In the news

MARCH 2018

Our bitesize news page includes the latest benefits news, guidance and recent case law. Please let us know what you think and what else you'd like to see.

Are Work Capability Assessments fit for purpose?

A 'pervasive lack of trust' is at the root of chronic problems with the assessment process for PIP and ESA, according to the Work & Pensions Committee.

In its new report PIP & ESA Assessments, the Committee outlines multiple failings at every level, from application and assessment, to decision-making and challenge mechanisms and is particularly critical of the flawed and variable reporting procedure which leads to unnecessary challenges.

The report is based on evidence from 4,000 claimants submissions, the largest number ever received by a select committee enquiry. It includes examples of staggering incompetence on the part of some DWP assessors, including asking people with Down’s Syndrome when they had ‘caught’ the condition and describing people who were bedridden as arising ‘from a chair without any difficulty’.


One woman was shocked to read in her assessment that she walked her dog daily,"...which was baffling because I can barely walk and I do not have a dog!"


The report confirms that the WCA has led to further symptoms of stress and anxiety for many who have been through the process, including those who already suffer from mental health conditions.


Recent research for Demos think tank by Ben Baumberg Geiger (University of Kent), also describes the current WCA as ‘a failure’ and recommends three main means of improvement:


  • asking claimants to explain contradictions rather than prove their genuineness;

  • overhauling descriptors to more accurately reflect the current labour market and

  • reducing benefit conditionality for disabled people who as a group are disproportionately sanctioned.

For more detailed discussion on  WCAs, join us in London on  our forthcoming Challenging PIP Decisions course. See also Work-related activity and substantial risk (bottom right).

February/March 2018


Quick links to recent health benefits-related case law  (most recent at the top).


Can a claimant with an appointee appeal independently?


Published 27th February 2018


Should appeal proceed without presence of appellant?


Published 8th February 2018

Is distance a factor in wheelchair use.?


Published 8th February 2018


What is effective date of supersession to award housing costs after late mortgage information?


Published 7th February 2018

Risk of homelessness must be referred
27,000 unemployed people on unpaid DWP work placements

More than 27,000 unemployed people have undertaken unpaid placements at DWP since 2011.

In a written response to a parliamentary question, DWP Under Secretary Kit Malthouse confirmed that 27,776 unemployed people had undertaken work experience at the DWP since 2011, most of which last between 4-6 (to a maximum of 8) weeks.

Mr Malthouse added that the DWP 'do not hold data' on the number of people whose work experience had since led to paid work within the Department.

Public authorities, including hospitals, prisons, jobcentres and social services departments will have a duty to refer people at risk of homelessness to a housing authority.

New guidance has been issued to enforce the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 and support  public authorities in its implementation.


Announcing the measure, which will come into effect from 1st October 2018, Minister for Housing & Homelessness Heather Wheeler confirmed that how the duty to refer works in practice will be locally determined but may include training staff to identify signs of homelessness and setting up  local housing referral mechanisms.


Our new one-day Maximising Income for Homelessness Prevention training course may also be of use.

HM Government Payment Service to replace Simple Payment

The Simple Payment service is to be replaced by HM Government's Payment Service on 20th March 2018.

Payments will still be made via the 29,000 PayPoint outlets across the UK but a maximum of £100 will be dispensed in each transaction.

New 'customers' who are unable to open or manage a bank account have been paid via the new scheme since 1st February 2018. Existing claimants will receive written notification of the change before 20th March.

Under the new system, benefits / pensions will need to be withdrawn within 30 days of receipt and will be paid in sums of up to £100 at a time (but multiple payments can be made at one visit).

Work is no route out of poverty for 33% of single parents

A new Gingerbread report calls for better Jobcentre support, improved childcare provision and a reversal of benefit cuts to help low income single parents out of poverty.


The report, One in four - A profile of single parents in the UK, finds that a third of single parents live in poverty in spite of record employment figures. This figure is projected to rise to over 60% by 2021 due to:

  • a tenfold rise in the number of single parents on zero hours contracts

  • a 58% rise in the number single parents working on low salaries

  • the fact that some single parents have been advised into unsustainable self employment by Jobcentre staff

February/March 2018


Quick links to recent non health-related case law  (most recent at the top of each benefit section).


If a child lives in two homes, 'main responsibility' applies.


Published 21st February 2018


When is a Work Programme Advisor not an Officer of the DWP?


Published 21st February 2018


Calculating means-tested benefits based on claimant's share of jointly owned property.


Published 2nd February 2018


Overpaid attendance allowance and enduring power of attorney within State Pension Credit.


Published 22nd February 2018


For those who don't do Twitter  or  Facebook: A more regularly updated section with one or two welfare-related news stories within each month's news page.

19 week average wait for ESA decision

New DWP figures show that the average clearance time from ESA claim to a WCA decision is 19 weeks, while the average time from DWP referral to recommendation is 14 weeks. 

More than 50% claim benefits

A new IFS study What a Difference a Day Makes: Inequality & the tax & benefit system from a long-run perspective maintains that more than half the population claims working-age, means-tested benefits at some point in their lives.

Tax Free Childcare will terminate UC/Tax Credit claims

Parents and carers on low incomes who receive Universal Credit or Tax Credits should take advice before applying for Tax-Free Childcare (TFC). 


Although many will benefit from TFC, Anne Fairpo, Chair of the Low Income Tax Reform Group, has warned that the Tax Credits of those on lower incomes will be automatically terminated if they apply, "...even if they do not claim any help for childcare costs through Tax Credits. Moreover, if they live in an area where Universal Credit full service has rolled-out, they may find that they are not able to claim tax credits again."


Nor can they receive childcare vouchers or directly-contracted childcare through their employer at the same time as benefitting from the TFC scheme.

TFC is a UK wide scheme. For each 80 pence that is paid into a registered childcarer's online account, the Government will pay in 20 pence up to a maximum of £500 (£1,000 if the child is disabled)  per three month entitlement period. 

February/March 2018


Quick links to selected new guidance and bulletins from the DWP, most recent at the top of each section):


Extension of UC (Work-related requirements) pilot scheme

ADM 6/18

Extension of UC flexible payment arrangements in Scotland

ADM 5/18

New details of changes to waiting days, work-related requirements and temporary housing costs in UC

ADM 4/18

Work related activity and substantial risk

Assessing substantial risk is an important part of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) because it means you can be placed in the Support Group for ESA (or equivalent for UC) when you don’t ordinarily pass the test. It is often known as the exceptional circumstances criteria or regulation 35.

The DWP has issued new guidance on the requirements for evidence of work-related activity when assessing substantial risk under Employment & Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

DMG1/18 replaces earlier guidance and makes amendments based on recent case law relating to the risk and the Jobcentre Plus Offer (KC and MC v SSWP (ESA) [2017] UKUT 94 (AAC)) and concerning third party assistance (YA and SA v SSWP (ESA) [2017] UKUT 80 (AAC).  In addition, the guidance appendix includes a list of less and more demanding work-related activity types under the Jobcentre Plus Offer.

You can find out more on our Limited Capability for Work (ESA/UC) training course on 13th September in London or you could book a course for your organisation and/or partners in-house.