In the news

MAY 2020

Our bitesize benefits news page includes the latest benefits news, guidance, training updates & case law. Please let us know if there is anything you would like us to include next month.

More COVID-19 benefits changes

COVID-19 has affected further temporary changes in the benefits system this month.



The pandemic has created at least 1 million new UC claimants, but they are at least now able to verify their identity online via the Government Gateway


Parents can claim Child Benefit for their newborn children even before registering their child's birth; there are food vouchers for children in England who would have usually had Free School Meals and an easement of conditions for Carers' Allowance. From 8th April, there has also been a £300 increase in the means-tested Funeral Expenses Payment.



From 20th April, applications for new style ESA can be made online (see also Latest Guidance).


The cut off for applications to the furlough scheme has been extended to all employees on RTI sent to HMRC by 19th March (the launch date of the scheme). Further updates to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can also be seen under Latest Guidance.


But the coronavirus has also forced the Government to put various benefits initiatives on hold. Some of those areas that have been temporarily paused are four PIP reviews (see also Latest Guidance), the fifth having been completed; the recovery of benefits overpayments (now on hold until July 2020 at the earliest) as well as repayment of tax credit debt and social fund loans in the loan deduction scheme.


DWP home visits have also been put on hold - but there are exceptions for vulnerable people, for safeguarding visits and when ensuring that a benefit has been paid. And last and most probably least, the ill-fated UC managed migration pilot in Harrogate has once again been stopped in its tracks. Plus ça change.


Quick links to selected recent  benefits-related case law


Family claiming from one EU state but resident in another


Published 12th March 2020


Reconvened tribunal panel must be exactly the same or completely different


Published 12th March 2020

Request for oral hearing wrongly ignored / guidance on time limit for set aside application


Published 11th March 2020



Disputed point-of-contact details not enough for decision on main carer responsibility


Published 12th March 2020



Retained worker status applies without compelling evidence of the chance of work


Decision date: 14th February 2020

Is a 75% share of a property the same as  ‘shared ownership’?


Published 4th March 2020


Misuse of protective essays by tribunals to discourage further appeals


Published 3rd March 2020



Is personal injury compensation a ‘trust fund’?

CJSA/2628/2017 and CJSA/1192/2019

Published 11th March 2020


Tribunal wrong to allow appeal over information given to claimant re Work Programme


Published 11th March 2020


Social distancing 'likely to continue' beyond May


Benefits Question Time

Those of you who were unable to join us for our live topical benefits question time, with Will Hadwen & David Stickland on 29th April, can access a recording here.


The 45 minute webinar includes:

  • trainers' responses to pre-selected questions

  • live interaction via webchat

  • access to welfare benefits expertise

Please feel free to send any feedback and suggestions about our webinar to

 Shadow Work & Pensions Team


New Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has announced his Shadow Cabinet, including Jonathan Reynolds (above) as Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. You can see Mr Reynolds' voting record here.

Other members of the new Shadow Work & Pensions team include Jack Dromey (Pensions), Vicky Foxcroft (Disability), Kate Green (Child Poverty) and Seema Malhotra (Employment).

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.


Extra £34m support for self employed from Scottish Government

COVID-19-related extension of benefit application time

Introduction of Scottish Child Payment delayed due to COVID-19

Extension of social security timescales for COVID-19 delays

Funeral expenses payments now up to £1000

Delay to introduction of devolved disability benefits


Increase to Council Tax reduced earnings disregard re temporary increase in Working Tax Credit basic element

Restrictions to Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grant waived

Social security statistics to March 2020

Limited tribunal operations in Scotland



Further support for those affected by COVID-19

COVID-19 Increase in UC claims and disability benefit review awards

Limited tribunal operations in N Ireland


Bitesize links to other  benefits-related news:

DWP & Post Office launch cash delivery scheme

The new National Shielding Service allows shielding individuals (those most at risk from COVID-19) to receive cash deliveries at home.

Launch of video service for UC claims

UC claimants can now access BSL interpreters as part of a free video relay service.

Economic impact of coronavirus

Almost 50% believe they will be worse off after coronavirus, according to new analysis by the Office for National Statistics.

Dramatic increase in use of AV technology by courts

HMCTS reports that 85% of judicial hearings were held remotely on 6th April


The Help to Claim service run by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland has been granted a further year's funding to support new UC claims, according to a letter from the DWP to Stephen Timms.

Citizens Advice website had its 'busiest week ever' at the end of March, with over 22m views. Their Help to Claim service has been extended at the same time as the government has put applications for the £10m UC Transition Fund on hold (see Touchbase in Latest Guidance).


Links to recent government guidance and bulletins

DMG Memo 07/20 / ADM Memo 05/20

Access to means-tested benefits and housing benefit (HB Circular A8/2020) for prisoners on temporary release

New style ESA: Detailed Guide

Guidance on online claims for new style ESA

Coronvirus Job Retention Scheme

Updated guidance for employers on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - guidance also available for employees

3/2020 Council Tax information letter

Guidance to LAs on £500m COVID-19 Council Tax Hardship Fund

HB Circular S6/2020

Guidance on funding for LAs to support administration of VEP alerts service

HB Circular S5/2020

Guidance on allocation of New Burdens funding to local authorities 2020/21

LA Welfare Direct 4/2020

Guidance on how payments from support schemes for employees and the self employed will impact housing benefit

A summary of changes to PIP

Four PIP reviews of cases involving managing medication, special diet as therapy, safety and supervision, psychological distress and journeys have been paused during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Touchbase: Coronavirus special

Round up of recent DWP announcements including temporary Carers’ Allowance easements and temporary suspension of most home visits, and the £10m UC Transition Fund application process.

HB Circular A7/2020

Guidance on amendments to housing benefit due to COVID-19

ADM Memo 04/20 and DMG Memo 06/20

Miscellaneous social security changes including lifting of work search, disregarding sickness for short periods for JSA and increasing standard allowances for self employed claimants

Chamber President’s Guidance Note No. 3

Further guidance on social security tribunal arrangements during COVID-19 pandemic.

Don't call them, they'll call you

Following an overwhelming number of new COVID-19 related claims, the DWP has launched a Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You initiative, to dissuade new claimants from phoning them.

Secretary of  State, Thérèse Coffey said:

Once you have completed your online application, you can rest assured we have recieved your claim and we will call you if we need to check any of the information you’ve given us.

Since 16th March 2020, over one million new UC claims have been made, and 10,000 staff  redeployed to support them.  A recruitment drive has been launched for an additional 5,000 staff.