In the news

MARCH 2020

Our bitesize news page includes the latest benefits news, guidance, training updates & case law. Please let us know what news or advice area you'd like us to include next month.

'Abject failure' of DWP over claimant deaths

MPs have called for further action over the DWP's failure to prevent the deaths of vulnerable people on benefits.

Debbie Abrahams MP told a Commons debate that, since 2014, in spite of warnings from the Coroner's Office and a report on claimant suicides by the National Audit Office, the DWP's has  failed vulberable claimants not just through 'policies and their implementation, but .. the tone and culture that are related to their delivery.'

The debate highlighted the cases of Errol Graham, who died at home weighing 4.5 stone and Jodey Whiting who had known mental and physical conditions  and took her own life, both after ESA payments had been stopped. Ms Abrahams was thanked for bringing the debate before the Commons by Stephen Timms, new Chair of the Select committee, who has since written to Dr Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, about the government's response to the NAO report.

For more helpful ways of supporting vulnerable claimants, we suggest you refer to CPAG's UC & Complex Needs. Some of this information is also covered in our Limited Capability for Work (ESA/UC), UC in Practice and Benefits: The Problem Areas courses.


Quick links to selected recent  benefits-related case law


Appealing the Minimum Income Floor as a seasonal worker


Published 6th February 2020



Should tribunal proceed if both claimant and ESA50 are missing?


Published 6th February 2020


Tribunal must assess evidence before asking for corroboration


Published 6th February 2020



Importance of representatives asking for special arrangements for vulnerable adults at tribunal


Published 6th February 2020



When tribunal should telephone to check reasons for claimants’ non-attendance


Published 5th February 2020

UC run-on for claimants approaching pension age

Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey has announced a run-on of Universal Credit for claimants who are approaching state pension age.

Pending future regulation changes, Dr Coffey has confirmed that extra-statutory payments will be made where necessary.

The change in policy follows the tabling of an Early Day Motion by Mark Tami MP which highlighted that claimants can be without income for 9 weeks once they reach state pension age.

End of free movement

The Immigration & Social Security Bill has been introduced to the Commons and signals an end to free movement for many EU nationals in the UK.

The Bill is described as 'an important milestone for paving the way for a new UK points-based immigration system', which will come into effect from 1 Jan 2021. The Bill will also include provision to change social security arrangements so that people have to pay into the tax system for 'a reasonable period time' before they can access benefits.

To keep up to date with these ever-changing regulations, sign up for our next Benefits for EEA Nationals course.

Self-isolation for claimants

The Government has told benefits claimants that they will not be sanctoned following Coronavirus-related self-isolation, as long as they have previously informed their Work Coach.

Responding to Stephen Timms' letter to Therese Coffey, asking about the DWP's involvement in developing the  Coronavirus Action Plan, Dr Coffey's statement encourages people working in the gig economy and those who are self employed to claim Universal Credit or 'new-style ESA'.

The DWP had previously announced that all those in work would received Statutory Sick Pay from day one of self isolation.

Poorest become poorer

New Office of National Statistics figures show that the poorest 20% of people in the UK became on average 4% poorer between 2017 and 2019, reflecting the fall in value of benefits during this period.

The figures seemingly confirm a separate report by CPAG on how  families are falling further and further below the poverty line.


Telli Afrik & family photographed by Steve Franck for Shelter


Links to recent government guidance and bulletins

HB Circular S1/2020

Housing benefit administration subsidy arrangements 2020/21


HB Circular A3/2020

Guidance on changes to the Severe Disability Premium process for housing benefit staff

Surplus earnings threshold

The £2500 surplus earnings threshold in Universal Credit is to be extended to 2021, according to the government.

For those who earn above a certain threshold and their UC stops, an amount of surplus can be carried over to a new  UC claim within 6 months. The relevant threshold for calculating surplus earnings (previously £300) was raised to £2500 in April 2018.

DWP Minister Will Quince says the new measure will benefit up to 500,000 people in short term or temporary employment who will not now see their UC award reduced by surplus earnings.


ERROL GRAHAM, who died at home weighing under 5 stone in spite

of known safeguarding concerns (family supplied photot)


Bitesize links to recent benefits-related news:

Over half UC claimants incur deductions

Almost 60% of UC claimants paid out in  deductions in November 2019.

Integrated assessment service to trial in 2021

A small ‘Transformation Area’ will trial a DWP-led integrated assessement service for ESA, PIP and UC from Autumn 2021


Study shows UC link to poorer mental health

An increase in claimants' mental distress has been linked to their migration onto UC in a longitudinal study by the University of Liverpool.

Pension Credit still unclaimed by 40%

Pension Credit remains unclaimed by almost half of all eligible pensioners.

Involving more disabled people in the DWP

How can the DWP involve more disabled people in changing how it works? Consultation open until 23 March.


Are three judges necessary?

Consultation on amending composition statements for first tier Tribunals, closes 31 March 2020.

450+ cases per UC case manager

The average caseload of UC case managers is more than 450 each, according to the DWP.

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.


Scottish Child Payment to end at age six until it is fully rolled out in 2022


No more PIP applications for 16 year olds

Supplementary SSSC report on Scottish Child Payment regulations

Evaluation of Transitional Employment Services

Plans for third party benefits applications for terminally ill claimants

Concerns over loss of transitional protection from delay to UC rollout

Motability Scheme accredited by Scottish Government


DoC launches second independent PIP review

DoC PIP statistics show 76% award for DLA to PIP claimants

More than 40% of UC claimants opt to receive direct housing costs

2019 Work & Pensions Select Committee

Membership of the Work & Pensions Committee for the 2019 Parliament has been  agreed by the House of Commons.

The Committee, which holds the government accountable for its Work & Pensions-related decisions, is now made up of 4 Labour MPs (including the Chair, Stephen Timms), 6 Conservatives and 1 Scottish National Party MP.