To receive the report of the Executive Director of Finance, Resources & Customer Services providing the DWP Implementation of Universal Credit in Enfield.
RECEIVED the report of the Executive Director of Finance, Resources & Customer Services presenting the DWP Implementation of Universal Credit in Enfield – Update.
1. The report was presented by Sally Mcternan (Assistant Director – Community Housing), providing a quarterly update on the rollout of Universal Credit in Enfield.
2. Universal Credit (UC) is a government administered scheme and the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) have adopted a phased rollout of UC in Enfield, as detailed in the table at 3.1 (page 1 -To Follow (2) agenda) of the report.
3. Since the last committee meeting, the Enfield Job Centre Plus have completed its rollout for all postcodes served by that office now live for new UC claims. It is anticipated that the whole of Enfield will be rolled out by 31 May 2018.
4. Since the last report, the Government has responded to some elements of design of UC and the DWP has responded to significant public concerns. Such as the claimant not being paid for the first 7 days after making a claim. The government has now reversed those decisions regarding scheme design elements.
The issue now was that the DWP have to amend their systems in order to deliver those changes. As a result, there are different elements applied to an applicant of UC, dependent on the date on which they make their claim. There is a roll out programme for all the amendments and fixes to be concluded by early summer 2018.
5. The impact on Enfield is detailed at 3.8 of the (To Follow 2 agenda) report onwards. The DWP have reported to Enfield that 1400 full service UC claims had been made in Enfield since roll out began on 1 November 2017.
6. The Enfield food bank is reporting an increase in use-age. Since January 2018, 571 households have required assistance with emergency food provision.
7. There have been 211 Housing Benefit (HB) claims cancelled since 1 November 2017 as claimants’ transition onto UC.
256 council tenants are now in receipt of UC equating to 2.59% of the tenant body. However, housing revenue account arrears associated with UC claims accounts for 11.2% of the total value of arrears. So there is a disproportionate amount of debt which is owed to the Council by people who are in receipt of UC.
55 homeless households in temporary accommodation are in receipt of UC, which is 1.7% of the total tenant body.
General fund rent arrears associated with UC claimants accounts for 4.3% of the total value of arrears.
538 households receiving Council Tax Support are on UC.
8. The Housing Benefit case load, which stood at 34,000 as at Jan 2018, is now showing a small but significant reduction because we are seeing people in the EN3 post code coming away from the Council’s HB payment system and on to UC.
9. As detailed on page 5 of the report, a rag rated document that the Executive Director of Finance, Resources & Customer Services uses, as the Chair of the UC Programme Board, to monitor risks associated with this. There are a small number of risks, as follows:
· Staffing of the Benefits Service – As the administration of HB declines and is replaced with the administration of UC, there will be a staffing issue. With the actions in place this risk has been converted from a medium risk to a low risk.
· Homelessness – As UC is rolled out, it is anticipated that that the housing market may go through a period of adjustment as landlords get used to this way of collecting rent. As Enfield has a very significant private rented market, the council felt that this was quite a high risk. Mitigation measures have reduced this to a medium risk, but is still an area of concern as residents move from HB to UC. The Council has got new responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Act, meaning the Council will have to prevent homelessness wherever it can as a statutory duty.
· Roles & Responsibilities regarding advice & support to residents unclear – The Council have taken steps to ensure people are clear about what the advice and support mechanisms are.
· Rent Collection & debt recovery – Reported on separately.
· Customer Journey – As detailed within the table, the Council still have concerns so the risk has been mitigated from red to amber.
10. The following issues raised by Members in response to the report:
a. The Chair raised concern regarding the Housing Revenue Account rent arrears and the 11.2% figure, associated with UV claimants, accounting for the total value of arrears. Would this be an increasing problem? Sally McTernan clarified that the scheme design still had a built in delay and this would lead to a cash flow issue as people wait to claim, wait for their assessment and finally money paid into the Housing Revenue Account.
b. This was being dealt with understanding and sympathy by the team working alongside the Council housing and temporary accommodation housing colleagues. As part of target setting discussions, the team were looking to see if there is a different way of describing the income collection targets. This may show the difference between the different rate of rent collection depending on whether claimants are in receipt of UC or not.
c. Councillor Dogan asked about the rent arrears and if the Council allowed them time to pay rent until they received their credit or would they have to pay immediately using discretionary payments. Sally McTernan clarified that they are working with tenants to ensure that if there is a shortfall that threatens the tenancy, they would look at dis-cretionary payments to help them through this period of hardship. Pensioners and households with more than 3 children were exempt.
11. The Chair thanked Sally McTernan for her update report.
AGREED to note the Quarterly update report regarding the Implementation of Universal Credit in Enfield and the risk and mitigation register.