In the news
Widespread calls to remove benefit cap
There have been widespread calls for a removal or temporary lifting of the benefit cap this month as COVID-19 related benefits' increases have pushed many people's earnings over the cap limit.
A Policy in Practice report, commissioned by the GLA analyses the relationship between COVID-19 increases in benefits and the benefit cap shows that benefit capped households in London are set to double.
Pre COVID-19 figures show that around 80,000 households in Britain were subject to the benefit cap in February 2020. These are likely to go up significantly from April 2020.
The problem has also been highlighted in a case recently taken on by Leigh Day of a mother of four for whom the benefit cap has effectively cancelled out any COVID-19 related benefits increases.
Animation featured in the government's new Test & Trace campaign
Smoothing the rough edges
The effect of the benefit cap is just one of many 'rough edges' of the government's emergency response to COVID-19.
The Social Security Advisory Committee has asked the DWP to address several issues as part of its ongoing scrutiny of the government's response.
Other areas of concern are for people on legacy benefits who are not receiving the same COVID-19 related rise in benefits as those on UC or Working Tax Credits; those who may be missing out on the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and the effect of surplus earnings rules for self employed people on UC.
And when some furloughed employees can 'earn' up to £2500 a month through government schemes, while others lose their job or are already unemployed and receiving Universal Credit, the 'stark disparity' in protection offered to different groups during the COVID-19 pandemic threatens a further growth in inequalities, according to a report by the IPPR.
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, is one of many anti-poverty campaigners to have called for the removal of the benefit cap
Tax credits regulations amended
Tax credits regulations have been changed to provide further protection to workers during lockdown.
From 23 May, there are various changes to working tax credit entitlement, including:
allowing WTC entitlement for up to 8 weeks after CRJS ends so claimants can establish hours normally worked.
allow claimants impacted by COVID-19 but not participating in the CJRS or SEISS to continue to satisfy the ‘hours normally worked’, 'working for’ or ‘in expectation of payment’ conditions of WTC;
preventing furloughed workers from combining furloughed hours with hours worked in extra jobs if they did not meet WTC 30 hour element conditions before COVID-19
Temporarily increasing the time limit for critical workers to report changes of circumstances to HMRC to three months.
Links to recent government guidance & bulletins
Guidance on additional new burden funding to meet the costs of implementing LHA changes
Treasury Direction extending the Scheme to October 2020.
New guidance for those affected by the Troubles (political violence originating in Northern Ireland) between Jan 1966 and April 2010.
Round up of recent DWP announcements includes benefits information via Whatsapp, links to COVID-19 scheme updates and safeguarding support.
Updated guidance says UC claimants but claim ESA separately online or by phone rather than through their UC online account.
Updated guidance on childcare costs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Guidance on electronic pension credit claims during COVID-19 outbreak.
Updated guidance on Universal Credit and rented housing.
New guidance relaxes earnings condition for furloughed workers claiming maternity allowance due from 25th April 2020.
Including conditions for SEISS entitlement
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
Entitlement to Sure Start Maternity Grant where claimant has another child under 16
Published 20th March 2020
Lacuna after revised DLA/PIP supersession transfer once claimant reached 65
Published 19th May 2020
Suspension of DLA after 28 days in hospital for adult with severe learning difficulties
Published 15th May 2020
Importance of submitting DLA evidence in PIP transfer claim
Published: 6th May 2020
Does letter inviting claimant to medical examination legally require them to attend?’?
Published: 12th March 2020
No recourse to public funds rule where inhuman suffering or degrading treatment is imminent is unlawful
 EWHC 1299 (Admin)
Published: 21st May 2020
Failure to offer transitional protection after incorrect UC transfer claim is unlawful
Published: 12th May 2020
Is mandatory reconsideration required before appeal?
Published 17th April 2020
The difference between an incomplete UC form and a defective claim
Published: 15th April 2020
Interaction of decisions to terminate and supersede Housing Benefit
Published: 6th May 2020
Returning British Citizen not required to be ‘qualified’ for family’s right to reside
Published 23rd April 2020
Pre-appeal PIP awards under pressure
The DWP has responded to a Freedom of Information request about pressure put on claimants to accept lower PIP awards over the phone before appeal hearings take place.
The government has denied that pressure is being put on claimants but admits that it does 'not want the process to be unduly delayed'
It does however acknowledge that phone calls should be made to a representative if there is one, rather than to the claimant themselves.
DID YOU KNOW?
Bitesize links to other benefits-related news:
Disability campaigners call for legacy benefits claimed by many people with disabilties to be raised in line with Universal Credit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trussell Trust reports foodbank use up by 89% in April 2020 compared with April 2020.
Submissions wanted for a Work & Pensions Commitee inquiry into the DWP's preparations for the changing world of work.
A potentially significant Court of Appeal decision has found the government's failure to offer transitional protection after incorrect UC migrations is unlawful. See also RECENT CASE LAW.
Statutory sick pay for self isolators
Statutory sick pay has been extended to allow claims not only from those with COVID-19 and those who are shielding (most at risk from COVID-19 due to other health conditions), but also those who have been told to self isolate as a result of contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19.
From 28 May 2020, new legislation comes into effect so that anyone who is self-isolating for 14 days from the period of last contact with the infected person will be deemed incapable of work.
It remains to be seen how many more people will soon be in self-isolation following the launch of the government’s new Test & Trace programme, which was announced on the same day. The TUC has already called for a further extension of SSP for everyone, increased to the level of the real Living Wage.
NO RECOURSE TO PUBLIC FUNDS
The Prime Minister has promised to investigate how many people, including families with children born in the UK, have been unable to access benefits such as Universal Credit during the COVID-19 outbreak.
During a Liaison Committee meeting of all the select committee chairs, Boris Johnson showed ‘clear surprise’ that some people could not claim UC or other benefits, despite the Work & Pensions Committee Chair Stephen Timms claim that Ministers have been promising to act ‘for two months’.
The question followed, but did not mention, a recent non-COVID19 related High Court ruling that the government’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ regime is unlawful in cases where the applicant will imminently suffer inhuman or degrading treatment without recourse.
Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales
Brief links to articles and guidance which separately affect benefits in Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland, when they differ significantly to those in England or the rest of the UK.
Crisis grant expenditure up 145% from April 2019-April 2020
Less than 25% choose more frequent Scottish choice UC payments
Enhanced SSP for social care workers with COVID-19
130,000 DHPs (average £500) awarded by Scottish LAs in 2019-20
Additional £5m announced for DHPs
4000 funeral support payments since launch in Sept 2019
Social Security Administration & Tribunal Membership (Scotland) Bill introduced to Scottish Parliament
Announcement of changes to UC in response to COVID-19 outbreak
Rise in child poverty rate shows 25% of children affected in 2018/19
DfC suspends recovery of benefit overpayments and loans for 3 months
Tenfold increase in number of UC claims since COVID19 outbreak.