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

DECEMBER 2020

Mass calls to retain the uplift

Although the second national lockdown has now shifted back towards a regional and local tier system, the real and longer term hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may only just be emerging.

In spite of a £2.9m Restart programme announced in the recent Spending Review to help some Universal Credit claimants back to work, there is little light ahead for anyone claiming benefits after April. This has led to an open letter from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with over 60 signatories from religious, campaigning and voluntary sector organisations pleading for the uplift to continue and be extended to those claiming legacy benefits.

Bah Humbug: COVID-19 will affect Christmas and beyond

The call comes hot on the heels of the Scottish Social Security Committee's urgent request for the UK government to retain and extend the uplift and in the wake of Caught in a (Covid) Trap, a report by the Resolution Foundation showing that 40% of people making new claims since February have seen their income drop by more than a quarter and over 50% on lower incomes are having to borrow money to cover essentials such as housing and food. In addition, The Fabian Society has suggested that returning to pre-pandemic benefits will push between one and three million people into poverty.

Secretary of State Therese Coffey has announced the benefits rates for 2021/22 but has said, to the concern of the Work & Pensions Committee Chair, that a decision on the uplift must wait until the new year. Given the government's recent confirmation that Universal Credit claims have gone up by 90% since March,  it looks like it's going to be a long, hard winter for many.

BITESIZE BENEFITS

Quick links to other benefits-related news

Attendance Allowance renewal claims

The DWP has restarted its process for renewing Attendance Allowance claims which are due to expire from 8 March 2021.

No late night jobcentres....yet

The DWP has paused its plan to extend jobcentre opening hours until 8pm, according to the PCS Union.

Winter Grants for England

The government is funding a £170m Winter Grant Scheme for vulnerable households in England.

Steep rise in food bank use

The Trussell Trust have reported a 47% rise in the use of foodbanks provided to families in the first six months of the pandemic.

LHA rates frozen from April

MPs have questioned why the increased Local Housing Allowance rates, introduced at the start of the pandemic, will be frozen in cash terms from April.

CCOVID, sanctions & deductions

The reality of monthly Universal Credit deductions, including sanctions, is bringing further worries to those who need the most financial help during this pandemic.

Although the government had declared that they would be softening their approach to sanctions by switching off conditionality (until August 2020), there is no sign of this continuing and ongoing concern over the mounting number of other deductions arising from forced repayment of advances provided during the five week wait before the first UC award.

Hitting people when they are already down comes too readily to mind when 36,000 people had a sanction applied to their UC in the first full month of the coronavirus pandemic - and by August 2020,  40% of UC claims were subject to deductions (excluding sanctions) .

We should perhaps acknowledge that the DWP have conceded that they will at least be contacting people who miss their telephone Work Capability Assessment interviews to establish whether they have good reason for not attending during the pandemic.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

TRAINING UPDATE

Brexit begins to bite

Will Hadwen, our lead trainer on benefits for European Economic Area citizens resident in the UK, summarises some of the forthcoming changes to benefits for EEA nationals. Please also see LATEST GUIDANCE for the DWP's version.

Things are changing for EEA nationals and benefits from New Year’s Eve.

To begin with, you might not notice much change. Existing ‘right to reside’ rules will continue for EEA nationals already living here, so you’ll need to be aware of these (you can always come on our next Benefits for EEA Nationals course for a refresher).

However, it is important to know that for extended family members (this can include unmarried partners, and most relatives other than children or grandchildren under 21 and dependent parents or grandparents), a Home Office document is needed – and this must be applied for before the end of this year! That makes 31st December 2020 an important deadline for this group. Not having this document (for non-EEA family members, this is a residence card) can mean they can’t get benefits later, even if they don’t need to claim now.

 

For people living here before 11pm on 31st December 2020, who have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), existing ‘right to reside’ rules will end on 30th June 2021. They also need to have a right to reside immediately before 11pm on 31st December 2020 (this doesn’t have to be a qualifying right to reside for benefits) in order to continue to use the rules during this ‘grace period’.

It is really important that EU nationals and family members already here, including those relying on existing right to reside rules, apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to gain pre-settled or settled status by 30 June 2021.

People with pre-settled status will be able to use the right to reside rules beyond 30th June 2021, so you will need this knowledge for some time (pre-settled status by itself does not currently help people get benefits affected by the right to reside).

People who have settled status can claim all benefits. For EEA nationals who come to live here after 31st December 2020, a new regime will apply. Some will have no recourse to public funds, whilst others may be able to claim benefits, depending on their immigration status. There may also be people covered by agreements between different states, which could help them claim benefits. Recent course participants are welcome contact us for further advice on specific cases.

 LATEST GUIDANCE   

Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins

Touchbase 27 November

DWP newsletter includes a summary of the Restart programme to help UC claimants into work; guidance on self-isolation payments; attendance allowance renewal claims and preparing UK nationals living in the EU for Brexit.

 

COVID restrictions in jobcentres

New guidance to jobcentre staff on new COVID-19 restrictions

Social Security (Benefits uprating) Act 2020

New legislation to bring forward the benefits uprating for 2021/22 in spite of the lack of growth between May-July 2020

LA Welfare Direct Lite 11/20

Disregard of COVID019 Winter Grant Scheme in housing benefit calculations

DMG 23/20

Guidance following amendments to the Jobseekers (Back to work) Act 2013, relating to misapplied sanctions in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights

ADM 27/20

Guidance on reallocation of monthly earnings into different UC assessment periods following the Johnson ruling.

 

Extension of CJRS

Treasury Directions under Sections 71 & 76

New Treasury Directions covering extension of CJRS to end of March 2021.

Social security post Brexit

Guidance on the implementation of social security provisions in the EU Withdrawal Agreement - to be used by DWP, HMRC and Department of Health & Social Care staff to determine eligibility for social security from 1 January 2021

 

PIP enhanced mobility legislation

Change to legislation restricting PIP enhanced mobility for people over state pension age on basis of medical evidence

also for N Ireland

Touchbase 6 November

DWP newletter includes guidance on minimum floor suspension, furlough scheme, video relay service extension and safeguarding vulnerable claimants.

Devolved nations seek cooperation on welfare

The devolved nations are calling on the UK government to work together to ensure those who are entitled to financial support are getting it.

A letter sent to Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey from Scotland's Social Security Secretary Shirley Anne Somerville alongside representatives of Wales and Northern Ireland government 'urges a joint strategy' on benefit take up and 'implores' the government to retain the Covid uplift after April. The letter  demonstrates that the devolved nations are already co-operating to consider how best to support those in need.

RECENT CASE LAW

Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law

PIP

Procedure for use of surveillance video as evidence

CSPIP/373/2019 (V)

Published 20th November 2020

 

Ignored request for interpreter was a ‘procedural irregularity’

CPIP/1313/2019

Published 9th November 2020

 

ESA

Discretionary trust payments are ‘voluntary’ and therefore should not affect claim

CE/1849/2019

Published 10th November 2020

 

DLA

Amended DLA Past Presence Test breaches human rights of two disabled children

CDLA/2208/2018 & CDLA/2019/2018

Published 12th October 2020

 

UNIVERSAL CREDIT

Unlawful requirement for disabled students to prove limited capability for work before claiming UC (led to sudden change in the law in August 2020)

Court Order pdf

Published 6 October 2020

Minimum PIP plans put back

The government has put back its plans for a minimum award length for PIP until April 2021, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The full rollout of PIP has also been delayed for a further five years until 2025, nine years behind schedule.

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.

SCOTLAND

£100m Winter Support Fund plan announced to mitigate against COVID-19, winter cost of living increases and Brexit

Extension of Self Isolation Support Grant to new groups

Almost 6k people received Funeral Support Payment in first year

Request for discussion with Dr Coffey on gaps and overlaps in reserved and devolved powers

60,000 people to be ‘pushed into poverty’ if COVID-19 related benefit increases are withdrawn in April 2021

Child Disability Payment will be introduced Summer 2021, Adult Disability Payment in Spring 2022

SSSC joins calls for UK government to retain and extend COVID-19 benefits uplift

Just over half Fair Start participants left early in 2019/20

Royal assent for Bill amending miscellaneous social security administration

Introduction of Scottish Child Payment and appeal rights

 

Introduction of Child Winter Heating Assistance from 9 November

N IRELAND

One off heating payment for people on higher rate disability benefits and pension credits

Enhancements to self isolation grant

Change to legislation restricting PIP enhanced mobility for people over state pension age on basis of medical evidence

New five year strategy for Department of Communities 2020-25

WALES

£2.9m for increased demand for Council Tax Reduction scheme during COVID-19

FOR 12 MONTHS' FREE EXPERT BENEFITS SUPPORT,  book onto one of our open courses (or book an in-house course for your organisation). Any Benefits Training Co. course attendees wanting further advice with specific cases should contact the email address on their e-certificate.

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