In the news
JULY / AUGUST 2019
BBC uncovers widescale Universal Credit scam
According to the BBC report, Jade Thomas from Manchester has to repay a loan of £1500 , of which she received only £525.
The BBC has uncovered a widescale scam involving Universal Credit advance payments.
The scam involves a third party, sometimes in the guise of a Jobcentre Plus employee, offering claimants a grant or payday loan. Once the claimant has passed on their details, the fraudster claims a Universal Credit advance payment on their behalf, then demands an immediate large lump sum payment from the claimant, often without them knowing that they will have to pay back the loan.
In the BBC report, the DWP claim that up to 10% of UC advance payments are potentially fraudulent. DWP Minister Alok Sharma has since issued a statement calling any exploitation of advance payments unacceptable and promising to pursue the perpetrators. Meanwhile Baroness Buscombe has urged claimants not to give their details to any individual promising a government loan and asks anyone who feels they may have been targeted to 'report it urgently'.
The Work & Pensions Committee has responded by asking the DWP a series of questions about the scale of the fraud.
For the latest updates on UC advance payments, book onto our next Universal Credit Overview or Universal Credit in Practice course.
Introduction of Children's Funeral Fund
The government has announced the establishment of a Children's Funeral Fund (CFF) for England.
The CFF, which complements an existing provision in Wales, comes into effect in England from 23rd July, and means that the burial or cremation costs following the death of any child or young person under 18 will be covered by the government.
The fund is additional to other measures, including up to £300 towards the cost of a coffin, shroud or casket and parental bereavement leave and pay, which is expected to apply from April 2020.
Links to recent government guidance and bulletins
Offers help and guidance with UC payments, free childcare for working parents support with mortgage interest payments, applying online for a state pension,
Guidance on avoiding duplication of housing benefit and UC payments and helping LA staff with undeclared self-assessed earnings.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law.
Covert recordings of assessment admitted as tribunal evidence
Published 26th June 2019
PIP appeal redetermine after setting aside invalid supersession
Published 11th June 2019
Does absence of treatment infer existence of function?
Published 5th July 2019
Can recoverable overpayment be limited to an undisclosed material fact?
Published 26th June 2019
Period for average fluctuating permitted earnings within ESA
Published 11th June 2019
CE/870/2018, CE/871/2018 and CE/874/2018
B13 bedroom entitlement must not refer to physical capacity of occupants
Published 24th June 2019
PENSION CREDIT / EEA
Extension of Worker Registration Scheme ‘unlawful’
Published 19th June 2019
Syrian families arriving in Scotland. Photo: Christopher Furlong
More time needed for refugees on UC
The 28 day move-on period after refugee status is insufficient to claim Universal Credit, according to MPs.
The Work & Pensions Select Committee has revealed the results of a DWP investigation into the move-on period. The investigation shows that the Post Grant Appointment Service only manages to contact 50-60% of newly recognised refugees.
In a letter to Will Quince, Committee Chair Frank Field notes that:
'...Of the 100 sample refugees only 20 claimed Universal Credit... The original 28 day period was framed at a time when there was no assessment period for means-tested benefits, as is the case with Universal Credit.
He goes on to ask what effort is made to contact refugees and what further steps should be taken to increase the number successfully contacted.
Overpayments & recovery rates
50,000 Carer's Allowance overpayments are currently being recovered by the DWP, according to DWP statistics.
In the same week it was announced that 1 in 10 UC claimants with a benefit overpayment have successfully applied for a reduced recovery rate.
Help to Claim date is not start date
The DWP has confirmed, in a 'disappointing' response to a letter from the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA) that the date a potential claimant contacts Help to Claim at Citizen's Advice is NOT the start date of the claim.
No more reassessments for older PIP claimants
Both the DWP and the Department of Communities (N Ireland) have confirmed that they will be stopping regular reviews of existing PIP claimants over state pension age from 9 July 2019.
DID YOU KNOW....?
Quick links to recent benefits-related statistics for those who don't do Facebook or Twitter.
People with disabilities have lost an average of £1,200 since welfare cuts, four times more than those without disabilities, says the Disability Benefits Consortium.
The government is passing responsibility for the expected delay to the UC managed migration pilot in Harrogate onto the High Court's pending Severe Disability Premium decision.
The interest rate charge on support for mortgage interest loans has dropped from 1.5& to 1.3% for the next six months (from 1 July 2019).
Regulations have been issued to increase the amount that can be taken from benefits for child maintenance from £1.20 to £8.40 a week.
Disabled people benefit from May's departure
Theresa May's desire to secure a lasting legacy as Prime Minister may yet improve the lives of ill and disabled people in the UK.
In the past month, a range of new initiatives have been announced which would appear to offer benefits for people with long term health issues:
Under the new Prime Minister, there will be a separate Office for Disability Issues, which should mean that the needs and interests of people with disabilities are more consistently considered at Cabinet level, following a Green Paper on approaches to disability in November.
Perhaps coincidentally, Secretary of State Amber Rudd has announced a review of the benefits offered to people with terminal illnesses following widespread concerns over the '6 month rule'.
And Justin Tomlinson has told Parliament that anyone who lost their entitlement to Motability in a DLA to PIP reassessment process is to be offered £1,000 instead.
These measures are put somewhat into question by recent findings from the Disability Benefits Consortium that people with disabilties have lost an average £1,200 a year through cuts to the benefits system.
For more information, these and many other issues affecting people with long term health conditions and their carers will be explored in our forthcoming Disability & Carers' Benefits course in London on 16th October.
Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland
We link briefly to articles and guidance which separately affect benefits in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland only when they differ significantly to those in England or the rest of the UK.
NIHRC secures financial settlement for transgender woman who was denied benefits
Scottish parliament committee calls for halt on UC managed migration pilot
Poverty campaigners demand quicker access to emergency cash following report (below)