In the news
Return to face-to-face assessments
The DWP has announced the return of face-to-face medical assessments for some health and disability benefits before the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Initially, these face-to-face medical assessments will apparently be offered, in fully COVID-19 compliant environments, only to prospective claimants who are unable to be assessed by 'other channels'. There is new guidance available for both claimants and for assessment providers.
Where video and phone assessments are not possible, face to face assessments for the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit will recommence from 12th April 2021. Face-to-face assessments for PIP and Work Capability Assessments for ESA and UC will start again in a limited fashion from May.
Legislation to allow for telephone and video medical assessments for disability benefit claims has been in effect since the end of March 2021 (see also LATEST GUIDANCE below). Face to face appointments will also resume in jobcentres (to pre-lockdown opening hours) from 12th April.
Medical assessments by video and phone will also become more commonplace
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.
Holyrood Manifesto 2021: The Scottish Campaign for Rights to Social Security
IPPR report: Securing a living income in Scotland – Towards a minimum income guarantee
New regulations on social security information sharing in Scotland
New regulations on eligibility and payment rules for Child Disability Payment for Children & Young People
Discussion paper on future of Scottish Carer’s Assistance
Scottish Government and local authorities agree strategy to support immigrants facing destitution
Regulations on benefits uprating 2021/22
£3m for money and benefits advice in Scottish GP surgeries
Scottish Government announces launch date for Child Disability Payment in pilot areas
‘Considerable concern’ over those without access to social security support during pandemic
Scotland votes to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law
£25m in budget for Benefits Delivery Response to COVID-19
Regulations on introduction of reduced housing benefit personal allowance rates for people reaching state pension age on/after 1st April 2021
PIP claims 50% higher than expected in 2019/20.
No cut to NI advice sector in 2021/22
New £500 payment for bereaved parents
State Pension and the Universal Credit run-on
The DWP has issued new guidance to help Housing Benefit staff deal with claims involving a run-on of Universal Credit which was introduced on 25th November 2020 for people reaching State Pension age.
Universal Credit now continues until the beginning of the assessment period after State Pension age is reached, rather than part way through or at the beginning of that assessment period as it had previously been. This additional Universal Credit payment is not taken into account for Pension Credit and Housing Benefit purposes and we should encourage people to make claims to these benefits where they qualify up to four months in advance of them reaching State Pension age.
Anyone who wants to find out more about these and other changes to benefits affecting people reaching the State Pension age may wish to attend our next Benefits for Older People training course on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th May.
Amendments to Judicial Review process continues
The government is continuing to explore options to reform the Judicial Review process in spite of advice from its own (now disbanded) review panel to ‘think long and hard’ before removing powers from the judiciary.
The decision coincides with publication of a summary of the findings of Lord Faulks' Independent Review Of Administrative Law. The review includes a condemnation of the use of template pre-action protocol letters which apparently 'invite an abuse' of the judicial process. This is given as one reason to continue with changes to the Judicial Review process.
However, some doubt has already been thrown on the validity of some DWP evidence cited in the review, not least by Tom Royston, a lawyer specialising in social security legislation.
A new consultation (closing 29th April) has been launched to gather - and hopefully act upon - the opinions of anyone with first hand experience of Judicial Review.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
DWP use of deduction formula for court fines is unlawful
Published 17th March 2021
Can ‘substantial risk’ apply to travel to and from Jobcentre as well as work?
Published 16th March 2021
Tribunal must refer NI issues related to state pension to HMRC
Published 3rd March 2021
Busking for donations does not establish self-employed right to reside
Published 3rd March 2021
Person subject to immigration control cannot claim as carer for their British family
Published 3rd March 2021
Learning the lessons of COVID-19
A number of reports and recommendations have been published on how the social welfare sector (and those who make the important decisions affecting it) should go forward in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Learning & Work Institute report on the unequal impact of the pandemic and the importance of building a fairer society post COVID has come hot on the heels of the Office for Budget Responsibility's welfare trends report on the lasting consequences of COVID-19.
In addition, the findings of Bright Blue think tank's analysis Shaky Foundations has led to the formation of the non-partisan Commission for Social Security Reform, chaired by Baroness Lister, who has spoken of the need to address how 'the pandemic has exposed and aggravated the extent of economic insecurity in our society as well as the cracks in the social security system, which mean that it is failing to provide genuine security.'
Watch this space.
Quick links to other benefits-related news
A reminder that maximum UC deductions drop from 30% to 25% and the recovery of advances for new claimants over 24 months from April onwards.
Since pandemic the number of households affected by the benefit cap has more than doubled from 89,000 to 180,000.
A new CPAG report highlights how the Two Child Limit has removed the safety net for larger families.
The DWP has identified 1400 self-employed women who may have been underpaid Maternity Allowance due to changes in the self assessment process between 2015-2017.
A government consultation on the New Plan for Immigration, including proposals on temporary protection status for asylum seekers closes on 4th May 2021.
DWP post-COVID initiatives
The DWP has so far announced that it is responding to the impact of the pandemic with the recruitment of 150 Youth Employability Coaches, 300 Disability Employment Advisers and the launch of a new Train and Progress scheme.
In the words of the great Peggy Lee (below)... Is that all there is?
Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins
Guidance for clients on return to face to face assessments for health & disability benefits.
Guidance on use of telephone and video medical assessments for health and disability benefit claims.
Quick factsheet for landlords who rent to Universal Credit claimants.
Guidance on DHP allocation for 2021/22 in England & Wales, taking into account calculation errors in 2020/21.
Guidance on transferring Support for Mortgage Interest loans to a new property.
Guidance to local authorities receiving up to £750,000 ‘New Burdens’ funding to cover the new forms, websites and leaflets relating to changes to the personal allowance for new state pensioners after new regulations come into effect on 1 April 2021.
Guidance on the effect of the Fratila judgement on HB claims from people who have a right to reside based only on pre-settled status.
Amendments in consequence of the benefits uprating 2021/22 increasing personal expenses allowance for some accommodation and maintaining Carer's Allowance earnings limit.
Guidance on entitlement to Housing Benefit in final UC assessment period for claimants reaching state pension age.
Uprating guidance on retention of the UC uplift.
Guidance on a range of topics (see also links below for further information) including one-off £500 payment for Working Tax Credit receipients (with updated HMRC information) and changes to the shared accommodation rate (para 23-28).