We’re Extending Our Assistance Scheme
We developed our unique Assistance Scheme as a response to the Underoccupancy Charge (also known as "Bedroom Tax"). The Assistance Scheme allows rent to be written off in specific circumstances where tenants would otherwise suffer hardship, and where the tenant’s circumstances make it unlikely that they would be able to pay the rent due. This wasn’t needed for long as our approach was used to help persuade the Scottish Government to extend the Discretionary Housing Payment fund to meet the cost of "Bedroom Tax" for all tenants in Scotland, something which is still in place.
We also used our Assistance Scheme to write off rent charged during the initial one week standstill period in Universal Credit (UC) claims, until that aspect of UC was revoked. Again, this meant that only a small amount of rent was written off as the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) accepted that this aspect of UC administration should change.
Coronavirus and the "Five Week Wait"
Although we have been a supporter of many aspects of Welfare Reform and the introduction of UC, the "five week wait" has always been an exception to this. The DWP assumes that all new claimants have just received a month’s salary, and that they do not require any additional support to cover living costs for at least one month after they make their UC claim. While this specific situation does happen, the reality is many more new claimants have been paid weekly, or do not make a claim the same day their employment ended, or their employer has gone out of business and wages have not been paid.
In these circumstances, claimants can get an advance on their first UC payment but this is deducted from future payments, and can negatively impact on tenants for an extended period of time.
We have lobbied for a change to the five week waiting period, particularly during the Pandemic, as so many of our tenants have had a sudden change or loss in income. Unfortunately, no changes have yet been made by the DWP so we have extended our Assistance Scheme to include help for those that have been affected by Coronavirus and have rent arrears as a direct result of the "five week wait".
If you would like to know more about the Scheme, and to find out if you may be eligible, please download the Assistance Scheme document below, and if you believe you do meet the criteria, please contact your Housing Officer.