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National Homeless Advice Service

Welfare benefits and housing debt consultancy - Pete’s blog post

Posted by nicola_marklew January 11, 2019

Blog post: Introduction to the welfare benefits and housing debt advice team

Written by Pete, specialist adviser

The welfare benefits and housing debt team has been in post since the beginning of October 2018. There are just two of us and we both have backgrounds in housing. Prior to moving to NHAS, we were both qualified supervisors for a LSC Legal Help Housing contract.

Our new roles are quite different. As our name suggests, we provide advice and support in two areas: benefits and housing debt. At the moment, our welfare benefits advice covers Universal Credit housing costs element and housing benefit, although we plan to expand this to cover other aspects of welfare benefits. The housing debt side of things covers problems such as mortgage and rent arrears. We don’t undertake casework but we can help you if you need advice on how to deal with an aspect of your case.

It’s still really early days for the team but I’d have to say that Universal Credit (UC) problems are probably the most popular subject. Quite a few enquiries have been about people who thought they needed to claim legacy benefits and housing benefit only to find that they actually need to claim UC and housing costs element. People are far less familiar with UC rules and at the moment, there are fewer resources available for advisers, caseworkers and housing officers.

It’s not unusual to find that someone’s problem isn’t quite covered in the CPAG manual, the CPAG helpline is busy and it’s time to dive into the UC regs once again. I actually really like this part of my job.

So far, the most common problem is concerned with ‘natural migration’ to Universal Credit and it’s fairly easy to remedy. Under housing benefit rules, someone moving to a new tenancy within the same council area wouldn’t need to make a fresh claim for benefit – they’d just need to issue a change in circumstances and the council would deal with this as a supersession. As the last parts of the country move over to ‘full service areas’ (where most new benefit claims would be for UC), there would be an increase in councils telling people that they need to make a fresh claim for UC housing costs element. Providing the claimant’s new home is still within the same council area, they can issue a change in circumstances and remain under the housing benefit rules until they are migrated at a later date. Circular A7/ 2018, reissued very recently, explains more.

How to you get in touch with us? It’s easy: just contact the consultancy line by phone or webchat via this website and you will be referred to us.

It’s as simple as that.