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

MAY 2021

Judicial Review to challenge lack of ESA uplift

Permission has been granted for Judicial Review following the government's decision not to apply the £20 COVID uplift to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claims.

The government has refused to raise ESA or other legacy benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic in spite of recommendations from a range of health and social care organisations. Universal Credit is the only DWP benefit to have been raised by £20 a week.

Osbornes Law, solicitors for the claimants commented: Almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally. Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.'


Meanwhile, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has defended its use of pre-action protocol templates as preparation for Judicial Review, following a Ministry of Justice report last month which claimed such letters invited 'abuse of the process'. CPAG has told Rightsnet that template letters are a ‘vital means of claimants challenging poor decision-making by government before requesting Judicial Review’.

If you would like to gain the skills needed for helping people challenge DWP decisions effectively, consider booking onto our Preparing for an Appeal Tribunal  training course.

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Cruse Beravement Care supporsts families with children through grief.

Bereavement support for cohabitees

The DWP has put forward a tentative date to begin the process to allow long term working age cohabitees with children the same right to Widowed Parents Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment as married couples, after their partner has died.

The government still has to change the law following the High Court decision on Jackson and Ors [2020] and the McLaughlin case at the Supreme Court in 2018, which found that the government position on bereavement benefits for cohabitees with children was unlawful.

In a letter to the Work & Pensions Committee Chair,  Baroness Stedman-Scott (Minister for Work & Pensions in the House of Lords) has said that the DWP 'hopes to lay a proposal for a draft (Remedial) Order ... before the Parliamentary Summer Recess'.


Links to recent government regulations, guidance & bulletins

Breathing Space guidance

Guidance on how to inform the DWP about  deductions for fuel, water or rent arrears when a claimant stops or starts Breathing Space debt respite scheme.


For claimants who cannot attend  PIP telephone assessments

‘Best endeavours’ guidance given in response to FOI request where claimants are unable to attend a PIP telephone assessment

LA Welfare Direct 4/2021

Includes guidance on operation of Breathing Space debt respite programme


SI 495/2021

Amendments to regulations relating to £500 COVID-19 support for tax credits claimants and the requirement for claimants covered by post-Brexit arrangements to be legally working in the UK to receive child benefit

SI 476/2021

Regulations extending COVID-19 support for ESA, JSA, Carers Allowance claimants and prisoners on temporary release

Long COVID in children

Medical guidance on child cases now includes post-Covid syndrome or ‘Long Covid'


DMG 4/21 and ADM 5/21

Guidance on benefits uprating and National Insurance contribution rates 2021/22


HB Circular S7/2021

Guidance for LAs on Housing Benefit administration subsidy arrangements 2021/22

HB Circular S6/2021

Guidance for LAs on Verify Earnings and Pensions service 2021/22


HB Circular S5/2021

Guidance for LAs on New Burdens payments 2021/22

Lapsed appeals

Best practice memo for DWP decision makers dealing with lapsed appeals

SI 456/2021

Regulations on the Breathing Space scheme, enabling deductions to continue for ongoing liabilities (not the debt) in legacy benefits. NB UC deductions not affected by Breathing Space.


Benefit Overpayment Guide

Amended to reflect increase in UC advance recovery period to 24 months and the new max 25% of standard allowance for overall deductions


Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law


‘No recourse to public funds’ policy unlawfully fails to safeguard children

[2021] EWHC 1085 (Admin)

Decision date: 29th April 2021


Treatment of late paid earnings and effect of uniform deposit repayment on UC calculation


Published: 7th April 2021



Claimant qualifies for highest Activity 8/10 descriptor when unable to accomplish the next high-scoring descriptor


Published: 20th April 2021


Claimant needs sufficient notice to prepare case against a less favourable decision


Published: 7th April 2021


Mobility decision based on factual error is also a material error of law


Published 7th April 2021



Legal effect of Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act Remedial Order 2013 to compel Secretary of State to supersede Tribunal decision


Published: 7th April 2021



Termination of joint tax credits claim of widower who did not qualify for UC due to capital

CTC/2649/2019 & CTC/392/2020

Published: 7th April 2021



NI High Court rules that 13 week temporary absence rule does not breach prisoners’ human rights

[2020] NIQB 78

Decision date: 20th December 2020

Launch of Breathing Space

The government has launched a debt respite and mental health moratorium scheme, Breathing Space, to give those in debt in England and Wales a 60 day window to seek advice before creditors can start to seek repayment. Local authorities will need to notify the DWP to stop deductions where they relate to Council Tax or rent (see LATEST GUIDANCE).


Quick links to other benefits-related news

Future phone and online UC support?

The government is looking for organisations who would be interested in bidding to remotely support new Universal Credit claimants.

Renewal of fixed term PIP awards

In response to a parliamentary question, the DWP claims to be prioritising the renewal of fixed term PIP awards which have expired during lockdown.

Court fine deduction decision stands

The DWP will not be appealing the Blundell & Ors decision in [2021] EWHC 608 (Admin) wich reduces court fine deductions to a maximum of 30% of the claimant's standard monthly allowance.

Post Covid advice desert?

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has warned of a 'post-COVID advice desert' in its Strategy 2021-24.

Huge shortfall in LHAs for private rentals

Over half of Universal Credit claimants who receive housing costs (and almost half in receipt of Housing Benefit) for private rented accommodation have rents that exceed the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) for their property, according to figures from the DWP.


Recent government figures suggest there are nearly 1,000,000 households on either Universal Credit or Housing Benefit whose rent exceeds the Local Housing Allowance in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Local Housing Allowance is used within Universal Credit and Housing Benefit to restrict the amount of benefit paid in respect of private rents. It has been subject to numerous cuts and freezes over the last decade.


A recent report by Shelter calls for an urgent review of Housing Benefit levels, and shows the impact of the pandemic, particularly on the number of UC claimants in private accommodation needing additional support, which has gone up by 46% since February 2020.


Meanwhile, in response to a parliamentary question from Karen Buck MP, DWP Minister Will Quince says the Department has increased the LHA rates (to the 30th centile) and that they will continue at the higher rate in 2021/22.


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.


Scottish LAs spent just over half their Scottish Welfare Fund budget in the first 9 months of 2020/21


Systemic problems contributing to volume of overturned PIP/ESA decisions 2017/18

Dept of Communities publishes annual report on social security decision making and financial accuracy

Regulations on extension of COVID-19 related easement schemes