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Welfare Reform for Housing Support Workers

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  1. Welfare Reform for Housing Support Workers Fiona Campbell Housing & Benefits Consultant

  2. Aims • To enable housing support workers to: • deal confidently with benefit issues relating to individual service users • know when to help a person obtain more specialist advice on welfare benefits • help clients access such advice • To equip delegates to brief other support workers within their organisations

  3. Topics • “Bedroom Tax” • Scottish Welfare Fund • Benefit Cap • Universal Credit and Direct Payments • Discretionary Housing Payments • Personal Independence Payments • Case studies

  4. Quiz

  5. The Answers 1 – (b) 28 October 2013 2 – (c) £167bn (DWP 2011/12). £159bn goes on benefits, of which £74bn goes on state pensions. The remainder is spent on admin. 3 – (a) 0.7% (DWP 2011/12) 4 – (b) 42 according to CPAG research 5 – (b) £18bn 6 – (c) £19bn according to research by Sheffield Hallam University

  6. Your role • Who do you work for? • What do you do? • Who are your clients?

  7. Boundaries • Boundaries between housing support and specialist advice work depend on: • your organisation • your position • your access to up-to-date information • Topic for discussion at team briefings • Each organisation may want to clarify these boundaries in writing

  8. Help • Who can give you the answers? • Where can you send your clients for the answers? • Who else can help them? • Compile your own list

  9. Bedroom tax

  10. Maximum rent (social sector) • Known as “bedroom tax” or “spare room subsidy” • Only applies to the social rented sector • Reduction of 14% or 25% in the rent used to calculate a Housing Benefit payment • Based on the number of bedrooms a household requires • Exemptions in certain circumstances

  11. Accommodation • Local authority housing stock – yes • Registered social landlords – yes • Private landlords – no • Temporary accommodation - no • Supported accommodation - ? • Excluded tenancies - no

  12. Temporary accommodation is… • Homeless accommodation • provided by the LA or HA for a charge that includes cooked meals, or • provided in a hotel, guest house, lodging house or similar establishment, but • excludes accommodation provided in a care home, an independent hospital or a hostel • Includes accommodation which the LA or HA holds on a lease or an agreement with a third party

  13. Excluded accommodation is… • Complicated! • Agricultural tenancy • Bail hostel or probation hostel • Shared ownership • Housing action trust tenancy • Housing stock disposal but only if there has not been a rent increase

  14. Supported accommodation • Some supported accommodation is exempt • where the landlord is a housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation; and • the landlord also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision; or • a body or a person acting on the landlord’s behalf also provides the claimant with care, support or supervision

  15. Exempt households • Claimant and/or partner has reached pension age • www.gov.uk/calculate-state-pension • Death of household member – up to 52 weeks • Could previously afford rent – up to 13 weeks

  16. Bedrooms • One bedroom for each person or couple in the household, except: • two children of the same gender aged under 16 are expected to share • two children aged under 10 are expected to share • No bedrooms for anyone who does not normally live there (e.g. child visiting divorced parent)

  17. More bedrooms • In addition, one bedroom is allowed for: • non-resident carer where the tenant or partner requires overnight care • son or daughter in the armed forces who normally lives there when not on deployment • foster child, provided the tenant has become a registered foster parent, or has fostered a child within the last 52 weeks • student living away during term time – up to 52 weeks

  18. Disabled people • 2 legal challenges • Not practical for a disabled child to share a bedroom with a sibling • local authorities now have discretion to allow an extra bedroom • Not practical for a disabled adult to share a bedroom with partner • ongoing legal challenge – 10 families • currently no discretion

  19. Questions you may be asked • I’m in temporary homeless accommodation – am I exempt? • Yes • I live alone in a 2-bedroom sheltered housing flat owned by the Council. Am I exempt? • No – unless you have reached pension age • 6 months ago I registered with the Council as a foster carer but I haven’t fostered any children yet. Am I allowed a spare room? • Yes

  20. More questions • I’m disabled and rent a 2-bed flat from a HA – they have contracted with another organisation to provide me with care and support. Am I exempt from bedroom tax? • Yes • My friend lives in a 2-bed HA flat and gets an allowance from the Social Work Dept to arrange her own care. Is she exempt? • No

  21. Helping people to appeal • Check carefully the grounds for appeal • is it a factual error? • is it a discretionary area (disabled child)? • Provide evidence to support the appeal • medical reports • proof of foster carer registration • Get help from CAB or Welfare Rights if it is complicated

  22. Scottish welfare fund

  23. Scottish Welfare Fund • Replaces DWP Social Fund loans and grants • Scottish government scheme • Run by local authorities • No loans, only grants • Applicants can get up to 3 grants in any 12-month period

  24. Scottish Welfare Fund • Certain payments still administered by DWP: • funeral payments • Sure Start Maternity Grants • cold weather payments • winter fuel payments

  25. Scottish Welfare Fund • Similar qualifying criteria to DWP scheme • Aged 16 or over • Entitled to a qualifying benefit: • Income Support • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance • income-related Employment & Support Allowance • Pension Credit • no savings over £700 (£1200 if pension age)

  26. Scottish Welfare Fund • Crisis Grants • Provide a safety net • in a disaster or emergency – fire, flood, burglary • where there is an immediate threat to the health or safety of the applicant or his family • One-off payment

  27. Scottish Welfare Fund • Community Care Grants • Enable independent living • Help people: • set up home in the community or remain in the community rather than going into care • facing exceptional pressures who need essential items such as a cooker • provide safe and secure environment for children • care for prisoner or young offender on release on temporary licence

  28. Scottish Welfare Fund • Some things not covered: • holidays • court expenses • removal expenses • funeral expenses • maternity expenses • medical treatment/services • travelling expenses • no recourse to public funds

  29. Scottish Welfare Fund • Local authorities have discretion over the type of support they offer • cash • fuel cards • food vouchers • loaded store cards for white goods or furniture

  30. Benefit cap

  31. Benefit Cap • Aims to ensure that work pays • Limits welfare benefits for non-working households • Limit is equivalent to average income in a working household • Applied to Housing Benefit • Applied to Universal Credit where households receive it

  32. Benefit Cap – how much? • Single adults - £350 per week • Lone parents - £500 per week • Couples - £500 per week • Couples with children - £500 per week

  33. Benefit Cap - exemptions • Households on these benefits are exempt: • Attendance Allowance • Disability Living Allowance • Personal Independence Payment • support component of ESA • Industrial Injuries Benefits • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments • War Pension Scheme payments • Working Tax Credit

  34. Benefit Cap – other exemptions • Entitled to claim Working Tax Credit because of the hours worked, but not in payment because earnings are too high • exempt • Continuously in work for the previous 12 months • benefit cap not applied for 39 weeks

  35. Benefit Cap – what counts? • Benefits taken into account are: • Bereavement Allowance • Widowed Parent’s Allowance • Carer’s Allowance • Child Benefit • Child Tax Credit • Employment & Support Allowance (except where the Support Component has been awarded) • Guardian’s Allowance

  36. Benefit Cap – what counts? (2) • Housing Benefit (unless in Supported Exempt Accommodation) • Incapacity Benefit • Income Support • Jobseeker’s Allowance • Maternity Allowance • Severe Disablement Allowance • Widow’s Pension

  37. Benefit Cap - disregarded • Benefits and payments disregarded: • Bereavement payment (lump sum) • Council Tax Reduction • Discretionary Housing Payments • Scottish Welfare Fund payments • Cold Weather & Winter Fuel Payments • Funeral Payments • Sure Start Maternity Grants • Pension Credit

  38. Benefit cap – example 1 • Couple with five children • Weekly income: • £140 Housing Benefit • £12.80 Council Tax Reduction (not counted) • £73.90 Child Benefit • £330 Child Tax Credit • Total benefits are £556.70 • Family will lose £43.90 a week • HB will be paid at £96.10 every week

  39. Benefit cap – example 2 • Single claimant who is disabled • Weekly income: • £100 Housing Benefit • £100.15 ESA (WRAG) • £54.05 DLA (Mobility) • £77.45 DLA (Care) • Total benefits are £331.75 • The Benefit Cap will not apply as the claimant gets DLA so is exempt 

  40. Universal credit

  41. Universal Credit • Intended to simplify benefits system by bringing together a range of working-age benefits into a single payment. • Affects working age claimants of a range of earnings replacement and in-work benefits • North-west England from April 2013 • October 2013 to 2017 – national rollout starting with new claims

  42. Universal Credit • Replaces • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance • income-related ESA • Income Support • Child Tax Credits • Working Tax Credits • Housing Benefit • Other pensions and benefits will continue to be claimed and paid as at present

  43. Universal Credit - work • Easier for claimants to start a new job or work more hours • UC reduces gradually as take home pay increases • Nofixed hours thresholds, such as the 16 and 30 hours rules for current benefits

  44. Universal Credit - claiming • People encouraged to claim online • Face to face and telephone support available to those who do not have internet access • Advice agencies able to provide internet access and help with claims process

  45. Universal Credit - payment • Paid monthly, directly into a bank account • Couples living together, both claiming UC, will get one monthly payment into one account • Monthly payments designed to help people move into work and manage a monthly budget • Exceptional circumstances • more frequent payments • UC payment to be split between two recipients 

  46. Universal Credit – support • Help towards housing costs for people living in supported exempt accommodation provided separately from UC • Supported exempt accommodation is: • resettlement place • accommodation provided by housing association, registered charity or voluntary organisation where that body or person acting on their behalf provides claimant with care, support or supervision

  47. Universal Credit – direct payments • Landlords anxious about no longer receiving HB from the LA • Concerned that rent arrears will increase • Where claimant has rent arrears, likely that housing cost element of their UC will be paid to their landlord • Project to examine direct payment of housing costs being carried out in 6 areas • Extended for further 6 months

  48. Universal Credit – demonstration project • Latest findings show rise in rent collection rate to 94% • 6,168 tenants currently paid by direct payment • 1,258 tenants had payments switched back to landlord

  49. Universal Credit - projects • Projects investigating: • levels of support e.g. advice on managing personal finances and budgeting • exemptions for direct payments • payment switch-backs to landlord if tenant falls into arrears • support needed to help tenants in arrears pay back arrears and return to direct payments • early intervention switch-backs before arrears reach trigger points

  50. DP project - Edinburgh • Contact, advice and collection very resource intensive, other landlord services compromised • Need for organisational adjustments to meet challenges of Welfare Reform • Developing new rent collection/arrears and advisory processes and structures • Concerns about how tenants will manage when wider and cumulative impacts of welfare reform changes begin to impact