Work and Pensions CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation

About the IRRV

1. The Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) is the professional body concerned with all aspects of local authority benefits administration and local taxation in the United Kingdom. It is the only UK professional body that specialises in both the law and practice of local authority revenues and local taxation collection and the income-related benefits that support these processes.

Body of the Response

2. The Institute’s response focuses on the relationship Jobcentre Plus has with local authorities, in the context of recent and on-going welfare reforms, including the introduction of Universal Credit.

3. We are concerned about the capacity and capability of Jobcentre Plus to manage the pressures the Universal Credit will bring.

4. In order to provide additional help to achieve independence under Universal Credit, Jobcentre Plus and Local Authorities will need to provide joined-up advice and support services. At present, aside from the Local Support Service Framework which addresses this at a very high level, very little information has been made available to local authorities about the parameters and resources for undertaking their joint delivery partnership roles. Timescales are critically tight and local authorities are currently unable to take a realistic view of what they can contribute to be effective local delivery partners. Even at this late stage in the process, the framework for local authority involvement remains unclear.

5. We would support an option, put forward by a number of authorities in response to the Framework document, that local partnerships are local authority led, built on existing successful arrangements, with funding delegated to the local authority; this is in preference to solely delegating local partnership funding to DWP district managers.

6. The complexity of the relationship between the landlord and the tenant in the private sector has been underestimated. Jobcentre Plus needs to have a clear strategy in place to deal with the challenge of ensuring that homelessness is not driven up by a failure to deliver claims on time; or by not being ready for the likely problems of rent arrears.

7. Insufficient notice is being taken of the potential problems for landlords in the social rented sector, particularly housing associations. Mounting levels of rent arrears would quickly become critical to their survival. Local Housing Allowance currently has safeguarding schemes to protect private landlords when tenants are identified as vulnerable, have a history of arrears or in cases where rent is not paid for eight weeks. This system is dependent on a strong working relationship and clear communications between Housing Benefit Departments and Landlords. It remains to be seen how Jobcentre Plus and the call centres will deal with these cases and process payment to many thousands of Registered Social Landlords.

24 May 2013

Prepared 27th January 2014