In the news
The problem with Universal Credit
Overwhelming criticism of Universal Credit (the 'process and not the principle') continues unabated this autumn, with almost everyone but the government accepting that the only way to fix UC is to pause the rollout.
The House of Commons recently voted (299 to 0) in favour of pausing full UC rollout, and culminated with the Speaker noting that it would be ‘respectful’ for a Minister to explain the government’s current position to the House.
This has not been forthcoming although a debate is scheduled for 27th November. In the meantime, there are a plethora of reports, letters and press releases from the Work & Pensions Committee, the Trussell Trust, the Smith Institute, CPAG and Institute for Fiscal Studies outlining how the current system is failing thousands of vulnerable people.
Mhairi Black MP (SNP) explains to parliament how Universal Credit affects her constituents.
Disproportionate effect on single parents
Single parents are worse affected by the full Universal Credit rollout than any other group.
Separate studies, all published in the last month, by CPAG, Gingerbread and One Parent Families Scotland have highlighted the disproportionate effects on single families of full Universal Credit, with some saying that this group is over £2000 per annum worse off than they were led to believe when UC was first unveiled.
Launching their report An impossible bind: Requirements to work under universal credit, Gingerbread Director of Policy , Dalia Ben-Galim said,
Single parents and their young children should not be punished for the lack of affordable childcare and flexible work. We urge DWP and jobcentres to recognise the reality faced by 165,000 single parents and suspend the requirements for this group to seek work until affordable, good quality childcare and flexible work are available.'
Quick fixes for UC
Many people who attend Benefits Training Co. Universal Credit in Practice courses ask for escalation numbers to take UC issues to the next level.
As it turns out, many of the DWP escalation numbers are now unavailable or already out of date, but the Regional Partnership Managers list may still be of help.
Some Citizens Advice workers have already been regularly and successfully escalating issues via their Local UC Partnership Manager (Regional Managers (above) may be able to forward their details).
The Equality Act 2010 stipulates that the DWP makes 'reasonable adjustments' for people with complex needs. Some advice centres have already set up agreements with their local Jobcentre Plus to ensure additional support when required, including home/hospital visits by the local office and a visiting officer enabling claims to be made and verified.
For more strategies, ideas and sharing of good practice in full service Universal Credit areas, sign up for one of our forthcoming Universal Credit in Practice open courses - or ask us to train your team in-house.
NEW CASE LAW
Quick links to recent case law affecting health disability/carers benefits, most recent at the top):
Quick links to new guidance from the DWP, most recent at the top of each section):
Updated assessment guide reflects case law re ability to carry out activity safely – existing cases to be reviewed
(see also BENEFITS NEWSBITE*, top right)
Rollout schedule Nov/Dec 2017 (Northern Ireland)
ESA / UC
1 in 5 DLA claims refused PIP
One in five DLA claims are refused PIP on reassessment according to the DWP, with 125,000+ former DLA claims disallowed following reassessment in the period leading up to 31 July .
JANUARY ROLLOUT PAUSE?
DWP Minister Damien Hinds, has hinted that Universal Credit rollout will be reassessed during the January 'pause'.
Mr Hinds suggested that the government will 'use the January pause to assess and learn lessons from rollout and to determine the next set of landlords' for implementation of Phase 2.
PIP ASSESSMENT UPDATE
Further to our NEW GUIDANCE link (middle left), the DWP has updated its guide to PIP assessments to reflect changes in case law affecting those at risk of harm from their condition and who may not be able to carry out an activity 'safely'.
Before being replaced by Sarah Newton, former Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Penny Mordaunt announced the changes of entitlement which will largely affect people with 'conditions which affect consciousness' such as epilepsy and will mean an additional £70-£90 a week by 2022/23.
Payments will be backdated to March 2017.
Change to Funeral Expenses Payment Scheme
The Funeral Expenses Payment Scheme will change from next year.
Following consultation, several concrete changes have been made to help support those on low incomes with funeral expenses, including:
Disregard of contributions from relatives, friends or charities.
Extending claim period from 3 to 6 months
Shorter submissions for children's funerals
Electronic submissions to speed up the process
NEW CASE LAW
Quick links to recent benefits-related case law (most recent at the top of each section):
 UKSC 72
2017 EWCA Civ 1751