Northern Homelessness Network – NHC MEMBERS ONLY

The Homelessness Reduction Act (HRACT) was implemented on 3rd April 2018, with the aim of reducing homelessness across the country.   It’s a comprehensive change to the law which will shift the emphasis firmly towards preventing homelessness. It is the first major piece of homelessness legislation for 15 years, which has been welcomed and perceived as a long overdue change needed to reform the current system.

The Act aims to better tackle the growing problem of homelessness, by focusing on prevention in local areas and to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable people who are often seen to be poorly served by current legislation.

The Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) would like to invite NHC members to the first Northern Homelessness Network which will be held on Monday 9th July, at Incommunities offices, The Quays, Victoria St, Shipley BD17 7BN from 10.30-12.30pm.

The aim of this network is to provide NHC members with the opportunity to come together to share learning and experience around the implementation of the HRACT.  The first meeting will focus on HRACT 3 months on, and to hear from members around their experiences to date, what has/hasn’t worked well, in addition we would like the group to consider future themes for this network. These could include; duty to refer, what works in prevention, accessing supply, cross-boundary/provider co-operation; link with Allocations and many more.

Future meetings will take place quarterly in a venue across the Yorkshire & Humber region, this is to ensure it is a central as possible for all NHC members travelling from the North East and North West.

if you wish to attend please confirm your attendance to satty.rai@northern-consortium.org.uk, spaces are limited due to room capacity, so places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis.

Review of powers to deal with unauthorised caravan sites

A review of the law and powers to deal with unauthorised caravan sites has been announced by the Housing Minister.

The consultation on the law and powers to deal with unauthorised caravan sites is intended to resolve the distress that can arise for both the settled and nomadic communities – an issue increasingly raised in Parliament over recent months.

Since 2010, the number of traveller caravans on authorised sites has increased. However latest figures show approximately 16% of all caravans – around 3,700 – are on unauthorised sites.

In the launch of the consultation, Housing Minister Dominic Raab said: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people. But, we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to. We must promote a tolerant society and make sure there are legal sites available for travellers, but equally the rule of law must be applied to everyone.”

The purpose of the consultation is to obtain feedback on what else can be done to ensure that local authorities, the police and landowners can deal with unauthorised sites and developments efficiently, as well as any barriers there may be to the provision of authorised sites.

The consultation asks whether existing local authority powers are effective and whether local authorities could improve their use of those powers, as well as what other powers may help them in dealing with unauthorised sites.

The NHC is keen to hear from member organisations with their views on the review.  Please get in touch if you have any views to share. Contact Karen Brown Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk

Find out more about the consultation here

 

 

Consultation Response – Consumer Redress

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government recently published a consultation “Strengthening consumer redress in the housing market” which asked what can be done to improve consumer redress across housing, including whether bringing together existing redress functions into a single housing ombudsman service could be an effective way of simplifying access to redress.

This NHC has responded to the consultation giving views on the following:

  • The main problems with the current redress arrangements
  • What would best improve redress in the housing sector
  • What more could be done to improve in-house complaints systems
  • Would a single ombudsman service simplify redress across housing

The document also addresses what steps can be taken to improve redress across the market in the short to medium term and the role of redress schemes in driving service improvements.

Read the full response here.

On-the-day briefing Spring Statement

The Spring Statement 2018 was announced by the Chancellor today. The Northern Housing Consortium has, as we do for all major policy announcements, written an on-the-day briefing providing insight into what the key policy announcements contained within the Chancellor’s speech mean for the housing sector in the North.

You can view our on-the-day briefing here.

New Year Honour for Northern Housing Consortium’s Chief Executive

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) and Chair of Your Homes Newcastle, has been awarded a CBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s New Years’ Honours 2018. The award was made in recognition of services to housing providers in the North during a long career in housing.

“I was very surprised but I am incredibly proud and honoured to receive this award” said Jo. “I think it underlines the significance of housing and the increasingly influential role of the Northern Housing Consortium.”

Jo became Chief Executive of the NHC in 2010, following a number of senior roles across the North, and recently took up the position of Chair of Your Homes Newcastle.

Tom Miskell, Chair of the NHC, commented, “We are delighted that Jo has been awarded a CBE, reflecting her passion for, and commitment to, improving the lives of people in the North through housing. This award is a great achievement and we are proud of her and the recognition that this gives to housing issues.”

NHC responds to HCA’s Value for Money Consultation

In September the Homes and Communities Agency published a consultation on a revised Value for Money (VfM) Standard. The consultation proposed to revise the VfM Standard and publish a new associated Code of Practice to help registered providers understand how compliance with the new Standard might be achieved.

The proposed Standard aims to move the focus of the regulatory approach away from the primarily narrative self-assessment to more outcome-based reporting from registered providers on targets, including a suite of metrics to be defined, from time to time, by the regulator.

In response to the consultation, and in order to gather the views of its members, the NHC arranged and facilitated three meetings around the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber regions. The key points in discussions held at those meetings have informed a response to the consultation.

We look forward to the publication of the final standard. The NHC will reconvene groups of members following the issue of the standard to discuss implementation, timescales and any other regulatory issues.

The NHC response to the consultation which includes member’s views of how the VfM Standard and the associated Code of Practice are developed and implemented can be accessed here.

Closure of the gateway to new Universal Credit live service claims

The 2017 Autumn Statement announced that the Universal Credit live service will cease to take new claims from 1st January 2018. This is part of the transition to a full digital service and continues the Government’s focus on work, independence and reducing reliance on welfare.

The Department for Work and Pensions has published a bulletin filled with important information for claimants and local authorities. You can read it in full below or download it here.


ISSN 2054-2844 (Online)

HB U4/2017

14 December 2017

Closure of the gateway to new Universal Credit live service claims

  1. The 2017 Autumn Statement announced that Universal Credit live service will cease to take new claims from 1 January 2018. This change supports the smooth transition to a full digital service and continues the focus on work, independence and reducing reliance on welfare. It is not value for taxpayers’ money to continue to invest in a system that is due to be closed and replaced by the Universal Credit full service.
  2. Existing Universal Credit live service claimants will continue unaffected and we will maintain the existing caseload. This includes:
  • transition to Full Service, where a site is transitioning from live service to full service
  • changes of address. This will be classed as a change in circumstances within Universal Credit
  • partner joining an existing Universal Credit claim. This will be classed as a change in circumstances
  • partnership separation. This will be classed as a change in circumstances and both claimants will remain on Universal Credit (if still appropriate)
  • where a claimant has been working and their earnings have exceeded the maximum amount, their entitlement will be reduced to nil due to their earnings. Their claim will stay open for up to 6 months within the six month re-award period.
  1. Someone making a claim in a Universal Credit live service area after the 31 December 2017 will be directed to claim one of the following benefits:
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support; and/or
  • Housing Benefit (HB) as appropriate to their circumstances. HB can be taken as part of the data gather for the above benefits through the benefit systems. Where this is not appropriate the claimant needs to be signposted to their local authority (LA) to make a claim
  • Child Tax Credits and/or Working Tax Credits with HM Revenue & Customs.
  1. LAs will need to ask the claimants about any previous Universal Credit claims and see if the claimants are within the 6 month re-award period. There are a number of ways that the LA can find this information:
  • speaking to the claimant
  • checking the Customer Information System to see if the Universal Credit claim is still in payment
  • Universal Credit termination notification for Local Council Tax Reduction
  • a copy of the termination notification that the claimant receives.
  1. Where a claimant terminates their Universal Credit live service claim by choice they will be able to make a new claim to HB straight away. Claimants in full service areas will not be allowed to terminate their claim and make a claim for HB.
  2. There will be no backdating of the UC claim.  If the claimant makes a claim from 1 January 2018 but needs to have their claim looked at from an earlier date then this will have to be requested from the LA as part of the HB claim.
  3. LAs will be able to recover any HB overpayments from the new HB claim. These will not be referred through the Payment Deduction Project system and will revert to business as usual processes.
  4. Universal Credit full service will continue to accept new claims and is not impacted by the change.
  5. The Universal Credit Live Service L&D pack is being updated and will be available via Glasscubes and DWP Partnership Managers from 15 December 2017.

What LAs need to do before 31 December 2017

  1. All LAs within Universal Credit live service areas will need to open their gateway to HB claims and ensure that their websites and leaflets, etc., are up to date and available as from 1 January 2018 to allow HB claims to be made. All staff will need to be aware of the change to avoid signposting the claimant back to Universal Credit.
  2. We will be communicating information regarding new burdens funding to LAs once the live service closure changes have been finalised and we have made the necessary evaluation.
  3. Provided below is some questions and answers (Q&A) to support all staff to respond to queries from claimants regarding the closure of Universal Credit live service claimant new claims gateway from 1 January 2018.

Q&A

Q1. Why is Universal Credit closing the live service gateway for new claims?

A1. By the time Universal Credit is fully rolled out, Universal Credit full service will have replaced Universal Credit live service in every Jobcentre/local authority area. It would not represent value for money for taxpayers to continue to invest in a system that is due to be closed and replaced by Universal Credit full service.

This will not affect anyone already in receipt of Universal Credit in a live service postcode area.

 

Q2. Does this change apply to all Universal Credit claims?

A2. No, if you live in a Universal Credit full service postcode area you will still be able to make a new claim to Universal Credit full service unless you are a family with 3 or more children. Then you may make a claim to one of the following:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support; and/or
  • Housing Benefit (HB)
  • Child Tax Credits and/or Working Tax Credits with HM Revenue & Customs.

 

Q3. I have been onto the GOV.UK website and it says I cannot claim Universal Credit in my area, why is this?

A3. Universal Credit live service in your postcode area is no longer taking new claims until the full service is rolled out. Details of when the Universal Credit full service will be rolled out in your area can be found on www.gov.uk

If you have not made a Universal Credit live service claim with us before then you may make a claim to one of the following:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support; and/or
  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits and/or Working Tax Credits with HM Revenue & Customs.

Claimants already in receipt of Universal Credit will remain on Universal Credit providing other circumstances relating to their claim are unchanged.

Claimants will remain on Universal Credit live service if they are within the 6 month re-award period on Universal Credit live service. In these circumstances claimants will be able to report a change of circumstances which may result in entitlement to a revised Universal Credit live service award.

 

Q4. I have just separated from my partner can I continue to claim Universal Credit?

A4. When you report your separation from your partner your joint claim will end.  However, you will both remain on Universal Credit (if still appropriate).

 

Q5. I think I should be entitled to Universal Credit from a date prior to 1 January 2018 and want to ask for my claim to be backdated.

A5. If you have not claimed Universal Credit in a live service area prior to 1 January 2018 you will need to claim one of the following and request backdating:

  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income Support; and/or
  • Housing Benefit.

 

Q6. If I want to claim Universal Credit how can I appeal your decision?

A6. You cannot appeal against the decision not to accept a new Universal Credit claim in a live service area as from 1 January 2018. This is because of changes in the law for Universal Credit as a result of government policy.

Universal Credit report highlights difficulties for landlords and tenants

A report released today warns of the difficulties social landlords are still facing from the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC).

In light of recent changes to UC in the Autumn Budget, the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) today launched its report, Impact of Universal Credit – The Frontline Perspective, which summarises the results of a year-long study of UC, highlighting the experiences of 85 of its member organisations and their tenants across the North.

Key concerns that have emerged include the following:

  • 95% of participants reported that their tenants were having difficulty in meeting housing costs. The NHC welcomed the extension of Housing Benefit announced recently which will have a significant positive impact on the level of arrears.
  • There is a significant impact on landlords, with 92% reporting their staff were spending more time supporting people through the UC process than the Housing Benefit process. One participant reported an increase of 90% in calls from customers.
  • Communication problems between participants (and their tenants) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – 89% of responding members experienced this.

Of particular concern was the impact UC is having on tenants. Reported evictions due to rent arrears in UC cases increased from 18% to 27% during the roll-out and by the end of the study all respondents reported they were aware of food bank use – something that a number of other studies have found.

More than half of the participants were aware of an increase in tenant health issues. These included stress and anxiety, depression, and suffering from the effects of cold and damp after being unable to heat their homes, particularly during the wait for the first payment. The announcement of the recent one-week reduction in the waiting time for first payment was positive, but the waiting time for claimants is still significant.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, NHC said: “The impact of UC on social landlords and their tenants is deeply concerning. The new system poses real challenges around rent collection and puts severe pressure on landlord resources in already challenging times. Worryingly, the situation could get worse for tenants as some face additional hardship over the Christmas period. Whilst we support the principle of simplifying the benefits system, there is clearly still work to be done to ensure it runs smoothly.  Many of the messages on UC from the Autumn Budget were encouraging, and we urge the Government to continue to listen to housing providers in the sector, who offer security and support to many of society’s most vulnerable people. The NHC and our members have worked closely with the DWP throughout the process and will continue to do this over the coming months.”

You can download the report here and an infographic of statistics here.


Key contacts

Claire Henderson, Communications Manager, Northern Housing Consortium, Claire.henderson@northern-consortium.org.uk  01915661032

David Hetherington, Marketing Officer, Northern Housing Consortium, david.hetherington@northern-consortium.org.uk 0191 5661038

 

Protecting consumers in the letting agent market: call for evidence

On 1st  October 2017, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced proposals to address the imbalance of power in the private rented market by regulating letting and managing agents.

A call for evidence sought views on a new regulatory model and how best to protect and empower tenants and leaseholders.

The Northern Housing Consortium has responded to the Call for Evidence and you can read the response in full here.

The NHC has welcomed an approach to a more professional managing agent market and believe that, if framed correctly, there are benefits for property management agents as well as for tenants and leaseholders. We believe that regulation creates a level playing field, and will help responsible agents to not be undermined by a minority of agents with poor practice and will help improve the reputation of all.

The Government will bring forward detailed proposals early next year, following analysis of the evidence submitted.