Friday, 11 April 2014

Flicking Your Switch

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK

Thank you those two contacts who reminded me it was a year ago this month, our benefit changes started and the bedroom tax subsidy came into being. I was obviously too busy celebrating with two litres of 'White Lightening' and a budget Aldi 'Sunday Roast' for one to knock out my blog, on that last week. 

Seriously though, I and every RSL & RP out there, (well all the ones I work with, I can 100% be definitely sure of...) are still working with what facts they have. While IDS is storing 115% on his Universal Credit belief-o-meter, facts are still pretty thin on the ground unfortunately. This is still as far as I can see, hampering everyone. Housing Associations cannot plan and organise, HMS software providers have little to specify with. So frankly, its actually a bit of a mess on the ground, from where I am looking.

One bright-spot on the Universal Credit horizon, to address benefit paid direct, to citizens who many are ill-equipped to cope sensibly with it, is Switchback. The process of allowing tenants to switch back to having HB paid direct to their landlord / RSL provider, if they are getting into difficulty, specifically racking up rent arrears.

Now I say bright-spot, even this does not appear to have been well thought through. If your organisation just works in a discrete region, you just have one set of criteria to satisfy. If you are a housing group, many I work with span 20+ local authorities, life has got pretty complex on this one. bad news if you are a Sanctuary, Bromford or YourHousing.

Here's the current details, no-doubt subject to change and development....
  • Southern England, (but not London) - Tenant has eight weeks arrears
  • London - Can be switched after 8 weeks in arrears, after 4 weeks receive support from Rents officer. Placed on a ‘probationary’ category  and monitored and help with managing finances.  If tenant pays rent for 2 months they will receive direct payment again.
  • West Midlands - After 12 weeks of arrears
  • Wales - Tenant underpays by 15 per cent over 12 weeks
  • Northern England - Tenant has eight weeks of arrears, Tenant makes no payment for eight weeks, Tenant underpays by 15 per cent over 12 weeks
  • Scotland - Tenant has not paid before 25th of the following month
Early adopers have also encountered delays when applications have been made, when systems become paper based inside the DWP. More on that here - where my local ALMO Golden Gates, has already encountered difficulties.

 As I have mentioned, the nature of this being obscure, mean that to date to my knowledge, only one of the main HMS suppliers, have incorporated these rules neatly, into their next release. A major advantage for their cross-region housing customers. So if you are not on OpenHousing, these rules need to be embedded in processes or workflow elsewhere.

Are your IT or Better Business team looking into this? Worth flagging up if you aren't.
The wise will keep a careful weather eye on it, as with all of Universal Credit, this is a movable feast.

The early local authority adopters are quickly finding the limitations of the poorly specified and delivered Universal Credit systems. This week (11th April 2014), new welfare claimants in Shotton, near me in North Wales, discovered problems in the system, to replace existing benefit strands. The Welsh Government in particular are finding they are wrestling with UC at every turn

Universal credit sure isn't going to go away, but it isn't coming in fast, particularly not too fit for purpose yet either. Tread carefully social housing brothers & sisters....

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Read on to, Universal Credit:

Ladytron - Flicking Your Switch.

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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