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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Universal credit administration  →  Thread

prisoners and housing costs

dizzymare
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Welfare benefits adviser - Dudley MBC

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HI
I have a case where client made a new claim for UC 20/10/21. As far as I know, he attended his interview at JC and declared housing costs. He was taken into custody 12/11. Housing costs have not been paid. He did receive a sentence of more than 6 months, but im waiting to ascertain date of sentence to see if he would be owed any HC for a month or so as he has rent arrears. The work coach at the prison has advised that he wouldn’t be entitled as he became a prisoner within his first AP so nothing is due, as he wouldn’t have been paid UC.

regulations say:

claimed UC before became a prisoner (he did);
entitled to UC immediately before he became a prisoner (he was)
the calculation of UC included UC HC element - calculation was never made and guess this is where it falls down?

also change of circumstances usually takes effect from start of AP so work coach is almost certainly right but I rarely deal with prisoners so just checking in case I have overlooked anything

Charles
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But was he entitled to UC immediately before becoming a prisoner? As he became a prisoner in the first AP, then to say he was entitled before becoming a prisoner, he needs Reg 19(2) to apply. But that only applies if he was entitled. It’s a bit of a vicious circle!

I’ve had similar with someone who left the UK for less than a month during the first AP. See this thread.

dizzymare
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thanks Charles - yes ive been looking at that regulation and of course it hinges on ‘entitled’.

I note that in your thread relating to temp absence, it seems that it is as I thought, that the change is treated as occurring at the start of the AP so therefore was a prisoner at the start, so not entitled.  I did think that would be the case but no stone unturned as they say. Thanks for the link to the thread Charles.

Paul Stockton
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Might this work as an argument?

Prisoners are excluded from UC by regulation 19(1)(b) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 unless they meet the specific conditions set out in regulation 19(2), the relevant part of which (as amended) reads:

“(2) Paragraph (1)(b) does not apply during the first 6 months when the person is a prisoner where—
(a)the person was entitled to universal credit as a single person immediately before becoming a prisoner, and the calculation of their award included an amount for the housing costs element…”

That seems to me to lead to first to the question:  when did C become entitled to UC? Isn’t that the date on which he met the basic conditions? If it is, the first AP starts from there and he gets paid in arrears when he has completed the first AP. So in this case the start date for entitlement is earlier than the date on which he became a prisoner.

Secondly, is his acquiring prisoner status to be attributed to the start of the AP, which in this case would be the same as the start date for entitlement? Might the word “immediately” be the answer? By inserting that word maybe the drafter meant to convey that the fiction that all changes start from the start of the AP does not apply to someone becoming a prisoner? This would avoid the vicious circle identified by Charles.

Then there is the awkward fact that the DWP haven’t calculated the HCE. But that is because they concluded that he wasn’t entitled to UC because he was a prisoner. If the answer to 2 is as I’ve suggested they should have calculated UC to include HCE, and they shouldn’t be able to rely on not having done something they should have done.

Charles
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I think you have a good argument there.

The truth is that even someone who has been entitled to UC for many months, and then he is imprisoned at any point in an AP besides the first day. Was he entitled to UC “immediately” before entering prison? We have the same vicious circle!

The Regs definitely intend the above case to be fine though, so I think we must interpret “immediately” along the lines you suggest.

Alternatively, we could interpret “entitled” as meaning “fulfils all the conditions of entitlement in their current status”. That would also help for the first AP then.

dizzymare
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thank you - well nothing ventured, nothing gained so ill give it a go.