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