HB and Autumn statement

The Autumn Statement contained a lot of information about the longer-term funding of local government. Subsidy and administration grants will change significantly over the next few years. As always, the devil is in the detail and some of the dates are as yet unknown; here are just some of the changes announced that will impact specifically on Housing Benefit.

Absence from home: this will end if a claimant leaves the UK for more than 4 weeks (starting from April 2016) thereby replacing the current 13 week rule.

Social sector rents will in future be limited to the maximum of the Local Housing Allowance rates. This means the shared rate for single claimants aged under 35 without dependent children will start to apply in this sector (and this may make it very difficult for social landlords to let to this group). The cap will apply from 1 April 2018 but only to tenancies signed after 1 April 2016. In other words, another “transitional protection scheme” will apply. The numbers of such schemes are building again…

The funding of temporary accommodation will be radically reformed; the additional amount paid by DWP to local authorities on each qualifying claim will end from 2017-18. Instead, there will be a new grant system.

Additional Discretionary Housing Payment funding will be made available to local authorities to “protect the most vulnerable including those in supported accommodation”. This suggests there will be no or few exceptions under the rules above.

There are plans for Job centres to be fully located in local authority buildings.

Consideration will be given to transferring the responsibility for funding the administration of Housing Benefit for pensioners. Where or how or to whom is as yet unclear and it might be that local authorities will have to fund the cost at some stage in the future. This seems to suggest that HB for those of pensionable age will continue to be administered by local authorities long-term.

The proposed changes to tax credits are being abandoned although the “two children” limit for new claimants (from 2017) will still apply.

Selling of Housing Association homes under new “right to buy” rules started from midnight last night in some areas. Will this reduce the total HB bill as some in government hope?

JSA claimants may be required to sign on every week in the first three months of their claim and there will be an extension of “conditionality”.

The Fraud and Error Reduction Incentive Scheme (FERIS) will be extended until the end of 2017-18.

The government is concerned about levels of fraud and error in the benefits system where it is not clear whether someone must make a joint, rather than single, claim. It will therefore consult shortly on ways to make the requirement clearer.

The basic state pension will increase by the ‘triple lock’, rising by £3.35 to £119.30; from April 2016, those reaching pensionable age will receive the ‘single-tier’ pension with a starting rate of £155.65.
The government will begin the rollout of the Universal Credit (UC) Digital Service in 2016, completing by 2021.

A member advises: “The plan is that Tranche 4 Councils going live between December 2015 and April 2016 for single claimants will be the first to fully move over to UC once the digital platform is available from May 16.

15 of the Tranche 4 sites will be going fully live with UC from May 2016 as a new “Tranche 1”. The 15 will be selected where one LA deals with (only) one Job Centre”. Local Authority Chief Executives will be informed mid December”.

The detailed documents about the statement are HERE https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015-documents