Agenda item

Oral Update on Universal Credit


The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) provided the following update to the Committee on Universal Credit:


Since implementing the Universal Credit (UC) live service on 18 May 2015 we have received 362 notifications from JCP where a claim has been made for UC.  This includes HB claimants and non-dependants.


We have actually cancelled 40 Housing Benefit claims where they rent from the Council and 33 Housing Benefit claims where they rent from a private landlord.  Based on the current caseload count this equates to 1.176% of 3,401 rent rebate (council tenant) claims and 1.049% of 3,147 rent allowance (private tenant) claims.


We have calculated 220 Council Tax Reduction claims which equates to 2.976% of our current caseload of 7,391.


Housing Rents currently have 29 Managed Payments in place.


We have a few customers who receive a monthly Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) payment to help with their rent.


The take up of the Personal Budgeting Support (PBS) service at CAB has been very slow.  We currently have one case outstanding, but in the few cases that we are aware of the claimant fails to attend the PBS interviews.


In May 2016 the full Universal Credit (UC) service for all working age claimant types began to rollout nationally (beyond London) and in July 2016 it was announced that this rollout will complete by September 2018.


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Transitional Rollout Schedule was updated in October 2017 due to changes being made to the DWP Jobcentre estate network and to coincide with the pace of rollout being scaled up to around 50 Jobcentres per month.


Gravesham Borough Council (Gravesend JCP) is scheduled to transition to the full Universal Credit service on 21 February 2018.


After the rollout process has completed, DWP will then begin moving all remaining existing benefit claimants to the full Universal Credit service in 2019.


There are effectively 3 phases for the full transition:-


  • On go-live date LA’s must shut down the gateway and not allow any new working age claimants to claim Housing Benefit (HB) from Day 1.  They must claim UC unless they fall within one of the exception groups which will remain with HB.  Those are:-


Ø  Specified/Supported Accommodation

Ø  Households with 3 or more children


  • There will be the natural migration as a result of changes in legacy benefits (e.g. Tax Credits etc)


  • Managed migration which will start for us in May 2017, 3 months after going onto the ‘full’ service and the caseload migration will not be completed until at least 2023/24

During managed migration customers will stop receiving UC on the ‘live’ service and will have to reapply within 7 days to receive UC on the ‘full’ service continuously and any partners will also have to complete their section of the claim.



The DWP refer to the roll-out as being an ‘Agile’ process with constant changes.


General feedback is that in Year 1, Working Age caseload has the potential to reduce by 15-35%. This then slows down as generally speaking if someone is likely to naturally migrate as a result of a change this tends to happen in Year 1.


On average each claimant will have an average of 12 changes in a year which will have a knock on effect to our CTRS scheme – long term in its current status it won’t be sustainable.  We will need to look to change the scheme probably meaning we will go out to consultation again within the next 2 years.


Although a letter was issued last year to all LA’s from Neil Couling regarding exit payments there has been no movement on this.  Advice is to be careful of reducing staff; the likelihood is we will need more resource to pick up the volumes coming through the data hub.


Claims Process & Payments

Applications need to be made on-line and all claimants will have an online Universal Credit account to manage their claim. They can use their account to report changes, send messages to their work coach and find support. It usually takes 5 to 6 weeks for a new claim to be assessed and the first payment to arrive, although in some instances this taking up to 8 weeks. Universal Credit is then paid once a month in arrears, usually into a bank, building society or credit union account.

This is made up of 7 waiting days (if circumstances apply), a one month assessment period and up to 7 days for the payment to reach their account.


Advance and hardship payments

If a claimant doesn’t have enough to live on while they wait for their first payment they can ask for an advance payment at their Universal Credit interview or by calling the helpline after they’ve made a claim.

They can also ask for a hardship payment if they can’t pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs because they got a sanction. They need to pay it back through their Universal Credit payments - they’ll be lower until they pay it back.


Budgeting Advance

A claimant may be able to get a Budgeting Advance to help with emergency household costs, such as replacing a broken cooker, or for help getting a job or staying in work.

They’ll repay it through their regular Universal Credit payments - these will be lower until they pay it back. If they stop getting Universal Credit, they’ll have to repay the money in another way.


Paying their rent

A claimant will have to pay rent directly to their landlord. The amount they get may not cover all of their rent.

They need to have a tenancy agreement and know how much their rent is when they apply.

If they’re in social housing, their landlord can tell them which service charges are included and how much they can get.


Alternative Payment Arrangements

If a claimant is having financial difficulties or they’re behind on their rent, they or their landlord may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA).

Depending on their circumstances, they could get an APA to:

-       get their rent paid directly to their landlord

-       get paid more frequently than once a month

-       receive split payments, if they’re part of a couple

The claimant will need to speak to their work coach to apply for an APA



In Summary the Potential Impact on GBC


Increased rent arrears for Council Tenants


Customers attending the Civic for Assisted Digital Support and basically looking for help the transfer process puts the emphasis on the customer to apply again for UC even though they are already in receipt of it


Impact on CTRS and potential consultation this summer to amend the scheme


Increased Council Tax arrears due to number of CTRS changes throughout the year


Increase in paperwork and workload for back office staff


Reduction in HB caseload


Any funding will not cover the cost of delivery


Temporary accommodation costs increase




The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:


·         Under Universal Credit; every time a claimant has a change in salary or hours the Council will be notified.

·         The Council is looking at working with local partners / voluntary organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau to assist with the workload.

·         The Council is doing its best to make sure everyone is informed including; social landlords, private landlords, Job Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau etc. The Department for Work and Pensions has assured the Council that they will inform everyone and everyone will have a work coach. The Housing department at GBC is also committed to sending out a letter.



The Chair of the Finance & Audit Committee, Cllr Derek Shelbrooke, explained that Universal Credit will be discussed at the next Finance & Audit Committee as a potential risk to be added to the Corporate Risk Register. 


The Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) advised that there will be a Member training session on Universal Credit and Welfare Reform on 16 January 2018.



The Committee thanked the Service Manager (Revenues & Benefits) for an informative update.