GT Stewart acted for a client who is in prison. His rent arrears increased after the DWP stopped paying him Universal Credit (UC) when he was remanded in custody. Under the UC regulations, he was entitled to UC housing costs for up to six months in prison, but only if he was not given a sentence expected to last more than six months. He had a life sentence and so after being remanded, he was recalled.
The client was acquitted, but had to wait for his release to be approved. In the meantime, his landlord, a housing association, brought possession proceedings because of the rent arrears. We are helping him to defend those proceedings to stop his eviction.
The DWP’s policy for people who are in prison is only to pay UC housing costs where they are not in prison for more than six months. This is unlawful, because under the Regulations you can still be entitled to UC housing costs (for up to six months) if you are in prison for more than six months – so long as during the first six months, you were not expected to be in prison for longer than that. Our client had been in prison for 11 months, but to begin with there was nothing to suggest he was going to be in for longer than six months.
We sent a letter before claim to the DWP, challenging their decision made about our client and also their unlawful policy. They did not initially back down, but as we were preparing to issue a judicial review they made a new decision in the client’s favour. He can now expect to receive almost £5,500 in backdated UC housing costs, which will help him to keep his home.
If you know of anyone who has been told that they can’t receive UC housing costs because they are in prison for more than six months, and who is facing eviction as a result, please get in touch with our specialist housing team.