Highland Council pilots alternative Universal Credit payment arrangements
The Highland Council is the first local authority in the UK to trial a new Universal Credit application process that enables landlords to electronically submit an Alternative Payment Arrangement to support vulnerable tenants.
The council is working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assist vulnerable people who need additional support.
Universal Credit is available to single claimants across the Highlands and also to couples and families in Inverness. In a significant change to the way most benefits are currently paid, Universal Credit replaces a number of benefits, including housing benefit and is paid as a single monthly household payment.
The DWP’s Alternative Payment Arrangement is available to help claimants who are identified as needing additional support and involves:
- Paying the housing element of Universal Credit direct to the claimant’s landlord
- Making payments on a more frequent basis than monthly
- Providing a split payment of an award between partners
The claimant, their representative, their caseworker or their landlord can request an Alternative Payment Arrangement. To safeguard the claimant’s home, a landlord can notify Universal Credit of a build-up of rent arrears and request that the housing costs element of Universal Credit be paid directly to them, where a rent arrears ‘trigger’ has been reached.
Benefits and welfare manager at the Highland Council, Sheila McKandie, said: “Initial results have shown that the time taken to introduce an Alternative Payment Arrangement has greatly reduced and is therefore of benefit to both the landlord and the tenant. The pilot is continuing and may be rolled-out across the UK.”