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UC Sheltered accommodation issue

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare Rights, Greenwich Council

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A colleague has come across this pretty significant problem in the claiming process.

When claiming UC, if you click that you live in ‘supported or sheltered’ accommodation, then it does not give you an opportunity to submit the details of your housing costs - it simply says that the task has been completed.

The issue is, of course, that sheltered accommodation is not always specified or supported accommodation and lots of it should actually be covered by UC. There is the opportunity to say ‘I’m in another type of accommodation’ and add the details but most claimants are not going to know this and so won’t add their housing costs.

Has anyone else come across this?

Attached are the screenshots of this process. The second screenshot immediately follows the first with no other windows appearing.

Thoughts welcomed…

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Timothy Seaside
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Housing Services, Arun District Council

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I’ve got one like this. My client (one of our tenants) made her UC claim at the Jobcentre with their help. I’d been in touch with them to help arrange the appointment as she’s quite vulnerable, and I’d notified our rent arrears team to look out for it and make sure we got APA (large arrears, and client would rather it came straight to us anyway). More than two months later we hadn’t received anything from the DWP so I got her in and we looked through her account - she was down as being in “sheltered” accommodation, so they weren’t paying any housing costs. My client is living in what we would call a sheltered housing scheme; meaning we only place vulnerable or older people in the block. But this in no way means it meets the requirements for any category of specified accommodation under Schedule 1.

I would agree that this is potentially a huge problem. And I would argue that it has to be official error to decide that somebody is in specified accommodation based on that single answer to the question - it should bring up other questions. To put it another way; if I was interviewing somebody for money or housing advice, I would never accept a client’s assertion that they were in supported housing without asking some other questions; like how much support they get, who provides it, who pays for it, etc. Because you simply cannot establish the claimant’s entitlement or rights without knowing the detail.

Incidentally, I requested a MR on her journal as soon as we saw this problem. Their only response so far has been to advise her to change the details on her claim. Then they paid her housing costs direct to her just before Christmas (despite our APA demand). Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of this sorted out when I see her tomorrow. I’ve got my MR guidance document ready.

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Rebecca Lough - 07 January 2019 05:20 PM

A colleague has come across this pretty significant problem in the claiming process.

When claiming UC, if you click that you live in ‘supported or sheltered’ accommodation, then it does not give you an opportunity to submit the details of your housing costs - it simply says that the task has been completed.

The issue is, of course, that sheltered accommodation is not always specified or supported accommodation and lots of it should actually be covered by UC. There is the opportunity to say ‘I’m in another type of accommodation’ and add the details but most claimants are not going to know this and so won’t add their housing costs.

Has anyone else come across this?

Attached are the screenshots of this process. The second screenshot immediately follows the first with no other windows appearing.

Thoughts welcomed…

I think your right, and yes, its another example of the clunky ‘one size fits all’ design limitations.

Ironically unlike various paper claim forms for legacy benefits e.g. TC’s there isn’t a accompanying booklet advising how to answer questions (don’t know what the computery equivalent is, guessing it would be called an e thingy .

We came across an example before Xmas. I suspect it won’t just be claimants, but others too, not knowing the difference between the above in your post.

HB Anorak
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The main “false positives” are going to be local authority tenants - in most cases being an LA tenant means you are not occupying specified accommodation.  The logical flow needs redesigning, but a short term fix would be to reword that question to include the words “provided by a charity or voluntary organisation”.  This means that people who are in HA sheltered/supported will not tick that box, but they will probably tick the HA box anyway.

TP45
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HB Anorak - 08 January 2019 12:08 PM

The main “false positives” are going to be local authority tenants - in most cases being an LA tenant means you are not occupying specified accommodation.  The logical flow needs redesigning, but a short term fix would be to reword that question to include the words “provided by a charity or voluntary organisation”.  This means that people who are in HA sheltered/supported will not tick that box, but they will probably tick the HA box anyway.

Unfortunately this may lead clients in supported accommodation that is managed by a charity on behalf of a housing association to tick the wrong box.  Residents in some of our managed schemes, completing the online application without our support (either at JCP or independently), sometimes tick the HA box.  This leads to an SRS form and attempts to award the housing cost element.  We then have to unpick this so they are not paid in error.

Timothy Seaside
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Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District - 08 January 2019 12:03 PM

Ironically unlike various paper claim forms for legacy benefits e.g. TC’s there isn’t a accompanying booklet advising how to answer questions (don’t know what the computery equivalent is, guessing it would be called an e thingy .

We came across an example before Xmas. I suspect it won’t just be claimants, but others too, not knowing the difference between the above in your post.

There are lots of online forms where you can click on a ? icon to get an explanation (e.g. insurance comparison sites). It’s not hard to do, and could make a big difference if they explained what a question is really asking.

But I would argue that the real answer is to have properly worded questions in the first place, and have them asking a logical sequence of questions to get the fullest possible answer (like in an identification key, or Shelter’s tool for working out your security of tenure). It really isn’t good enough to make a decision that Para 3 of Sch 1 applies based on a single statement that somebody is in “supported or sheltered” housing - it’s wrong.

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Timothy Seaside - 09 January 2019 05:01 PM
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District - 08 January 2019 12:03 PM

Ironically unlike various paper claim forms for legacy benefits e.g. TC’s there isn’t a accompanying booklet advising how to answer questions (don’t know what the computery equivalent is, guessing it would be called an e thingy .

We came across an example before Xmas. I suspect it won’t just be claimants, but others too, not knowing the difference between the above in your post.

There are lots of online forms where you can click on a ? icon to get an explanation (e.g. insurance comparison sites). It’s not hard to do, and could make a big difference if they explained what a question is really asking.

But I would argue that the real answer is to have properly worded questions in the first place, and have them asking a logical sequence of questions to get the fullest possible answer (like in an identification key, or Shelter’s tool for working out your security of tenure). It really isn’t good enough to make a decision that Para 3 of Sch 1 applies based on a single statement that somebody is in “supported or sheltered” housing - it’s wrong.

Absolutely Timothy!

 

Rebecca Lough
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Welfare Rights, Greenwich Council

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Just to revive my own thread. It is still written on gov.uk, clear as day:

If you’re in temporary or supported housing
You cannot get Universal Credit to pay for temporary, emergency, supported or sheltered housing. Apply for Housing Benefit through your council instead.


From: https://www.gov.uk/housing-and-universal-credit

Not great!

Charles
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This is certainly a problem. So much so, DWP published this guidance for LAs just this week.

Timothy Seaside
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Housing Services, Arun District Council

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Coincidentally I had another of these today.

I helped the client to do a change of circs on their account. The problem would be quite easy to sort out, and really stems from the fact that you’re forced to pick only one option, but the options aren’t mutually exclusive. So you can choose LA landlord, or sheltered housing. If you’re in sheltered housing with an LA landlord, how do you know which one to choose?

The options are more suited to a “tick all that apply” list, or a hierarchical decision tree. That would pretty much do away with the problem.

But the DWP’s solution is to keep on making the same mistake but get local authority HB departments to fix it for them on a case by case basis. One of the problems with this approach is that it requires the claimant to realise that they’re not getting housing costs paid, and that they need to go to the local authority - which didn’t happen in the cases I’ve dealt with - once because the claimant didn’t believe the DWP because she’d already been to HB and been told (correctly) she couldn’t claim; which strikes me as being a reasonably common scenario. Council tenants aren’t going to think there’s anything amiss when they don’t receive any housing payments from UC because they’ve never received them under HB.