In the news
Cohabitees' right to bereavement support
The High Court has ruled that the need to be married in order to receive bereavement support is not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
CPAG represented two families (Jackson & Others v SSWP CO/975/2019, see RECENT CASE LAW below) where long term cohabiting partners, who were also fathers of young children who had lost their mothers, were refused Bereavement Support Payment (BSP) on the grounds that they were unmarried. Both couples were engaged and had intended to marry.
As if by strange coincidence, this new ruling follows a recent government report into extending bereavement support rights to cohabitees which shows that it would benefit an additional 15,000 bereaved partners per year at a cost of over £50m.
If you are advising any unmarried partners with dependent children following a bereavement, it may be worth suggesting they apply for BSP and challenge any refusal, in the event that future changes to the law may backdate payments from 7th February 2020.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
High Court rules that excluding cohabitees from higher rate bereavement support is illegal
Published 7 February 2020
Child’s night time care should focus on reasonable requirement for attention not disability
Published 6th February 2020
Supreme Court rules that NI UC rollout did not raise a ‘devoution issue’
Published 5th February 2020
High Court decision on protection for disabled claimants migrating to UC is upheld
Published 29th January 2020
Believing that you won’t get a job is no reason not to apply
Published 23rd January 2020
Do locks on tribunal doors mean that a hearing is not public?
Published 15th January 2020
Atos letter re HCP consultation not necessarily a legal requirement to attend
Published 15th January 2020
When is a room a bedroom?
Published 15th January 2020
Lucky for some?
'Around 13' people have transferred from legacy benefits onto Universal Credit as part of the managed migration pilot.
The much heralded pilot scheme, which was launched in Harrogate in July 2019 without a vote in the Commons, has so far only managed to migrate 'around 13' people, according to Will Quince's briefing to Parliament on the UC rollout on 27 January.
Mr Quince said the 'slow and steady' process was deliberate in order to 'go at the pace the claimant requires'. There will be a further progress report on the pilot 'in the Spring'.
Universal Credit tickbox added to prescriptions
DANCE CLASS (c) John Tominis 1952
Losing out on a leap year
2020 is a leap year and it's worth remembering that people claiming UC can lose out in the way Universal Credit calculates rent.
Anyone whose assessment period started on the 29th/30th will find they have a short month, followed by one which starts on 28th February. As at Christmas, it may be worth reminding employers to report the ‘normal’ pay date if they bring a pay day forward due to a non-banking day.
The government has said it is looking into the 53-week leap year issue but there is currently no quick fix solution for UC claimants affected by this problem.
DID YOU KNOW.....?
Bitesize links to recent benefits-related news:
Research carried out on behalf of the Local Government Association confirms that LHAs currently cover only 13% of private rents.
A House of Lords select committee is looking for evidence on the economic effects of UC on claimants before 29th February 2020.
UK Statistics Authority chair says the Prime Minister's claim that 200,000 UC claimants are now in work is incorrect.
The DWP is seeking evidence from health professionals on benefit rules for people with terminal conditions. Closes 29th February 2020.
The Low Incomes Tax Reform group seeks evidence on HMRCs use of compliance before 20 February.
Links to recent government guidance and bulletins
Guidance for LAs on reducing their student Housing Benefit costs; collecting IP data of HB claimants; news on HB allocation administration; Housing Benefit Matching service automation and rules update
Uprating of war pensions 2020/21 and the effect on housing benefit
Uprating of housing benefit 2020/21 to take effect on 1st April (for monthly rent) or 6th April (weekly rent) 2020.
Guidance on European benefits which may be seen a qualifying benefit for GB benefits
Guidance on introduction of civil partnerships for opposite sex couples
Timms is new WPSC chair
Stephen Timms has been elected as the incoming Chair of the Work & Pensions Select Committee. He replaces Frank Field who was Chair from 2015-2019.
Mr Timms, who has been Labour MP for East Ham since 1997 (and for Newham North East from 1994-97) was a Minister of State for Pensions (and for Schools) under the Blair adminstration and has been Shadow Minister for Employment as well as Acting Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. Mr Timms survived a serious knife attack in his surgery in 2010.
New Chair of the Work & Pensions Select Committee, Stephen Timms
A tickbox to confirm that the holder is claiming Universal Credit is being added to the NHS prescription form.
The updated F10 prescription form is currently being printed and will come into use once the contractor has built up sufficient stock to supply the NHS.
In the meantime, and somewhat contrarily, it has also been revealed that the new NHS Digital electronic prescription checking service, currently being piloted in 40 pharmacies, does not cover DWP benefits. The Real Time Exemption Checking service will check for, "medical, maternity, low-income scheme and tax credit exemptions, as well as prescription prepayment certificates". A separate pilot which includes DWP benefits is also underway but does not, apparently, include Universal Credit.
What's mine is yours
It's a romantic time of year, supposedly, and loved-up new cohabitees may not know that if their partner is claiming Universal Credit, they are supposed to be claiming UC too.
Happy Valentines Day to anyone who feels in need of extra love and warmth this February.
Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales
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.
7th February 2020
Position paper: No face to face i/vs for Child Disability Payment
Position paper: No mobility component in Disability Assistance for Older People
Scottish Budget commits to £3bn in social security assistance in 2020/21
Standard rate of funeral support increases to £1000
Tweaks to LHA rates will not tackle austerity damage
Young carer grants extended - will not affect immigration status of eligible claimants
More than half all new PIP claims and 1 in 4 transition to PIP claims are refused
10th February 2020
DfC implements new Digital Debt Service
Welfare mitigations payments will not be interrupted by delay to March extension deadline
No more naming and shaming of benefit fraud
Marie Cavanagh to undertake second independent PIP review
Bedroom tax mitigation measures to extend past March 2020
Benefits appeals lead to retrieval of £19m
100,000+ budgeting loans awarded in 2018/19