In the news
Amendments finally made to DWP's safeguarding policy
Jodey Whiting, a 42 year old mother with a long history of physical and mental illness, took her own life in 2017 after she was sanctioned for failing to attend a Work Capability Assessment
Returning to the new normal?
Although some densely-populated areas of the country have returned to lockdown, the government has already started to withdraw many of its additional COVID-19-related benefits payments and allowances as it 'returns to the new normal'.
Benefits overpayments and social fund loans have already started to be recovered (see also updated GUIDANCE below). Claimants will be informed through letters or via their UC journal. Those facing 'real financial hardship' can request a further deferral to their payment by contacting the Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.
The DWP may already be writing to PIP claimants asking them to complete paperwork to resume PIP reviews, reassessments and renewals. If this has already been done, they may be contacted by a DWP Assessment Provider. Face to face assessments for health and disability benefits remain suspended.
The government has doubled the number of new Work Coaches it is taking on to deal with the ever increasing numbers of people claiming Universal Credit (now over 5 million). DWP Minister Mims Davies has confirmed that those who cannot ‘get the help they want’ online or over the phone should make an appointment to see the Work Coach at their local JobCentre.
There is now a requirement for medical certificates for new ESA claims received since 10th July (see also Coronavirus Touchbase in LATEST GUIDANCE below)
Requirement for mandatory reconsideration is unlawful
The High Court has ruled that the requirement for mandatory reconsideration in ESA cases where the claimant meets the conditions for payment while an appeal is pending is 'unlawful'
This landmark judicial review, where Mr Connor was without payment during mandatory reconsideration for almost six months, is likely to have widesepread ramifications especially since Mr Connor has confirmed that the DWP are not going to appeal this decision. In a message to Rightsnet, he hopes that the 'welfare rights community will take up the baton and apply my case to other benefits.'
Links to recent government guidance & bulletins
Requirement for medical evidence for ESA claims from 10 July while requirement for evidence for older claims will be ‘phased in’.
The Judicial College publishes guidance on good practice for remote hearings during coronavirus outbreak.
Guidance on two week run-ons from legacy benefits and MIF start-up period and SDP gateway.
Guidance on calculation of earnings threshold in UC for benefit cap purposes
Guidance on disregarding charitable and extra-statutory payments to assess entitlement to means tested benefits
Amendments to guidance on funeral payments and cold weather payments
DID YOU KNOW?
Bitesize links to other benefits-related news:
The Welfare (Terminal Illness) Bill, had its first reading in Parliament in July, introduced by Labour MP for Newport East, Jessica Morden.
More than 250,000 households are now affected by the government's two-child policy according to DWP statistics.
The DWP is to test the long-term viability of staff combining work from home with working from office.
High court claim for 300 claimants who lost their Severe Disability Premium when they were migrated onto Universal Credit.
Ellen Calloo, NHS healthcare assistant, Brighton
One of Julie Bennett's paintings for the @tomcroftartist project
See Ellen's full story @julie_bennett on Instagram
DWP to cover bereavement costs for cohabiting couples
The government is to extend entitlement to Widowed Parents Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment to cohabiting partners with children.
A Remedial Order, announced by DWP Minister Mims Davies, follows a Supreme Court judgment in 2018 and a High Court ruling in February 2020. Both these cases were deemed to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 14. The Order will be set before the House 'in due course'.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
Mandatory reconsideration requirement for ESA claimants who meet conditions for payment before appeal is unlawful
Published 24th July 2020
DWP should provide history of ESA adjudication to Tribunal in appeal response
Published 25th June 2020
Assessment of earnings for benefit cap of UC claimant paid 4 weekly is ‘irrational & unlawful’
Published 20th July 2020
Unfair to proceed with Tribunal if appointee has not been allowed to fully participate
Published 9th July 2020
Interaction of Activity 9 and regulation 4(2)a
Published 8th July 2020
Six month rule on terminal illness is ‘discriminatory’
CPIP/2110/2019 (full decision)
Published 7th July 2020
Relationship between change of circumstance and new medical evidence in supersessions before and after pensionable age
Published 6th July 2020
Tribunal decision on PIP can be superseded with new medical evidence
Published 2nd July 2020
UK not competent state for Carers Allowance claimant who had moved to care for relative in Cyprus
Published 30th June 2020
Can housing benefit cover a non-static houseboat licence fee?
Published 25th June 2020
The Department for Work & Pensions safeguarding policy for vulnerable claimants has been coming under increasing scrutiny over recent months.
The publication of a National Audit Office report identified systemic weaknesses in the Department's approach to investigating and implementing changes following the suicides and deaths of vulnerable claimants who had recently been sanctioned or whose claim had been erroneously closed. This led to questions from the Work and Pensions Committee on the steps that were being taken to resolve these issues.
In early July, Dr Coffey said the DWP's investigations into these cases would not be made public and a Freedom of Information request about the workings of the Department's Serious Case Panel was also rebuffed on the grounds that it was 'exempt from disclosure'.
However, permission was then given for a judicial review into the DWP's safeguarding policies by the family of Errol Graham, who had died following the closure of his ESA claim.
Maybe coincidentally, the Department has since accepted that the minutes of its Serious Case Panel should be published and agreed in an evidence session with the Committee that case conferences will be held before payments to vulnerable claimants are stopped.
PIP & WCA contracts extended
The government seems to be doing a U-turn on its Health Transformation Policy.
The policy, launched by Amber Rudd in March 2019, originally aimed to unify and streamline the assessment processes for all the DWP health benefits, but has now been 'red rated' and described as ‘unachievable’ in the latest Infrastructure and Projects Authority Annual Report.
This, and the impact of COVID-19, has led to the government extending current contracts for PIP and Work Capability Assessments for up to another two years.
Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales
Brief links to articles, reports 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.
27% increase in crisis grants awarded by Scottish Welfare Fund 2019/20
Scotland encourages 20,000 families to take up Best Start Foods and Best Start Grant
Shielding to be paused from 1st August 2020
Scotland ensures that young people claiming DLA at 16 do not have to claim PIP until 18.
Data sharing exercise reveals £3m housing benefit overpayments
Regulations on access to income-related benefits for family members
Introduction of online claims for maternity allowance, Sure Start maternity grants and funeral expense payments
Claimant commitment reintroduced in Northern Ireland from mid July
Reciprocal arrangement with GB on Universal Credit
CPAG Handbook competition
The answer to last month's competition question:
What is the minimum amount that can be paid as Universal Credit?
Thank you to everyone who sent in a response and well done to Ashia, Amy, Tahmina and Aneta who all got the correct answer but the first name out of the hat was Robert who works for Maggies. Congratulations! A copy of the handbook is in the post.
The last word on appeal?
What could be an important consultation affecting all benefit advice workers who support claimants at appeal is asking for submissions on the post-Brexit reform of British courts for retained EU case law.
But hurry! The deadline for submissions is 13th August 2020