Housing element can be sanctioned under UC
Just been reading a story on Inside Housing that says that part-time workers judged to be doing too little to find full-time work face having their benefit for housing costs sanctioned by the government for the first time under universal credit.
Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under the government’s flagship welfare reform, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours a week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, the housing element can be sanctioned instead.
Landlords are concerned that by extending ‘in-work conditionality’ to the housing element, if the DWP deems claimants to not be doing enough to find full-time employment and applies sanctions, rent arrears could increase.
Sue Ramsden, head of policy for neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said that until now, it has been unclear whether the DWP would allow housing costs to be exempt. ‘We are pressing for DWP staff to have regard for the need for an alternative payment arrangement to be put in place at the same time that the sanction is imposed,’ she said.
Yes, I read that Paul. I also read this.
So, with less social housing available and the fall in new owner occupiers, more people are dependent on private sector renting subject to higher rents and no real security of tenure. Thus, these tenants will be the most vulnerable to any sanctions. This makes no economic sense whatsoever. Moreover, single parents working part time so that they can be there when their kids come home from school in order to spend time with them could be forced to work longer hours, possibly being forced to pay high child care costs (or relying on the neighbours taking the kids in or, worse, creating latch key children), arriving home later and more tired, thus leaving less quality time to spend with their kids. So much for the sanctity of the family.
It’s odd this has suddenly been reported now - it has been a feature of UC from the outset. It is not strictly correct to say that the housing element will be sanctioned: it would be more accurate to say that UC can be sanctioned in cases where the claimant only retains entitlement to UC after the taper is applied because there are housing costs included in the award. For example a taper of £80 would knock out a single non-householder’s UC completely, but it would leave a “renter” with some residual entitlement. That residual entitlement is not the housing element as such, it is just whatever is left of the UC award after the taper is applied.
For the same reasons, it could also be said that the child elements of UC can be sanctioned (it would happen where an owner occupier works part time and does not comply with work seeking conditionality).
In both cases, it is a result of conditionality and the accompanying sanctions regime extending to people who work a fair amount but tantalisingly not quite enough
Agree, it is odd, my organisation fully understood the implications around sanctions being applied to housing costs from the start. The conditionality being applied to UC claims not only sees it applied to housing costs only awards, but as Peter points out, also extends to what was tax credits. So WR will be far reaching, many totally unaware of this, again though it is not technically housing or child elements….it is purely UC. The roll out of claimant commitment is insight to what we can expect.
It’s a ‘feature’ of a single unified benefit. The same effect can be seen with the bedroom tax; once HB is extinguished there is no impact on remaining tax credits but the effect will continue in Universal Credit higher up the earnings scale. The overall benefits cap works in a similar way but to a greater degree.
I raised this as an issue with the DWP last year, and was told that the housing element would be ‘protected’ from sanctions and that there was nothing to be concerned about!
If true, this is going to make investigating Stat Homeless Applications a tad tricky.
“I am Homeless”
“I was sanctioned, they took it from my housing costs”
“Why didnt you appeal?”
“I couldnt afford to.”
“Why didnt you prioritise your rent?”
“I prioritised feeding my family”
“Why dint you use a food bank?”
“They ran out”
And so on….....until…..
“So you will house me then?”
“Err .....by the way I wont be able to affod the rent…...I have been sanctioned”