Awards and payment of universal credit
Length of award
Currently, housing benefit is awarded for 52 weeks after which the claim is required to be renewed. A claim for universal credit however, is to be treated as made for an indefinite period.
Whereas currently, housing benefit is assessed every 52 weeks (unless some change requires a new assessment), universal credit has an assessment period every month  and is assessed on the same day of each month except as follows:
- if the first date of entitlement falls on the 31st day of a month, each assessment period begins on the last day of the month; and
- if the first date of entitlement falls on the 29th or 30th day of a month, each assessment period begins on the 29th or 30th day of the month (as above) except in February when it begins on the 27th day or, in a leap year, the 28th day.
That’s not to say somebody looks at the benefit every month and gives a new decision to award or not to award but this should allow more flexibility in changing the entitlement without the need to suspend the claim and re-determine.
This should be better for rent increases for example because currently, a rent increase needs to coincide with the 52 week renewal date but presumably under universal credit, it can be adjusted the following assessment period after one month.
Direct credit transfer into bank account
Universal credit may be paid directly into an account – 
- in the name of the person entitled
- in the joint names of the person entitled and their partner
- in the name of some other nominated person where the person entitled is unable to act (for example mental health problems)
If joint claimants are unable to agree a bank account for the payment, the DWP may nominate one for them. 
Payment of universal credit
Universal credit is payable monthly in arrears in respect of each assessment period. Where it is paid into a bank account, it is to be paid within seven days of the last day of the assessment period or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter if that’s not possible. 
Payment to another person on the claimant’s behalf
The Secretary of State may direct that universal credit be paid wholly or in part to another person on the claimant’s behalf if this appears to the Secretary of State necessary to protect the interests of— 
- the claimant;
- their partner;
- a child or qualifying young person; or
- a severely disabled person;
At first glance, this might be taken to be the replacement for what is currently regulation 96 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (discretionary payment of housing benefit to landlord if vulnerable and in interests of claimant etc.) However, on closer reading it is submitted this does not provide any great authority for paying landlords direct.
The key wording is that the payment is to be on the claimant’s behalf which it seems is meaning paying the universal credit to somebody who is actually managing the finances of the claimant for example a carer or close family member.
In addition, this regulation comes straight after regulation 57 which is extensively defining persons who are unable to act for themselves for example due to severe mental health problems. In our view, this regulation is a follow on from that and allowing payments to be made to some other person directly. For the avoidance of doubt though, this regulation does not specifically refer back to 57 (unable to act) which it would if that was it’s sole intention.
It is further submitted that this power to make direct payments is not necessarily giving power to pay landlords direct because there is no appeal against a decision to pay or not to pay direct under this regulation  which would be a strange thing to not allow.
However, all is not lost! See the next section titled “Deductions which may be made from benefit and paid to third parties”
- Regulation 21 The Universal Credit Regulations 2013 ↩
- Regulation 46 The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 ↩
- Regulation 47(5) The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 ↩
- Regulation 47(2) The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013 ↩
- Regulation 58(1) ↩
- Schedule 3(1)(n), The Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013 ↩