Coronavirus and Universal Credit – challenges for housing associations

We asked members of our National Welfare Reform Group to feed back on the key challenges their residents are experiencing in this uncertain period. This covered:

  • Difficulty contacting DWP. The main issue members reported was difficulty getting through to DWP by phone, either to book a verification telephone appointment or to address a problem with a claim, due to the sheer volume of claims being made. Claimants are finding themselves waiting in queues with tens of thousands of people ahead of them. DWP are addressing this issue by switching to an outbound calls model for claim verification, and moving over 10,000 staff into front-line claim processing roles.
  • An increase in errors when processing new applications and verifications not saved. This is leading to delays in people receiving payments, sanctions still issued despite the exceptional circumstances, and a lack of guidance around the best time for people to claim, to maximise their income.
  • High numbers of verification requests for changes of circumstances, in cases where residents are reporting rent increases of less than 3%. 

We are raising all of these issues with officials at DWP. to try to get some clarity on whether the tolerance for verification requests is being applied on the Landlord Portal and at what level, and will continue to push for feedback.

Please contact us to share your feedback on Universal Credit, as this will inform our upcoming conversations with officials and ministers at DWP.