers is the first point of contact for all across the housing sector, and can escalate any issues through a single point of contact. Any feedback raised via the Partnership Managers are reviewed and considered by the service build team in the UC Programme. For the full service in particular the UC team are keen that issues, particularly around build or process design, are captured using this route so that they can build a service that fully meets user needs.
  • The NHC is currently undergoing research looking at the Impact of Universal Credit, to better understand the issues faced by our Members and their tenants. Further information and how NHC members can get involved can be found here.

For further information please contact Satty Rai, Policy Services Manager, satty.rai@northern-consortium.org.uk

Have you inspected your properties for water diseases? We offer the best solution

Consortium Procurement is delighted to announce that after a detailed and comprehensive procurement process, we have added one more fully EU compliant framework to our portfolio of frameworks.

Our framework for Legionella and Water Treatment Services provides a flexible route to procuring services from suitably qualified and experienced companies, that can assist duty holders fulfil their legal duties in line with the Health and Safety Executive Guidance, HSG274.

The following eight organisations were successfully appointed to the Framework Agreement:


This new framework has been developed into four separate lots in order to recognise the importance of social values and of encouraging small and medium enterprises (SME’s) to be involved in the tendering process:

  • Lot 1 – Consultancy for Legionella and other waterborne pathogens
  • Lot 2 – Consultancy for Legionella and other waterborne pathogens (including cooling towers, evaporators, swimming pools, hydro spas)
  • Lot 3 – Water quality system maintenance for Legionella and other waterborne pathogens
  • Lot 4 – Water quality system maintenance for Legionella and other waterborne pathogens (including cooling towers, evaporators, swimming pools, hydro spas)

All Consortium Procurement frameworks are let under the European Union Procurement Directive and are fully compliant with its rules and regulations and we know from previous experience that this saves our members a lot of time and hassle.

What is more, our procurement professionals strive to deliver best service to our members by also taking the risk off their shoulders and ensuring legal requirements are fully met.

If you would like to receive further information on the framework, please give us a ring on 0191 566 1000 or email us at solutions@consortiumprocurement.org.uk

Procurement Reference Panel meeting briefing – September 2016

Our quarterly procurement reference panel took place on the 22nd September, with this meeting’s agenda covering a range of topics including the Impact of the EU Referendum, Social Value Toolkit and Open Book Contract Management.

The panel meetings are great opportunities for procurement professionals from our membership to meet, share best practice, discuss current and emerging procurement issues, and explore opportunities for collaboration. An overview of what was discussed at this panel is below.

  • Impact of the EU Referendum

The panel held a discussion around how organisations are feeling after the results of the EU Referendum with regards to their procurement practices. The general consensus was there has been no immediate impact on procurement processes or regulations. It was felt however that there will be more of an impact on costs increasing (labour costs appear to be more concerning than material costs) due to the instability of the exchange rate.

  • Social Value Toolkit

With the recent launch of the Social Value Toolkit, we were keen to hear how it is helping organisations with their responsibilities under the social value act. There appear to be differing opinions with regards to Social Value, where some organisations are focusing more closely on it; other organisations are stripping it out of their procurement processes altogether.

  • Open Book Contract Management

The panel discussed Open Book Contract Management as there has been a recent PPN regarding this, and how other organisations are dealing with it. The general consensus is that this only works if you have the resources to carry it out properly.

There is no obligation to attend the Procurement Reference Panel meetings regularly and we contact the group in advance for agenda items to ensure the sessions are focused and topical each time.

If you would be interested in finding out more about the Procurement Reference Panel, or reading minutes of previous meetings, please contact Louise Chase – Procurement and Contracts Manager louise.chase@consortiumprocurement.org.uk

Regional Employment Rates

In mid-September Office of National Statistics (ONS) published estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK. It shows that nationally, between February to April 2016 and May to July 2016, the number of people in work increased. The number of unemployed people and the number of people not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) fell. There were 31.77 million people in work, 559,000 more than for a year earlier. The employment rate (the proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work) was 74.5%.

In the North, there were 7.12 million people in employment, 147,000 more than twelve months previous. Almost half (48%) of all employed people in the North were in the North West giving the region a 73% employment rate.

Table 1 shows the latest estimates for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity for May to July 2016 and a comparison with the previous quarter (February to April 2016).

Table 1: Employment Activity May to July 2016

Employment rate (%) aged 16 to 64 Change on May to July 2015 Unemployment rate (%) aged 16 and over Change on May to July 2015 Inactivity rate (%) aged 16 to 64 Change on May to July 2015
North East 70.9 2.9 7.5 -1.1 23.2 -2.3
North West 73.0 1.5 5.1 -0.4 23.0 -1.2
Yorkshire and the Humber 72.4 1.0 5.9 -0.4 23.0 -0.7
East Midlands 75.6 0.7 4.3 -0.4 21.0 -0.3
West Midlands 71.9 1.1 6.2 0.5 23.2 -1.6
East 78.1 1.0 3.2 -1.4 19.2 0.1
London 73.4 1.1 6.1 -0.3 21.8 -0.9
South East 78.3 1.6 3.5 -0.9 18.8 -0.9
South West 77.3 -1.2 4.2 0.1 19.1 1.1
England 74.8 1.0 4.9 -0.5 21.2 -0.7
Wales 73.2 1.9 4.1 -2.3 23.6 -0.1
Scotland 74.1 0.0 4.7 -1.2 22.1 0.9
Great Britain 74.7 1.0 4.9 -0.6 21.4 -0.5
Northern Ireland 69.4 1.7 5.6 -0.7 26.4 -1.3
UK 74.5 1.0 4.9 -0.6 21.5 -0.6

The above table shows that the unemployment rate estimates are generally showing small changes for each of the regions of the UK. The North East saw the greatest reduction in unemployment of the three northern regions (-1.1%) compared to the same period in 2015, whereas both the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber saw a 0.4% reduction.

Notwithstanding this, for the 12 months ending July 2016, the highest unemployment rate in the UK was in the North East (7.5%) compared with 5.1% in the North West and 5.9% in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Map 1 shows the percentage of the population of each northern local authority that are in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance. The four districts with the highest proportions are in the North East with Middlesbrough (3.7%), South Tyneside (3.4%), Redcar and Cleveland (3.2%) and Hartlepool (3.2%) having a higher proportion that Kingston upon Hull (3.1%). Indeed, all of the Tees Valley authorities have amongst the higher proportions of JSA claimants.

Map 1: Jobseeker’s Allowance by unitary and local authority


Contact: Barry Turnbull

Email: barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk

Social Value Toolkit – everything you need to know about social value in procurement

Given the shifting housing landscape in recent years and considering its significant impact on budgets and resources, HACT, together with like-minded supporters and peers felt the need to implement an informative and useful toolkit to support housing organisations keep themselves up-to-date with new practices. The implementation of new ways of working and innovative approaches has brought the delivery of social value in procurement into the spotlight.

HACT commenced working on the development of the Social Value Toolkit almost a year ago and not long after Consortium Procurement jumped on board to provide support and guidance.

The financial landscape for Housing Providers has shifted dramatically in recent times. As a result of policy and legislative changes, Housing Providers are expect­ed to deliver more to their residents than ever before, but with less resource. Given these complications, we believe the toolkit will act as a one-stop-shop for Housing Providers who intend to implement social value within their strategies and working processes. More so, the project intends to bridge the gap between the requirements of the social housing sector, public bodies and other housing organisations by drawing on in depth research practices and precise social impact measurement.

The development of the toolkit and the positive feedback we have received so far foreshows the need of further steps towards ensuring social value is understood and implemented by more organisations.

As a membership organisation, Consortium Procurement strives to deliver best service and on-going support at the highest level to its members. We have embarked on this project together with HACT because we listen to our members. We have been receiving numerous queries in regards to the implementation of social value in their procurement processes. We believe that by working on the development of the Social Value Toolkit, we can support our members with access to relevant information and advice.

Louise Chase, Procurement Manager at Consortium Procurement said: “Ensuring our members’ social value priorities are supported through our procurement activity has been a long standing priority for the Consortium. We understand that delivering social value in contracts is important to our members however we know it can be difficult to balance compliance with the procurement regulations and add social value. We have a longstanding relationship with HACT and were delighted to participate in such an innovative, clear and focussed toolkit to really help our members understand how they can compliantly include social value in their contracts.”

HACT do nothing but their best to spread the word about the Social Value Toolkit as much as possible so that more Housing Associations get the chance to benefit from it. They have recently implemented a new referral programme it already gives excellent outcomes. As a part of the programme dedicated Housing Associations send representatives of their supply chain organisations to HACT to learn more about the approach. If those supply chain organisation decide to take up a licence to use the Social Value Bank, HACT will provide half a day of training back to the referring organisation at no cost.

Mary-Kathryn Rallings Adams, Director of Research at HACT said: “The idea behind this process is to continue curating a network of like-minded organisations committed to truly delivering social value through procurement.”

“Throughout the development of this toolkit, we have very much enjoyed working with delivery partners Trowers & Hamlins and echelon Consultancy Ltd, alongside our project partners Consortium Procurement, Affinity Sutton, North Hertfordshire Homes, Riverside, Thrive Homes, Wandle, AkzoNobel, Mulalley, United Living, and Wates. The aim in this piece of work was to focus specifically on how both commissioners and contractors could generate maximum social value and how they could evidence the value created clearly, consistently and robustly. We look forward to working with Consortium Procurement and our other project partners and supporters in the coming months to embed the toolkit,” she added.

The toolkit is freely available for download here. If you would like to understand more about this project, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Louise Chase, Procurement Manager at Consortium Procurement at louise.chase@consortiumprocurement.org.uk

Board Member Vacancies at Berneslai Homes

Northern Housing Consortium member Berneslai Homes is looking to appoint new board members. The positions available are:

  • Chair
  • Audit Chair
  • Independent Board Member

To apply for any of these positions, please visit the Berneslai Homes vacancies pages where you can also find out more about apprenticeships. Berneslai Homes was recently shortlisted for the Best Apprenticeship Scheme award at the 24Housing Awards.