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CHC calls for Universal Credit data sharing

Social housing tenants are being put at risk of failing to claim eligible benefits under Universal Credit because of lack of information sharing by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to a new warning from Community Housing Cymru (CHC).

The membership body for Welsh housing associations wants the DWP to share information on when tenants will be transferring from the old benefits system to universal credit so that associations are able to offer the correct support.

There are currently around 76,000 Universal Credit claimants across Wales but up to 400,000 more expected to be transferred from the existing benefits system between 2020 and 2023.

Under the current system, housing associations won’t be given advance notice of tenants who are transferring, meaning that those who rely on additional support such as guidance on how Universal Credit works could lose out on payments.

If data sharing is improved, CHC says it well help reduce rent arrears and household debt by ensuring tenants claim Universal Credit on time.

CHC is working with its counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to lobby for improvements to Universal Credit and the wider welfare system, before transferal of housing benefit claimants to the new benefit begins in earnest in 2020.

A set of six key asks of UK Government on welfare have been developed, with proposed changes needed to make sure Universal Credit works for the people it’s meant to support.

The move comes in the same week at work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd admitted for the first time that problems with Universal Credit are one of the factors driving increased use of food banks.

Will Atkinson, policy and programmes manager at CHC, said:

‘While we were pleased with the outcome of the UK Government Budget in November which saw a number of changes made to Universal Credit following recommendations from Community Housing Cymru and partner housing federations, there is still a lot that needs to be done to make sure Universal Credit really does work for everyone.

‘We have proposed six changes that need to be made in order to make the system fit for purpose, and to give Housing Associations the tools in order to support tenants. Those changes include more data sharing between Department for Work and Pensions and social landlords, and increased funding for support and advice services.’

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