In the news
DWP fails to keep up
At first it was anecdotal. Now evidence is mounting that the Department of Work & Pensions is failing to manage its own workload as a result of austerity cuts, repeated lockdowns and the longer term cumulative effects of the pandemic.
While the logistics of a pandemic would challenge most governments (New Zealand notwithstanding), many of the DWP's current issues are of their own making as they now 'scramble' to reverse the 28% staff cuts they made over the past 10 years. A recent parliamentary debate on the Child Maintenance Service led by SNP MP Marion Fellows and has highlighted the effect of these cuts and the work of organisations like Gingerbread to overcome them.
Additional issues for DWP staff include the spread of the virus among those who are not working from home and the slow pace at which home working has been facilitated for them during lockdown. According to the Public & Commercial Services Union, although 90% of civil servants have home working facilities, this is not equally true for DWP staff. In response, the DWP has said it is now delivering up to 2500 pieces of IT equipment a week to staff who are homeworking.
The Department has countered figures showing that 4000 calls to its Debt Management line went unanswered in the first two weeks of January with the confirmation of plans to deploy 450 additional staff to meet its own targets. However, DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield has noted in a recent letter to the Work & Pensions Committee Chair that the service provided on the PIP, State Pension, Attendance Allowance and CMS phone lines still remains 'below the expected standards'.
Work & Pensions Committee Chair, Stephen Timms MP
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
Interpreting the relative definitions of descriptors and key terms in Activity 8 & 10 for a claimant with learning difficulties
Published 27th January 2021
Considering eligibility for mobility component when claimant has walked alone and unaided
Published 21st December 2020
When should DLA evidence be resubmitted for PIP appeal?
Published 18th December 2020
High Court rules that requirement to pay childcare costs upfront is unlawful
Published 22nd January 2021
Does Zambrano right of residence assist entitlement to child benefit?
Published 15th January 2021
JSA, ESA, INCOME SUPPORT
Appeal against removal of benefit entitlement to claimant assuming fictitious identity
Published 29th December 2020
NEWS & TRAINING UPDATE
Effects of removal of SDP Gateway
Following the removal of the SDP Gateway, advisors need to check on those claims to Universal Credit that should contain a transitional Severe Disability Premium element. Effectively, this means looking out for people who at the time they claimed Universal Credit, also:
Received a qualifying disability benefit (most often PIP daily living component);
Lived alone or were treated as living alone;
Didn’t have a carer who was paid either Carer’s Allowance or the carer element in Universal Credit;
Had a claim to either income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance within the month before they claimed UC.
These rules are complex (see also LATEST GUIDANCE) and we address them further in our updated Universal Credit in Depth course. Alternatively, eligible subscribers can contact our advice service for further support.
Links to recent, non-Brexit-related government regulations, guidance & bulletins
Guidance for companies such as Serco who are providing Job Finding Support staff for the DWP
Guidance on the removal of the SDP gateway and eligibility for transitional SDP payment in UC for new claimants
Housing benefit uprating 2021/22 (revised).
Regulations allowing EEA nationals to continue to claim funeral payment expenses for UK funerals
Impact of new legislation on Council Tax Reduction schemes.
Guidance for litigants who represent themselves at Upper Tribunal
More pressure to retain the Universal Credit uplift
There is now overwhelming pressure for the government to change its published plan to discontinue the £20 uplift to Universal Credit from April.
The pressure comes most recently from a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty who, following a call for evidence in December, have joined many other voices advising the government that it is the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in society who will lose out most if or when the uplift is removed.
The APPG report follows a non-binding Opposition Day vote in favour of the uplift in parliament and a string of recent warnings about the potential effects of losing the uplift from the Children's Commissioner, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Resolution Foundation, the Mental Health & Income Commission and almost everybody else.
Not all PIP claims extended
According to DWP MInister Justin Tomlinson, the previously announced automatic COVID-related extension of PIP claims due for renewal between March 2020 and Jan 2021 will not now take place for those who have already had a reviewed decision since July 2020 or if any action on their case is currently pending.
Quick links to other benefits-related news
The High Court has ruled that paying upfront childcare costs in UC is 'unlawful'. (See also RECENT CASE LAW below).
The DWP has contracted Serco to employ 325 extra staff to deliver a 'Job Finding Support' service. (See also LATEST GUIDANCE).
Acute distress following 28 failings of the DWP and Capita 'materially contributed' to the death of claimant Philippa Day.
First reading in Parliament for a new bill which will allow central government to monitor how local councils spend their welfare assistance budgets.
Two thirds of disabled people have had to go without 'essential items' during the pandemic, according to the Disability Benefits Consortium.
Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales
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.
Extension of criteria for Self-Isolation Support Grant.
Uprating of Council Tax Reduction Scheme allowances and premiums in Scotland
Scottish Budget 2021/22 includes £3.6bn for social security & welfare payments
Report urges government to back Minimum Income Guarantee for all after the pandemic.
Amended regulations on entitlement to Scottish Child Payment, when the qualifying benefit is reduced to a nil award.
Users of NHS COVID-19 app now eligible to apply for Self Isolation Scheme payments
New regulations on Council Tax Reduction schemes
New welfare reform mitigations for 2021/22 to be stopped or curtailed
Local Housing Allowance rates frozen for 2021/22
Department of Communities instructed to look at in-house PIP assessment model following review recommendations
Commitment to prioritise existing welfare reform mitigations in 2021/22