Our benefits news page includes the latest news with links to recent guidance & case law. Please let us know if there is anything you would like us to include next month.

In the news

NOVEMBER 2020

COVID-19 piles demands on local services

As England joins the other home nations in lockdown this month, pressure is rising on local services across the UK to support their residents with the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the local lockdowns which led to impassioned complaints and pleas to the government from City Mayors and local authority chiefs in England may be over, there is still a burden of responsibility on already cash-strapped regional and local governments, particularly in the North of England, as well as on much smaller local community organisations, to dig deep and pay out.

 

Scotland and Wales have recently promised an additional £20m and £5m in discretionary funding respectively (see SCOTLAND, N IRELAND & WALES), whilst London has announced that the pandemic has triggered a 219% increase in demand for local welfare assistance. The start of the COVID-19 pandemic also saw the highest number of people claiming Council Tax Support since records began in 2015.

VRecorded assessments begin

The DWP have confirmed that the optional recording of PIP and ESA telephone assessment interviews began on 21 September via AIS (formerly known as Atos), with Capita due to follow suit soon. 

 

In addition, Maximus are now trialling video recordings  of  ESA assessments in order to make Work Capability Assessment decisions. 500 potential PIP claimants will also have their assessment filmed. It is not yet clear whether claimants will have the right to refuse the recording.

See Q225 in Work & Pensions Committee meeting minutes for further information on this.

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Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy

RECENT CASE LAW

Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law

ESA

Potential bias of tribunal judge / need for interpreter / inappropriate use of court clerk

CE/1285/2018

Published 28th October 2020

 

ESA (N Ireland)

Can claimant assume that benefit decision is communicated to relevant benefits offices?

C009/20-21(ESA)

Decision date: 22 September 2020

 

PIP

Reassessing PIP report by discredited assessor

CPIP/400/2017

Published 28th October 2020

 

UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Proof needed on use of capital over £16,000 for new home

CUC/1773/2018

Published 28th October 2020

Maternity allowance can be treated as unearned income

[2020] EWHC 2827 (Admin)

Decision date: 26 October 2020

 

JOBSEEKERS ALLOWANCE

Acceptable methods of communication for requirement to attend interview

CJSA/197/2020

Published 28th October 2020

 

CARERS ALLOWANCE

High Court rejects challenge to lack of increase of Carers’ Allowance during pandemic

[2020] EWHC 2817 (Admin)

Decision date: 6th October 2020

Hancock's missing button

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has conceded that the 'button' allowing users of the COVID19 app to access the £500 payment for earnings lost during self-isolation is yet to find its way onto the app.

Responding to Labour MP Rachel Maskell (see column 75) on 2nd November, Hancock confirmed that the button was 'in development', having previously told parliament it was 'already there on the app' on 22nd October.

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Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham says the government is discriminating against the North of England in its COVID19 response

Reallocation of calendar month UC payments

New regulations and explanatory notes have been issued to amend the affect on Universal Credit of double wage payments in one calendar month.

 

The changes implement the Court of Appeal judgement on Secretary of State vs Johnson &  Others and mean that where the second set of earnings of a working UC claimant fall in the same UC assessment period calendar month, the second payment will reallocated into the following UC assessment period.

Notes within the new regulations explain that 'only one set of earnings will be taken into account in each assessment period for people who are paid calendar monthly',  which should allow them to benefit from the full applicable monthly work allowance.

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.

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SCOTLAND

Regulations on introduction of Child Winter Heating Assistance from 9 November

ADM 26/20 & DMG 22/20 memos on the  disregard of Scottish Child Payment for means-tested benefits

University of Glasgow research finds that social security & employment support in Scotland and wider UK ‘does not effectively recognise mental health’.

Regulations for extension of period when COVID19 breaks in care do not affect Carers Allowance

New regulations to restrict PIP mobility component award after state pension age

 

Report says further social security measures needed to support Scottish families through COVID winter.

Crisis grant applications to Scottish Welfare Fund up 46%

 

Scotland outlines its new disability benefits system

£20m allocated to local authorities for COVID19 from Scottish Welfare Fund

Scottish Affairs Committee launches inquiry into impact of welfare reform (evidence required by 2 December 2020)

Scottish housing association tenants who claim UC have consistently higher arrears

Government urged to speed up and extend Scottish Child Payment via local government payment processes

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WALES

Income Maximisation Action Plan to tackle child poverty

JRF report shows a third of all children in Wales live in poverty
 

Self isolating social care workers will have SSP topped up to meet wages

Extra £5m Discretionary Assistance to protect jobs and help those struggling financially

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N IRELAND

New regulations on reallocation of monthly earnings payment to different UC assessment period

Amended benefits regulations in consequence of new marriage/civil partnership law

BITESIZE BENEFITS

Quick links to other benefits-related news

Extension of EU Settlement Scheme deadline

New regulations extend deadline for EU Settlement Scheme applications to 30 June 2021, affecting those who don't already have settled or presettled status.

Workload on new UC work coaches

Only 2200 of 15000 planned new Work coaches were new in October – and their average case load is 280.

Sanctions for missed phone appointments

Touchbase has confirmed that 'actions will commence' from 2nd November for anyone who  fails to attend an ESA or UC telephone health assessement 'without good reason'.

New annual report on complaints to DWP

This year's Independent Case Examiner's report focuses on 'misadvice and misdirection' about Universal Credit, pre COVID19.

Further depature from retained EU case law 

The Ministry of Justice is to extend its ability to depart from retained EU case law in a number of 'lower' courts, including the Court of Appeal.

MIF suspension extended

Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, Dr Thérèse Coffey has announced that the  suspension of the Minimum Income Floor will continue until 30 April 2021.

New regulations are already in place for the continued easement of Minimum Income Floor rules, which are used to assess entitlement to UC for self employed people, and had previously been due to expire on 12th November.

 LATEST GUIDANCE   

Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins

Extension of ESA amendments

ADM25-20 memo on the extension of ESA amendments relating to COVID19  following new regulations
 

UC Housing Costs for joint tenants

DWP guidance on changes to UC housing costs when joint tenant leaves the property

Safeguarding visits

Updated guidance to DWP staff on safeguarding visits to vulnerable claimants

(attached to the end of a letter from DWP to Chair of Work & Pensions Committee)

 

Right to reside for family members

DMG 21/20 and ADM 24/20 guidance on right to reside for family members of EU citizens resident in the UK

 

Amending Jobseekers Act 2013

Regulations to amend Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act 2013 so that sanctions appeals are found in favour of claimants

Benefits for prisoners on temporary release

New regulations on social security provisions for prisoners on temporary release during COVID19 - also for N IRELAND

Advice to work coaches on 'untidy tenancies'

​The DWP has sent updated guidance to work coaches and advice to the National Housing Federation (NHF) about how to deal with so called 'untidy tenancies'.

Untidy tenancies can occur when a joint tenant leaves the property and the remaining tenant becomes liable for their housing costs.

The advice note to the NHF outlines that a new 'Confirm a change in joint tenancy' to-do section has been added into Universal Credit, which should ensure that the correct rent amount is automatically paid each month. In order for this to take effect, the claimant should update changes to the number of tenants in their UC journal or by phone.

See also LATEST GUIDANCE.

EEmPlan to end 6 month rule for terminally ill claimants

The government is 'working at great speed' to amend the six month rule for terminally ill benefits claims, according a DWP Minister.

 

The rule currently requires that a terminally ill  claimant's death is within 6 months for the claim to continue.

 

Tomlinson confirmed that the changes will be implemented as soon as  the government's review of special rules for the terminally ill has been completed.