In the news
Universal Credit natural migration causing havoc
The 'natural migration' of claimants to Universal Credit following a change in their circumstances continues to cause confusion for both claimants and advisors, in spite of many organisations repeatedly calling for urgent change.
The Work & Pensions Select Committee recently launched an inquiry (closes 18th February) into the process following concerns that the government has not given clear information about the triggers for natural migration, nor offered any transitional protection to those affected.
Meanwhile, a Citizens Advice report Managing Money on Universal Credit describes how recent changes have 'made a dent in the problem rather than fixed it' and a DWP claimant survey shows that 'customer satisfaction' with UC is below that of all other benefits, including ESA and PIP.
The Secretary of State has conceded that delays to first UC payments could have led to increased foodbank use.
DID YOU KNOW....?
Quick links to recent benefits-related statistics for those who don't do Facebook or Twitter.
Goodbye to Tax Credits
It's not exactly abolition, but Child Tax Credit & Working Tax Credit is available to far fewer new claimants from 1 February 2019.
Plans to share NHS records with DWP
The government is looking for technically viable proposals for the sharing of confidential NHS information with the DWP.
Benefit cap affects 200,000 households
Over 200,000 households in the UK have been affected by the benefit cap since it began in April 2013, with 62,000 households affected as of November 2018.
In the other House, the Lords Scrutiny Committee has questioned if data from the managed migration pilot will be used to indicate the government's capacity for UC migration on a larger scale.
In response to these and other parliamentary questions, Amber Rudd has conceded that difficulties accessing the first Universal Credit payment 'could have been the main issue' leading to increased food bank use.
Frankly, it's a mess. For further clarity and insight into the natural migration and other Universal Credit-related issues, book one of our trainers to guide your team on one of our UC training courses: Universal Credit Overview, Universal Credit in Practice or Universal Credit & Universal Support. Or, see our 2019 Course Dates for forthcoming open courses.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law.
Tribunal should seek information on nature of conflicting appointments
Published: 7th February 2019
28-day rule in PIP transfer payments ‘not discriminatory’
Published: 30th January 2019
Tribunal must reconsider frequency and timing of child’s night time care needs
Whether evidence can be reconstructed when a key form is missing
Published 5th February 2019
When a judge decides to proceed with an appeal alone
Published: 31st January 2019
How should Tribunal accurately assess bedroom measurements?
Published: 31st January 2019
Can claim be made while claimant is subject to immigration control?
Published 30th January 2019
Links to recent government guidance and bulletins :
Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) allocations for 2019/20 in England & Wales
Information on how National Fraud Initiative risk scores for individual claimants will assist LAs in prioritising and tackling fraud cases.
The relevant threshold for calculating surplus income in Universal Credit will remain at £2,500 until 31 March 2020.
Gateway conditions preventing claims from those with a severe disability premium
ESA / UNIVERSAL CREDIT
Government outlines improvements to new style ESA claims process and confirms procedure for contacting UC case managers
What's your local DHP allocation?
Don't forget that the people you advise may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP).
The DWP's guidance on the 2019/20 allocation of Discretionary Housing Payments in England and Wales (see also above in New Guidance) is worth checking out, to support claimants and to see what the total budget is in your area.
Online benefits appeals
The government has confirmed that continuous online appeal resolution for benefits cases will be rolling out over the next 18 months.
In its response to the Public Accounts Committee's report, Transforming Courts and Tribunals, the Ministry of Justice has revealed that questions and answers on the evidence-sharing platform may be used so that the appellant and their representatives, HMCTS and other government departments can 'discuss their case so that the appeal can be resolved as quickly as possible'.
The response has been published alongside the announcement of a new strategy for legal support in the MoJ's Legal Support Action Plan which includes a review of the scope and funding for legal aid and will 'help people resolve legal problems at the earliest opportunity'.
Implicit consent in UC?
The government is working towards the introduction of implicit consent (or acting on behalf of a claimant) in Universal Credit.
Employment minister Alok Sharma has confirmed that the DWP is exploring options to improve the current process of 'explicit consent' with the Social Security Advisory Committee following a meeting on 30 January. A report on the meeting's joint conclusions will be published shortly.
Alok Sharma's written response follows last year's SSAC report, which advised (in Recommendation 5) that 'implicit consent which applies in legacy benefits should be 'extended to Universal Credit'.
Welfare benefits system prepares for a no deal Brexit
Now a real possibility: James Ferguson's premonitory cartoon in the Financial Times, August 2018.
As the UK careers towards a no-deal Brexit, there are several ways in which people with expertise or a special interest in social security and EU withdrawal are preparing for and can shape future arrangements.
Following the issue of draft social security regulations relating to the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 as well as earlier DWP guidance and EU guidance on a no-deal Brexit, the European Scrutiny Committee has questioned the removal of the 'equal treatment' principle in the no deal social security regulations, saying that it is at odds with previous commitments to European nationals currently living in the UK.
In better news for relations with our nearest neighbours, the governments of UK and Ireland have agreed to continue to protect the social security rights of each others' citizens.
The government is asking for anyone with expertise or a special interest in welfare benefits for EEA nationals (and UK nationals living in the EU) to contribute to the consultation on the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
We will link briefly to articles and guidance which separately affect benefits in Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland only when they differ significantly to those in England.
ENQUIRY INTO WELFARE FOR TENANTS
Enquiry launched into whether the social security system adequately supports tenants.
BEST START PAYMENTS
First 2 months best start grant payments exceed amount paid by DWP in a year
COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION
Amendments to Council Tax Reduction scheme from April 2019
SOCIAL SECURITY & POVERTY
SSSC requests urgent fundamental changes to UC
CARER'S ALLOWANCE UPRATING
Uprating of carer’s allowance in Scotland
Off benefits strategy plan for people only claiming DLA/AA or PIP
Mental health claimants 240% more likely to miss out on PIP
People with a diagnosed mental health condition are 240% more likely to lose their benefit on transfer from DLA to PIP than those with a physical condition.
Research from the University of York reports that over 47,000 claimants with a mental health condition lost their benefits between 2013 - 2016.
For more information on how best to support people with their PIP claims, contact us for a bespoke PIP training course for your team or book onto our next Disability & Carers' Benefits open course in London on 20th June.
53 week year rent payments
Will people be worse off in Universal Credit in leap years and years with 53, rather than 52, weeks?
Justin Tomlinson confirmed in a written response to parliament that neither tenants nor landlords will be affected by an issue raised by the National Housing Federation about a potential threat to rental payments in 2019/20, which is a 53 week year.
However, a subsequent response from Baroness Buscombe appeared to contradict him. We will let you know as soon as anything becomes clear.