CIH Scotland Training: Reducing rent arrears by maximising housing benefit entitlement and minimising problems

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In the current climate of wholesale changes to tenants social security benefits, it’s not surprising income management and welfare benefits staff, will feel impeded and frustrated in their attempts to maximise rental income, whilst, at the same time, minimising the problems for tenants, most of whom remain anxious to meet their rent liabilities.

Social landlords are under increasing pressures and need to act swiftly and positively to protect their tenants and their “life-blood” - rental income!

This needs to start at the pre-tenancy stage and has to be maintained throughout, as Housing Benefit nowadays is fraught with payment suspensions, cancellations and overpayments. Oftentimes, the problem can be tackled successfully, but staff need to act quickly as time limits apply in most cases.

This course will illustrate, by use of case examples, and group exercises, a number of the areas of Housing Benefit administration which frequently are misunderstood and sometimes misapplied by staff administering the scheme, creating in turn unnecessary delays in processing, increased exchanges of letters/telephone calls, punitive overpayment recoveries, leading to unnecessary gaps in tenants’ entitlement and rent arrears.

Advocating on behalf of tenants can sometimes bring housing association staff into direct conflict with those charged with administering this complex and ever changing Housing Benefit scheme. This course also explain how claimants, and their representatives, can best set about questioning and, if need be, challenging decisions through correspondence and telephone contact, and if this fails, make representation to First-tier Tribunals and public sector Ombudsman.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course you will better understand:

  • Housing Benefit law and associated guidance
  • How best to make a successful claim, with supporting evidence
  • Apart from the tenant/spouse – who can legitimately claim Housing Benefit?
  • Importance of “occupying” the family home; delayed occupation; and the overlapping “two homes” rule!
  • What constitutes a valid claim; which evidence is required and which claimants are “passported”?
  • When should benefit normally start; the many exceptions to the general rule of awarding on the Monday following the first claim; ‘backdating’ and ‘good cause’.
  • Duty of claimant/landlord to notify changes in circumstances. Reviewing a claim, due to change in circumstances, ignorance/mistake of fact/ error of law etc. How far can the increased/reduced award go back?
  • Non-dependents – how to minimise/eradicate deductions.
  • Temporary absence from the home (hospital, residential care/nursing home, prison).
  • Overpayments and recovery. Who from, at what rate, and by which method? Has the April 2006 changes helped your association or are they being ignored by your local authority?
  • How best to question/challenge a decision and submit an appeal to First-tier Tribunal or a complaint to Ombudsman.
  • Who should attend

    Housing association staff and those involved with advice agencies who need some level of knowledge of housing benefit to ensure they can help tenants maximise their entitlement to Housing Benefit and in so doing reduce the potential for rent arrears accruing.

    Trainer Info

    Bill Irvine was head of benefits, revenues and advice services at one of the UK’s largest councils; acted as local government advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster; acted as a welfare rights advocate; tutored on Housing Benefit/rent arrears issues, on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Housing. He currently operates UC & HB Advice & Advocacy acting as representative of tenants, private landlords and housing associations in their respective Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance negotiations with councils and, rather uniquely, represents them in disputes before First and Upper-tier Tribunals. He also writes regular articles on Universal Credit/Housing Benefit/Local Housing Allowance related topics and responds to landlord’s queries and complaints via various web-based forums, including his own website. Bill was one of the principal witnesses at the DWP Select Committee, Westminster hearings, relating to Local Housing Allowance in January 2010, where some of his recommendations were adopted as “good practice” in subsequently produced DWP Guidance.

    Dates & Locations

    30 September 2015, Glasgow


    Standard Price = £255 + VAT

    Contributing Org = £205 + VAT

    CIH Member = £230.00 + VAT

    To book your place today, or for more information, visit our website.

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