In the news
Updates & exceptions for mixed age couples
Since May, most couples have not been able to make new claims to Pension Credit and must instead claim Universal Credit when the younger partner is still of working age.
However, updated guidance describes important exceptions to this rule allowing some mixed age couples to make new claims to legacy benefits where one partner has reached State Pension age and the other partner remains of working age.
This rule applies to couples who can neither claim Pension Credit due to the new mixed age rules nor Universal Credit due to a current or recent claim including a Severe Disability Premium (see previous article on Protection for those with a SDP). In these cases the older partner can claim Income Support, income-based JSA, income-related ESA and Housing Benefit (under the working age rules) and will be treated as if they met the age conditions for those benefits.
PLEASE NOTE backdated claims to Pension Credit can still be made until 13th August 2019 in cases where at least one partner was of State Pension age before 15th May.
1970s Bride & Groom wedding cake topper.
DID YOU KNOW....?
Quick links to recent benefits-related statistics for those who don't do Facebook or Twitter.
£215bn to reverse state pension age
The DWP estimates that it would cost £215 billion to return the state pension age back to 60 for women and 65 for men.
0.5m repay tax credit debts through UC
DWP figures for UC claimants repaying tax credit overpayments have lurched from 250,000 to 570,000 in less than a month.
Effects of benefits freeze
There was a disproportionate effect of George Osborne's benefits freeze on poorest 20% in 2017/18, according to the Office of National Statistics.
UC forcing more women into prostitution
Select committee hears evidence that UC is forcing more women into prostitution as part of its inquiry into UC and survival sex.
57% of UC claims include deductions
Almost two thirds of all UC claims include sanctions, repayments or other deductions, according to the DWP.
Of the 840,000 whose claims included deductions, over half were up to 20% of the standard allowance.
This information is backed up by worrying DWP figures showing 570,000 are repaying tax credit overpayments in UC. This follows an announcment by Alok Sharma the week before that 'over 250,000 claims had a deduction for tax credit overpayments'.
Concerns over the number of deductions within UC have led to a recent Trussell Trust & StepChange report saying that the repayment of Universal Credit advances is counter-productive to debt management. Calls for change to repayments caused by the five week wait for UC are echoed in Philip Alston's UN report, debate in parliament and a new CPAG report: Universal Credit: what needs to change.
Meanwhle a meagre total of 10 claimants had UC overpayments waived by the DWP in 2018/19 according to this written response to parliament by Alok Sharma.
Links to recent government guidance and bulletins
Clarification on memo A9/2019 and guidance on housing benefit and transition to Universal Credit for those approaching state pension age.
Guidance on effect of recent appeal case on the Past Present Test for PIP.
Updated guidance on mixed age couples entitlement to means-tested benefits.
Indefinite disregard of Windrush compensation payments in calculation of HB.
DWP information about about the effect on UC claimants of changes to rent, children and permanent right to reside. There’s also news on the Work & Health programme childcare choices, managing risk as a pension scheme trustee and a public meeting on the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council.
UN's damning final report on UK extreme poverty
A UN report says that the UK government has been pursuing an agenda to ‘reduce benefits by every means available’.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, has concluded his fact finding visits to the UK, finding that up to 14m people are living in poverty, including 1.5m who live 'in destitution'.
The report blames the 'policies of austerity', which have 'continued largely unabated' since 2010, 'despite tragic social consequences'. The effects of this have led to the 'social safety net' being 'badly damaged', with cuts to legal aid, social services, policing, libraries, community centres and the selling off of public buildings and spaces all contributing to further decline.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law.
Can bereavement benefits be paid to a surviving partner married outside UK law?
Published 28 May
DLA / PIP
Tribunal should have given consideration to DLA evidence in PIP transfer case
Published 28 May
Meaning of income in pension credit rules when pension is worth less than the contributions into it
Published 16th May
Supreme Court rule against benefit cap discrimination for lone parents
Published 15th May
INCOME SUPPORT (EEA)
Claimant who gave up work to care for children did not have right to reside
Published 30th April
Cultural implications of divorce/separation from partner on tax credits claim
Published 2nd May
Migration arrangements made before 16th Jan for those with severe disability premium are unlawful
Published 3rd May
Das Ding, mixed media. Alice Wellinger 2009-11.
Unnecessary reassessments to be phased out
Disability reassessments for disabled pensioners are to be phased out.
From 31st May, new PIP claims for people approaching retirement age will not require reassessment.
Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson said:
This step means new claimants to PIP who reach State Pension age before their review is due won’t have one unless they tell us their needs have changed, and the next step is to bring this in for all pensioners.
The change is part of a wider package of measures announced by Amber Rudd. Other planned amendments include combining the separate assessment processes for PIP, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit into one integrated service from 2021.
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
We 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 or the rest of the UK.
Publication by Scottish Governement of report on the Carer's Assistance (Young Carer Grants) Regulations
Scottish Fiscal Commission warns increased benefits take up poses risk to devolved budget
DWP publishes Memorandum of Understanding with Scottish Fiscal Commission
Best Start grant will not jeopardise immigration status
10K+ enrol on Fair Start Scotland scheme in first year
Concerns around start date of UC claim
There have been concerns voiced around the start date of UC claims in some cases where the claimant has used the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service.
The confusion has been highlighted by NAWRA (National Association of Welfare Rights Advisors) as well as the Scottish Social Security Committee who have called on the UK government to urgently review their policy on the date of claim.