The Department for Work and Pensions will recommence the Private Rented Sector Universal Credit Engagement Group next month, following a concerted campaign by agents group Propertymark.
The forum gives organisations representing agents and landlords an opportunity to engage with the DWP over benefits and welfare in the PRS. The group met regularly with officials before Covid-19, but meetings lapsed as government resources concentrated on the pandemic.
The idea of restarting the forum was raised with officials and highlighted by Propertymark to MPs during the evidence session of the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into benefit levels. Then following a letter from Propertymark chief executive Nathan Emerson to Pensions Secretary Mel Stride, to reopen the forum, the first meeting has been scheduled for December 12.
Before the pandemic, the Private Rented Sector Universal Credit Engagement Group successfully helped to improve the UC47 process (landlord request for direct payments of rent or rent arrears) and influence the questions that DWP Work Coaches ask claimants regarding their rent and landlord information.
Timothy Douglas, head of policy and campaigns at Propertymark, says: “We are pleased that the UK Government have listened to our call to reopen engagement with the private rented sector.
“It is vital that the experiences of agents and landlords in relation to Universal Credit are heard by policy makers in order to bring about positive and practical changes that work for everyone.
“The Engagement Group is an important forum that previously improved the way direct payments worked and we hope that through re-engaging with the sector we can highlight to the Department for Work and Pensions further areas of reform including unfreezing Local Housing Allowance and suspension of the Shared Accommodation Rate to support claimants and renters.”