Harrogate is the first area in Britain to trial a major new phase of Universal Credit. Up to 3,000 existing benefit claimants in the Yorkshire spa town are being moved to the six-in-one system starting this month, in the first test of “managed migration”.
So far, only new benefit claimants or those whose circumstances change have joined Universal Credit. Managed migration is the second of two stages of the hugely controversial benefit - which charities warn has left people in rent arrears and turning to foodbanks. In managed migration, 3million existing claimants will move over by the end of 2023.
Commenting on the trial of managed migration, Sherrelle Collman, Managing Director of Caridon Landlord Solutions, which provides specialist advice on Universal Credit and Housing Benefit to private landlords, letting agencies and housing associations, says: “There has been a lot of negative press relating to flaws in the Universal Credit system, so it is understandable that some people will be nervous about moving over. We have also spoken to landlords who are concerned that their tenants will struggle to make rent payments.
The Universal Credit system is complex so our advice to both tenants and landlords is to educate yourselves on the new system and understand exactly what impact it will have on you. Communication between landlords and tenants is vital in order to prevent rent arrears leading to financial loss for the landlord and possible eviction of the tenant. It is also important to understand that transition payments are being put in place to protect tenants’ payments from dropping and landlords can also claim 2 weeks transactional protection.”
Working alongside The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Caridon Landlord Solutions has been piloting a new online system to allow rent payments, from tenants in receipt of Universal Credit, to be paid directly to Private Rented Sector (PRS) landlords. The pilot of the new system, which will replace the two existing UC47 forms, has been successful, cutting the processing time down from in excess of three weeks to just two hours in some cases.
“We have been working closely with DWP, not only to get APA’s (Alternative Payment Arrangement) approved and put in place where necessary, but also to speed up the process so that landlords have greater confidence in the system. We’ve seen some great results and this ultimately safeguards tenancies and helps to prevent homelessness” adds Sherrelle.