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UC housing costs when your partner has gone to prison and the tenancy was in his name.

Karlston
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Money Advice Team - Bolton at Home

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Hi

I am dealing with a customer at the moment whose partner has gone into prison. He was not in receipt of either HB or UC housing costs prior to going to prison and he was the only one named on the tenancy. The customer I am now helping has been living with him, however, was not named as an occupant at the property. Can my customer claim for UC housing costs even though she is not named on the tenancy or named as an occupant.

Thanks

HB Anorak
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Yes they can.

Depending on the length of time in prison, it is either para 1 or para 2 of Schedule 2 to the UC Regs.  They will still be aggregated as a couple for up to six months, in which case para 1 covers it; if it is more than six months para 2 covers it.

Karlston
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Brilliant thanks!

bristol_1
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So I am just looking at couples on a joint UC claim where one partner goes to prison.

UC Reg 19 confirms the only prisoners who can get UC are single claimants who were entitled to UC before custody, and their housing costs can be paid for up to 6 months if the sentence is not expected to last more than 6 months.

The full service guidance says that the partner going to prison will ‘remain within the assessment unit as an ineligible adult during the first 6 months of their temporary absence period’, but the latest version is 2018;
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0759/Ineligible_partner_v4.0.pdf

However the ADM E3 (?more recent?) says that where a member of a joint claim goes to prison, then a new single UC claim must be made, see ‘Rosie and Jim’ in the ADM at E3042 - Jim was sentenced to less than 6 months. This seems to be more in line with the Regs.

In the OP’s case above, on the new single claim I think the partner can rely on the Schedule 2 to get the housing costs paid. But as for making a whole new single claim - seems a bit of unnecessary upheaval doesn’t it?

This came to my notice as my single client went to prison for 2 weeks in Sep and her UC claim ended completely. I queried why the claim closed rather than paying HCE for the period in prison. I’ve yet to get right to the bottom of it, but it appears that she may never have updated her claim from a joint to a single one from a joint one, as she claimed UC jointly with her partner in April 2019 but he was sentenced to more than 6 months in prison in July 2019. I am considering scope for late notification of change (health issues), so that we can get the UC claim as single from his custody date and then housing costs continuous during her short prison spell, but now it’s looking like she should have notified partner’s prison and made a new single UC claim …and there’ll be overpayment if she carried on being paid as a couple.

Charles
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bristol_1 - 07 February 2020 04:38 PM

The full service guidance says that the partner going to prison will ‘remain within the assessment unit as an ineligible adult during the first 6 months of their temporary absence period’, but the latest version is 2018;
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0759/Ineligible_partner_v4.0.pdf

However the ADM E3 (?more recent?) says that where a member of a joint claim goes to prison, then a new single UC claim must be made, see ‘Rosie and Jim’ in the ADM at E3042 - Jim was sentenced to less than 6 months. This seems to be more in line with the Regs.

I don’t see any contradiction. The full service guidance is discussing the “assessment unit”, not whether it is a single claim or a joint claim. The reason for the 6 month period for the “assessment unit” is due to the rule in reg 3(6).

bristol_1
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Hello
I think you’re right, I’d overlooked that in the Regs. The problem is then in the ADM - in the ‘Rosie and Jim’ example the ADM says Rosie will have to make a new single claim to UC when Jim goes to prison for 4 months, but I think she doesn’t have to do this due to Reg 3(6) - Jim is absent for less than 6 months - he is still in the benefit unit but as an ineligible partner. 
Conclusion - the Rosie and Jim example ADM guidance is wrong? And if claimants are asked to make new single UC claim when the partner goes to prison, then UC Reg 3(6) prevents this for absences of less than 6 months, and Reg 9(6)(a) of the UC, JSA etc. C&P Regs prevents this where the absence is more than 6 months.

So my client, if she correctly reported her partner’s sentence of 2 years, should then have moved automatically to a single UC claim and then her housing costs should have been paid when she later went into prison for 2 weeks, I think.

JoW
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I wonder how the landlord will deal with this though. If they are a social landlord and have the Landlord Portal they will receive notification of the UC claim and the first question asked will be if the named UC claimant is the tenant? The OP says the tenancy is just in the prisoners name so in this case the landlord would say “No” and potentially go no further? Particularly if they know nothing about the partner.  How will UC deal with this? How will they confirm the rent?

[ Edited: 14 Feb 2020 at 05:03 pm by JoW ]
Charles
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bristol_1 - 14 February 2020 02:12 PM

Hello
I think you’re right, I’d overlooked that in the Regs. The problem is then in the ADM - in the ‘Rosie and Jim’ example the ADM says Rosie will have to make a new single claim to UC when Jim goes to prison for 4 months, but I think she doesn’t have to do this due to Reg 3(6) - Jim is absent for less than 6 months - he is still in the benefit unit but as an ineligible partner. 
Conclusion - the Rosie and Jim example ADM guidance is wrong? And if claimants are asked to make new single UC claim when the partner goes to prison, then UC Reg 3(6) prevents this for absences of less than 6 months, and Reg 9(6)(a) of the UC, JSA etc. C&P Regs prevents this where the absence is more than 6 months.

I don’t think this right.

When the absence is expected to be less than 6 months, then although Reg 3(6) says they are a couple, that does not make them entitled to UC as a couple. The rule in Reg 3(3) applies despite them remaining part of one assessment unit (as with all Reg 3(3) cases).
Is a fresh claim needed? I would argue that yes, one is needed, as Reg 9(6) of the C&P Regs seems only to apply to cases when joint claimants “cease to be a couple”.
The ADM, contrary to what you may have thought, actually suggests a claim is NOT needed. It was clearly written before Reg 9(6) of the C&P Regs was amended. Before the amendment, the claimant who notified DWP of the couple splitting had to make a fresh claim (hence the words in the ADM “as the person who notified the change”). This suggests the author of the ADM believes such cases do fall within Reg 9(6) of the C&P Regs, and therefore would not need a claim nowadays.

When the absence is expected to last at least 6 months, they will no longer be considered a couple due to Reg 3(6). Does this now fall within Reg 9(6) of the C&P Regs? I’m still not sure, as there are now two reasons for the joint claim ending: 1. Ceasing to be a couple and 2. Being in prison. However, I’m leaning to the side that a claim is not needed.

So my client, if she correctly reported her partner’s sentence of 2 years, should then have moved automatically to a single UC claim and then her housing costs should have been paid when she later went into prison for 2 weeks, I think.

The question whether a fresh claim is needed makes a massive difference here. If one is needed, then there is no chance of backdating the change, as a fresh claim can only be backdated maximum one month. If one is not needed, then it should be backdated all the way without any problems (even without good reason for late notification).