Universal Credit in Reigate & Banstead

In News by Caroline Foxton

We have been asked to publish this important information about Universal Credit in Reigate & Banstead. Please see below:-

1. Roll-out in Reigate & Banstead delayed by 3 months to October 2018

A number of changes to the Universal Credit process were announced in the Autumn Budget on 23 November. To allow these changes to be implemented, the roll-out date for Reigate & Banstead has been moved back by three months from July to October 2018. Please be aware of this in your conversations with those who may be affected. Here at the Council we will continue preparation work from the New Year, but will move our pro-active communications with residents back to the summer (likely to start from July). We will keep you updated as our plans develop.

As a result of the roll out delay, the DWP has decided to reschedule the training date for partners from February until May. The DWP will be in contact with many of you to invite you to the most appropriate training session. (Training will be delivered by the DWP at Reigate Town Hall.)

2.New Universal Credit dummy form

A company called We Are Digital are offering a test Universal Credit application form so people can see what it looks like before they apply. The lack of a test/dummy form in the past has been problematic for those trying to help people through the process, so hopefully this will be a useful resource for frontline staff. You can find it here – https://www.we-are-digital.co.uk/help/.

3. New Universal Credit support role at the Council

We are pleased to announce that a member of our staff will take on a new six-month role from January, working specifically to formulate and formalise the Council’s approach to Universal Credit. The role has been created to provide leadership and co-ordination to this very complex area. Cerys Williams will:

  • become a subject expert and co-ordinate the Council’s approach
  • organise a partnership approach to minimise the impact of Universal Credit
  • support and inform the communications campaign to residents
  • make recommendations about future provision which will allow families to operate independently
  • help provide innovative solutions to enhance the support offer.

4. Changes to Universal Credit

The following changes were announced in the Autumn Budget

Abolishing waiting days

From February 2018, the 7 day waiting period for new Universal Credit claimants will be abolished, reducing the length of time claimants might wait to receive their first full payment from 6 weeks to 5 weeks. This will also mean no break in payment (the 7 ‘waiting days’ were unpaid).

Increasing advances

Universal Credit claimants are currently entitled to an advance of up to 50% of the first month’s payment, with the following six months’ payments adjusted to account for this. From January 2018, new claimants will be offered an advance of up to 100%, which is recoverable over 12 months rather than 6. From spring it will become possible to apply for an advance online if preferred.

Support with housing costs

All claimants who were previously receiving Housing Benefit will receive a transitional payment – an extra two weeks support worth on average £233 per claimant – when they move to Universal Credit. This will be unrecoverable, automatic and received early in the first assessment period.

Guidance will also be issued to staff to ensure that claimants living in the private rented sector whose Housing Benefit was previously paid directly to landlords are automatically offered this option when they join Universal Credit.

Alternative Payment Arrangements for Landlords

From December 2017, new guidance will be issued to staff to ensure that claimants in the Private Rented Sector who have their Housing Benefit paid directly to landlords are offered this option when they join Universal Credit. This gives additional continuity to claimants when they join Universal Credit.

Temporary accommodation housing support

Currently local authorities see a funding shortage when they place people into temporary and emergency accommodation as they could only recoup around 50% of the cost from Universal Credit. This housing support will be increased to 80% of their expenditure on temporary accommodation.