In the news
DWP to stay pre-Brexit pre-settled claim decisions
The DWP will stay (or put on hold) making decisions on claims for means-tested benefits for people with no right to reside other than pre-settled status, due to an extension granted by the Supreme Court, pending appeal.
The DWP has been granted leave to appeal the decision in the 'Fratila' case  EWCA 1741, in which two EEA nationals had originally had their Universal Credit claims (which they had made before 31st December 2020) refused on the basis of their having no right to reside other than pre-settled status. The judicial review was won by the claimants (represented by CPAG) in December.
The DWP has now been given leave to appeal this decision at the Supreme Court. In the mean time, any similar cases of EEA Nationals whose only right to reside is on the basis of presettled status and who made claims before 31st December 2020, will not be decided and any mandatory reconsiderations will not be made or acted upon until the appeal has been heard.
The DWP has issued guidance on this (see also LATEST GUIDANCE below). It suggests that the Fratila judgement does not cover any similar decisions relating to claims made after 1st January 2021 (post Brexit). However, according to legal academics, this guidance is also contentious and may become the subject of future appeals. CPAG has now published advice on this too. Our advice before the appeal is heard is to claim anyway, keep challenging any negative decisions and book onto our Benefits for European Migrants course for updated information.
Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins
DWP round up of key budget changes, State Pension underpayments correction exercise
Legislation to bring in telephone & video assessments for ESA, UC, PIP and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Guidance on new £500 one-off payment for people on WTC
Guidance on reduced HBPA rates for claimants reaching pensionable age on or after 1 April 2021
Guidance on treatment of claims and MRs for those who have no right to reside other than pre-settled status (following DWP appeal on Fratila judgement)
Information on uprating of war pensions 2021/22 (pre budget)
Legislation and memo on uprating of Tax Credits, Child Benefit and Guardian's Allowance (pre budget)
Information from the DWP on the end of Post Office card accounts; announcement of the Warm Home Discount application deadline (26 Feb); SWAP apprenticeship scheme figures; changes to EU benefits since 1st Jan
DWP newsletter includes information on the extended scope of telephone Work Capability Assessments; updates on the Job Finding Support service; and links to an open consultation on tackling violence on women and girls.
Miscellaneous amendments to Support for Mortgage Interest regulations (pre budget)
Includes information for Housing staff on debt management and payment deduction programme queries; updated DHP guidance manual and LHP rates 2021/22 (see also Scotland/Wales)
End to 6 months benefits rule?
The government has reaffirmed its commitment to amending the 6 months benefits rule for people who are terminally ill.
The rule, which currently gives anyone with a terminal diagnosis a maximum of 6 months benefits, has been challenged most recently in parliament by Jessica Morden, Labour MP for Newport East. In response, Justin Tomlinson admitted that the government were 'absolutely commited to bringing (the changes) forward as quickly as we can'.
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announces his budget
Uplift retained, furlough prolonged
A bitesize summary of the main welfare benefits-related changes in Rishi Sunak's 2021 Budget:
Universal Credit £20 uplift now extended to 30 September 2021 (Paragraph 2.19)
Working Tax Credits claimants to receive one off payment of £500 plus continued relaxation of WTC hours requirement (Para 2.20 / 2.24)
Extended relaxation of UC minimum income floor for the self employed until 30 June 2021 (Para 2.22)
Higher surplus earnings threshold of £2500 extended to April '22 (Para 2.21)
Care leavers under 25 (previously 22) exempt from Shared Accommodation Rate in UC/HB from June 2021 (Para 2.28)
Recovery of UC advances extended to 24 months (new claims only according to Touchbase) and the maximum rate of UC advance recovery reduced from 30% to 25% of the standard allowance from April 2021 (Para 2.23)
See also LATEST GUIDANCE below for more information.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
Deceased claimant family challenges DWP safeguarding policies
Published 3rd March 2021
How entitlement is affected by non-disclosure of an occupational pension
Published 2nd February 2021
CHILD BENEFIT (EEA)
Court of Appeal considers possible changes to Child Benefit appeal decision post-Brexit
Decision: 18th February 2021
Fear of dogs can be reasonable grounds for entitlement to PIP mobility component
Published 10th February 2021
Safeguarding vulnerable claimants
Further evidence this month suggests that the demands of the benefits system are harmful rather than helpful to claimants' mental health.
The family of another deceased claimant, Errol Graham, has been unsuccessful in challenging the DWP's safeguarding policies, (see RECENT CASE LAW above) yet a recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health has shown the 'devastating effect' of the 2016 Welfare Reform & Work Act on disabled people, a statement echoed in the Social Market Foundation's report, Time to Think Again.
Quick links to other benefits-related news
The Supreme Court has refused the DWP's request to appeal the decision on R (TD & Ors) on the unlawfulness of forced migration to UC without transitional protection.
Joint Committee on Human Rights finds 'no compelling case' for reforming the Human Rights Act.
£32m has been paid out to over 6,000 PIP claimants by the DWP as a result of the reviews on the effects of psychological distress on mobility and risk of harm completing activities.
DWP statistics show that there were 6m people on UC as at 14 January 2021. The figure has more than doubled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DWP is writing to anyone who receives their benefits or state pension via a Post Office card account asking for alternative account details following the closure of this service.
More changes to Work Capability Assessments
New legislation has been issued to allow for telephone and online assessments of claimants of disability benefits.
In force from 25 March 2021, and confirming claims of an expanded WCA process in Touchbase, the new regulations confirm that assessements for ESA, UC, PIP and IIDB (Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit) can take place either in person, by telephone or on video.
Perhaps coincidentally, this latest legislation follows a recent government announcment that it will soon be continuing with its integrated assessment pilot for ESA, UC and PIP. The pilot, which had originally been launched in early 2020 but paused due to COVID-19, will continue in some areas of London from April 2021.
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.
Universal Credit Scottish choices are 'well received' but overall awareness is low
Legislation on provision for PIP assessments to be carried out on video in Scotland
90% of claimants ‘happy’ with Social Security Scotland
Scotland offers £100 COVID Spring Hardship Payment to low income families
Consequential legislation to prepare for Child Disability Payment in Scotland
Briefing to Scottish Parliament highlights need for devolved benefits to be considered within context of EU social security coordination rules
Scottish government’s response to UN call for action on poverty in the UK
Extension of COVID-19 Winter Heating Payment Scheme to 30 June 2021 for people in receipt of specific disability benefits
Regulations amending loans for mortgage interest repayments (NI)
Reimbursement of UC childcare costs for people who employ nannies
Wales extends self isolation payments to June 2021 and widens eligibility criteria
Guidance on Housing Assocation and Assured Short Tenancy service charges