In the news


   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.

Citizens Advice to deliver universal support

Citizens Advice is to receive £39m to provide universal support to people who claim Universal Credit from 2019.

The support scheme is intended to help Universal Credit claimants through every stage of their claim, from setting it up to managing it once it arrives.

Universal support has been provided by local authorities (via central government funding) since 2017. The ending of this provision was confirmed by a letter from the Director General of Universal Credit to local authorities, stating that their support to UC claimants would end in March 2019.

Support is most definitely needed: Secretary of State Esther McVey, announced the partnership, and within days admitted on BBC Radio 4 that some people will be worse off on Universal Credit than on legacy benefits. This has come in a week where everyone from Sir John Major to Gordon Brown has been urging a halt in the UC rollout.


Citizens Advice has welcomed the opportunity to offer further support to Universal Credit claimants.  Chief Executive Gillian Guy has said:


Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice (England & Wales)

We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed... Delivering this service will give us even greater insight into the universal credit system. We’ll continue to share our evidence with the government to help make sure universal credit works for everyone.'

BTC welcomes the opportunity to train, advise, inform and further support Citizens Advice staff so they can scrutinise policy and campaign for change alongside the support they will be giving to UC claimants. Our next Universal Credit courses are UC in Practice (London) 15th November and UC & Financial Capability  (at your venue, on request).


Quick links to selected recent health benefits-related case law 


How does Daily Living Activity 3 (pre 16 March 2017) interact with other descriptors?

Published 29th September


Can the date and location of a WCA affect a claimant’s ability to attend?

Published 29th September 2018



Full time student on DLA has limited capability for work for purposes of ESA

Published 9th October



Inconsistent awards on Schedules 2 and 3 amount to an error of law

Published 29th September 2018



Reasons must be given by Tribunal for departing from a previous award

Published 29th September 2018



EEA claimant must complete 12 months under WRS to be eligible for ESA

Published 13th September



Tribunal decision overturned after DWP fail to provide full adjudication history

Published 4th September


DWP publishes PIP claimant experiences
Extension to maternity grant time limit


The government has changed the rules to extend the time limit for a Sure Start maternity grant application from 3 to 6 months from 18th October 2018.

The main criteria for a maternity grant are:


  • The grant is usually only payable for a first child.

  • Applicants are likely to be successful if they or their partner receive a qualifying benefit* and are at least 29 weeks pregnant or have given birth in the last six months (three months for claims made before 18 October 2018). They can also qualify if their child was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

  • The qualifying benefits* are Universal Credit; Income Support; Income based Jobseeker’s Allowance; Income related Employment and Support Allowance; Child Tax Credit which includes a child, disabled child or severely disabled child element; Working tax credit including the disabled worker or severe disability element; Pension credit.


Anyone who has been on a BTC training course within the past year is welcome to contact us for case support.


Links to recent government guidance and bulletins :


Revised guidance to LAs re natural vs managed migration in UC full service areas

HB Circular A7/2018


Guidance to LAs to support housing benefit reviews of non-passported self-employed households.


Prescribed occupations affected by latex anaphylaxis and nasal carcinoma

DMG Memo 10/18


Quick links to recent benefits-related statistics for those who don't do Facebook or Twitter.

7m live without access to welfare assistance schemes

A report by Greater Manchester Poverty Action highlights how 22 out of 131 local councils do not offer crisis support, with a further 29 at risk of closure due to reduced funding.


Survey for 2019 DHP funding decisions

The DWP is to carry out an insight survey of local authorities to inform 2019 Discretionary Housing Payment funding decisions according to the LA Welfare Direct bulletin 10/18

65% ESA decisions overturned on appeal

DWP statistics show that in the quarter to March 2018, 65% of ESA fit for work decisions were overturned on appeal, whilst only 22% were changed at mandatory reconsideration stage in the period to July 2018.


Goodbye UC live service!

DWP confirms that the Universal Credit live service is to close by spring 2019, as reported in Touchbase 09/18.



Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law  (see also Health Case Law above left).


Can EU national with British parent claim UC?

Published 4th September



Can participation in a government employment scheme extend JSA?




Is JSA agreement binding for receipt of benefit?

Published 9th October 2018




Does estoppel per rem judicatum apply in housing benefit cases?

Published 9th October 2018


Tribunal to use inquisitorial jurisdiction to ascertain transitional protection for housing benefit

Published 9th October 2018


Room with asbestos cannot be under occupied for Bedroom Tax purposes

Published 29th September 2018


The government has published research which explores claimant experiences of the PIP claim process.

The research, which was carried out by Ipsos MORI, covers the whole PIP claim process and follows recommendations in Paul Gray's independent research  in 2014.


Key findings in Personal Independence Payment: claimant experience of the claim process include:

  • 63% respondents found completing the form easier, while 34% found it more difficult, than expected;

  • 31% said they did not include additional evidence (for a variety of reasons);

  • 53% did not know why they had to attend a face-to-face interview or what would be involved.

PIP claimants can access peer support through the Scope online community, some of whose cases are referred to the Benefits Training Co. advice team. You can find plenty more information on completing PIP forms and other related issues in our forthcoming Disability & Carers' Benefits course (London) on 29th January 2019.

Government says no to main carer payments

The government has rejected calls by the Work & Pensions Select Committee to pay UC to the main carer where there are dependent children.

Responding to the Committee's August 2018 report Universal Credit and Domestic Abuse, the government has reaffirmed that UC should be paid to a nominated member of the household, with the option of a split payment. It has however agreed with the Scottish parliament to trial default split payments in Scotland in order to 'obtain strong data and ... explore the potential advantages (and challenges) of such a policy'.

UC online ID verification goes private

The DWP has confirmed that the private sector will take responsibility for the Universal Credit online identity verification system 'Verify'.

A written statement from Oliver Dowden to parliament confirms that contracts for have already been signed.

Last Tax Credit office will close in 2025

The head of HMRC has confirmed that the last Tax Credit office will close in 2025.

According to a letter from HMRC Chief Executive Ian Thompson to Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, extensions to the UC full service rollout mean that some people will still be claiming tax credits in 2025.