53 weeks and Universal Credit – legal case dismissed

16 October 2020

The High Court ruled on 23 September that formulae for converting weekly rents to a monthly value for the purposes of calculating Universal Credit entitlement are neither irrational nor unlawful.

During the 2019/20 financial year tenants with weekly tenancies saw their Universal Credit claim calculated on the basis of 52 rather than 53 rent charges. The Judge found that ‘the Universal Credit Regulations were not intended or designed to reimburse a tenant for every penny she spends on housing costs, but were only intended to provide a contribution towards them.’

Evidence from the DWP included an explanation that:

“A number of alternative options had been considered. However, each option for a change of policy would need to be consistent with the aims of Universal Credit and be deliverable within the assessment period structure. Any change would require IT build requirements, additional expenditure and changes to regulations. Ms Hawkins said that no decision had been made to make a change, although the matter remained under review as part of the ‘test and learn’ approach to Universal Credit… given the current pandemic and the significant increase in new claim volumes, the Department’s priority, and all of its IT build capacity, is focused on processing the claims of the significant number of additional claimants, and ensuring as many payments are made on time as possible.”

At the NHF we have been influencing the government for changes to address the shortfall in Universal Credit compared to the rent charged. We will continue to raise the need for change with the DWP. 

Who to speak to

Sue Ramsden, Policy Leader