The direct payment of the housing element of Universal Credit to social landlords may not happen until 2022, the Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations has warned.

GWSF says that in some quarters there’s an assumption that Scotland’s new social security powers may be just a couple of years away from being brought into force. Whilst this may be the case for some new powers, for example the administration of Discretionary Housing Payments, other key powers may not see the light of day for many years, the Forum says.

GWSF Director David Bookbinder said:

“In responding to the recent consultation, GWSF has welcomed the powers the Scottish Government will have over the housing element of Universal Credit. The powers will mean being able to deal with the bedroom tax, and paying support with housing costs direct to landlords (subject to the tenant’s consent). Potentially there may be other important uses of the new powers, not least to help people hit by the social housing LHA limits being introduced in 2018.

“But at the moment it’s very unclear when these powers might come into force. The DWP will remain in overall charge of Universal Credit, so seem likely to be the Scottish Government’s agent in administering the Scottish flexibilities over the housing element. One scenario is that this doesn’t start happening until everyone has migrated onto the full UC system, which at present isn’t intended to be until 2022.

“The sooner we’re clearer on the timing of implementing the new powers, the easier it will be for social landlords to make decent estimates of the damage that’s likely to be done in the meantime, in terms of debt for both tenants and landlords. And sooner also means fewer tenants falling into debt as they receive their benefit directly and grapple with tough budgeting choices.

“Whilst we know time is needed to negotiate with DWP critical details such as what level of information landlords will be given when they receive money directly, we’re hoping that this and other housing-related powers can be introduced sooner than six years’ time – that’s too long to wait for the fairer system Scotland wants to see.”

GWSF’s consultation response can be seen here