In the news

Our monthly news update includes recent benefits news with links to the latest guidance & case law. Please subscribe on the Home page to receive our monthly newletter.

OCTOBER 2021

BITESIZE BENEFITS

Quick links to other benefits-related news

The price of free legal advice

Free legal advice would save the Treasury £4bn next year, according to a report from the Access to Justice Foundation.

Grant funding for Help to Claim-type service

The government is calling for grant applications from organisations who can run UC support services after April 2022.

 

Delay for legacy benefits appeal

The High Court appeal on the decision not to extend the uplift to legacy benefits claimants has been delayed due to a lack of available judges.

New DWP ministers in government reshuffle

Goodbye Justin Tomlinson and Will Quince, hello Chloe Smith and David Rutley.

ADVICE UPDATE

Change in COVID easing for Working Tax Credit claimants

The HMRC has confirmed that COVID-related easements for Working Tax Credits claimants will soon be lifted.

The easements were brought in at the start of the pandemic, treating WTC claimants who were unable to work normal hours due to COVID as if they were still employed or self-employed.

 

To avoid overpayments of Working Tax Credits, our advice is:

 

If, at any point in the 8 weeks between 30th September and 25th November,  working hours permanently fall below their normal level, the WTC claimant should report this immediately. They will only get the 4 week run-on from the point of the permanent reduction in hours or at the end of employment/self-employment.
 

If the claimant is working fewer hours than normal, but it is their intention that hours will increase sufficiently to get back to the previous WTC entitlement, then they have this 8 week period to establish those hours.

 

If the claimant does not manage to work sufficient hours, they should report the change before 25th November.  There is a 4 week run-on, but it is vital to tell HMRC as soon as it seems clear that there will be no return to normal hours by 25th November in order for there to be a permanent reduction in WTC.

More positively, the government has also announced that 23,000 Working Tax Credit claimaints will receive a final £500 one-off payment, if they met the eligibility criteria on 2nd March 2021.

 LATEST GUIDANCE   

Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins, most recent at the top

SI 1077/2021

Regulation setting UC deductions for court fines at 5%

ADM14-21 and DMG11-21

Guidance on HRT and PPT exemption for some people arriving from Afghanistan

SI 1065/2021 and SR 267/2021 (Northern Ireland)

Regulations enabling refunding of overpayments in instalments rather than as a lump sum

HB Circular A8/2021

Guidance for HB staff on application of new rules allowing exemption of bedroom tax for people in social sector sanctuary schemes

SI 1034/2021 and SSI 320/2021 (Scotland) and SR 269/2021 (N Ireland)

Regulations on exemption of habitual residency or past presence test for specific arrivals from Afghanistan

SI 1039/2021

Regulations on exemption of prior residence requirement for child benefit for specific families arriving from Afghanistan

SI 991/2021

Regulations on exemption to bedroom tax for people living in social sector sanctuary accommodation

Touchbase 10 Sept 2021

DWP newsletter includes information on the end of COVID-related Carer’s Allowance, available grants for the Future (UC) Support Offer and a final call for submissions to Health & Disability Green Paper (ends 11 Oct).

SI 1013/2021

Regulations on closure of COVID-related Statutory Sick Pay rebate scheme for employers on 30 September

 

Government allocates Household Support Fund to local councils

The government has announced a £500m support package for vulnerable households, which it will be issuing to local authorities to 'directly help those who need it most'.

The Household Support Fund (HSF), launched at the end of September by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Dr Therese Coffey will apparently be available to councils 'in October 2021'.  It comes at a time when the six million people currently claiming Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit will lose their £20 a week uplift. However, unlike the uplift, it is not an automatic entitlement. The HSF will need to be applied for by a member of the 'vulnerable household' and will be distributed and administered on a selective basis by their local authority. Vulnerable householders on legacy benefits, who were ineligible for the UC/working tax credits uplift but will be entitled to the HSF,  will also be applying, meaning the HSF funding pot is nowhere near as generous as it may appear.

Helen Barnard, Deputy Director of the Joseph Rowntreee Foundation described the government's launch of the  new fund as 'an eleventh hour attempt to save face (which) does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge'.

In recent weeks there has been speculation that the government might reduce the Universal Credit taper rate from 63% to 60% for working claimants, to cover Dr Coffey's erroneous claim that UC claimants could make up for their lost £20 uplift by working for two more hours. It remains to be seen whether this taper rate reduction will also happen.

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RECENT CASE LAW

Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law

BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT

Bereavement benefits not payable to only surviving partner of religious polygamous marriage

[2021] EWCA Civ 1353

Decision date: 10th September 2021

 

HOUSING BENEFIT

Fostering allowances from private agencies should not be regarded as income for housing benefit purposes

CH/1793/2019

Published 10th September 2021

 

Tenant did not create new rent liability to take advantage of housing benefit

CH/1720/2020

Published 6th September 2021

 

TAX CREDITS

Joint tax credit claim on the wrong form is evidence of new circumstances but up to HMRC to decide on validity of claim

CTC/903/2020

Published 6th September 2021

INDUSTRIAL INJURIES

Dupuytren’s Contracture entitlement starts at contracture stage rather than at onset of early symptoms

CI/235/2021

Published 6th September 2021

DWP seeking those affected by PIP Activity 9 judgment

The DWP have begun the job of identifying those likely to be affected by the Supreme Court judgment relating to PIP Activity 9.

The judgment in the 'MM' case [2019] UKSC 34 confirmed that, for the purposes of Activity 9, support may be given before or during an activity. It also gives guidance on assessing whether prompting needs to be provided by an experienced or trained person and may therefore be social support.

Updated guidance shows the social support criteria that has been used to assess new PIP claims made since 17th September 2020.

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Work & Pensions Secretary Dr Therese Coffey with Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales

Links to articles, reports and guidance which separately affect benefits in Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland,  when they differ significantly to those in England or the rest of the UK.

SCOTLAND

(See also LATEST GUIDANCE)

Independent Advocacy Support for disabled people to be available in early 2022

Scottish government votes to call on UK government to continue uplift

SSI 338/2021: Regulations allowing Scottish Child Payment to be added to list of benefits uprated annually

Confirmed plan to extend eligibility for Child Winter Heating Assistance

Consultation on Council Tax Reduction review panel and transfer of functions (ends 28 Nov)

SCoSS recommends further scrutiny of and changes to Child Disability Payment regulations

Holyrood agrees for UK Parliament to decide on Industrial Death Benefit uprating for 2022/23

Low income families to receive £320 in 'Bridging Payments' before Christmas

Eligibility date for Carers Allowance Supplement in December is 11th October 2021
 

SSI 305/2021:

Regulations allowing for arrears of disability benefits to be made by instalments

Child Disability Payment to open across Scotland for new applications on 22/11/21

Seven Scottish Child Payment appeals suspended while law is reviewed

Scottish Government lays out plans for ‘fairer, greener Scotland’

 

N IRELAND

(See also LATEST GUIDANCE)

NI Audit Office qualifies opinion on Dept of Communities accounts for 2020/21 due to level of fraud and overpayments

SR 268/2021: Regulations allowing prepaid cards used in the Coronavirus Financial Assistance scheme to be disregarded for social security purposes

SRI 249/2021: New statutory rule on treatment of payments from Advisor Discretion Fund for upfront childcare costs

 

SR 248/2021: Regulations on exemption to bedroom tax for people living in social sector sanctuary accommodation

HRT and PPT waiver for Afghan refugees

New guidance ADM14-21 and DMG11-21 has been issued to give exemption from the Habitual Residence Test (HRT) and Past Presence Test (PPT) to enable certain people arriving from Afghanistan to live in Britain.

In the main, this exemption is only for those who have entered the UK via the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy; the previous scheme for locally-employed staff in Afghanistan or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. However, Afghani people fleeing the return of Taliban rule since their takeover of Kabul in August may also be eligible for income-related, if not disability and health related benefits.

N Ireland assists with upfront childcare costs
Rise in disallowed PIP claims

The number of disallowed PIP claims has risen from 50% to 70% compared to April 2021.

The change could be connected to an end to the temporary extension of time to return PIP2 forms (which is now back to just one month).

New regulations in Northern Ireland provide for payments from the Adviser Discretion Fund to count for the purposes of the childcare element as if the claimant had paid for their childcare.

 

This allows the claimant to get the childcare element without being constantly in arrears because childcare must be paid for before it can be awarded. This is in stark contrast to situations in the rest of the UK, where upfront childcare can be paid for from the Flexible Support Fund, which doesn’t help much
because the claimant must then somehow find the money for the next instalment in order to claim the childcare element for it.