David, Will and Sam discuss: reversing the Bui decision; additional work coach time; moving from accommodation covered by HB to accommodation covered by UC - erosion of the transitional element unlawful; extension of the Household Support Fund (HSF) to September 2024; the transitional element in managed migration when indicative UC is nil; 2024/25 benefits uprating.

April 2024 Transcript

David Stickland: [00:00:04] Hello, welcome to our April Newscast. I’m really happy to be joined by both Will Hadwen and Sam Scarlett, who are going to run us through some of the important changes, topical issues, stuff that’s happening in benefits this month. As usual, we’ll have a whole bunch of issues to share. We’ll have some, sources and references that we can share with you. So if you’re interested, you can find out more. Will, can I start by turning to you, I wonder, and perhaps you can share with us the first item that you’ve got this month.

Will Hadwen: [00:00:37] Yeah. So the first one that I picked is, something that’s going to happen in April, which is one of the many miscellaneous amendments to Social Security that the DWP are making. And what this particular one does is to reverse the outcome of a court case. I think my colleague Marcin mentioned this court case in a webinar earlier this year and the course the case is called Bui, and what it said was that you can’t refuse an advance to somebody who’s claimed UC, just because they don’t have a National Insurance number. Now unfortunately, the government have reversed the effect of that case with an amendment and what it does is it changes the Payments on Accounts Regulations to say that you do need to have been allocated a National Insurance number in order to get an advance. So that is unfortunate. I don’t know that it’s necessarily the end of the line. I did have a discussion with Marcin about it, and he he agreed that maybe some, someone might challenge it on the basis that there wasn’t any consultation on the change. It’s obviously going to affect people who are not British citizens far more than anybody else. So it’s not good news and if you were at the webinar in January sort of undermines a lot of the the glee that we felt on that occasion. But I encourage you to go and have a look at it and if you do have clients who are affected, get in touch with us.

David Stickland: [00:02:11] Right. Thank you. So it’s one of those examples then where basically the the government changes the legislation, amends the regulations rather than continuing to pursue it through the courts. Is that right? Yeah.

Will Hadwen: [00:02:27] They couldn’t pursue it any further. And so they’ve come up with these miscellaneous amendments and it’s not the only miscellaneous amendment I should point out. There are several others that are coming in in January, some of which affect managed migration. Some of which are truly miscellaneous. But this was the one that I thought this would be a good one to highlight in case people had remembered the Bui outcome and were thinking, oh, great. Um, yeah, unfortunately not so great.

David Stickland: [00:03:03] And so, like you say, there may be some further developments, but maybe not as well by the sounds of it. And practically, what should we be saying to people in terms of sort of what this means practically for claimants and for us as advisors? I guess it’s a matter of us helping people access a National Insurance number as soon as possible? Is there anything else that.

Will Hadwen: [00:03:33] Well, I think just a reminder that the process should be that when somebody makes a claim for benefit that triggers the allocation of a National Insurance number and there are I know that there are issues with that process, and it doesn’t always happen as quickly as it could do. And I’ve got a recent case where the claimants were told they couldn’t have one because of their age. This is incorrect. So just a reminder that being a benefit claimant does give you a right to be allocated a number, and the process should be via the benefit authority.

David Stickland: [00:04:05] Right? Okay. Thanks, Will. Uh, Sam, turning to you, uh, I wonder I wonder what you’ve got first up.

Samantha Scarlett: [00:04:13] So mine is a little bit different. It’s possibly not new news at all. Um, but it’s something I came across in my day job, and I thought it might be worth sharing. So, um, I had a case that came to me. A lady came to me and said, I’ve had a week’s notice of an interview, with the with the Job Centre, I’m going to get a telephone call. And I thought, as we do as advisers, you know, work focused interview, interview the work coach, potentially the work capability assessment, my natural thoughts kind of went that way. I said to the lady that I was helping, you know, find out if you can what it is. Universal Credit came back on the journal with a very generic it’s an interview about your health. Okay. Handy wonderful doesn’t tell us a great deal. So it ended up that it got round to the point where the interview was taking place. And I was present on the call. Right. And I was then told that the interview was something called “additional work coach time”. And given this person had a limited capability for work, they were not having regular meetings with their work coach at all. Okay. They didn’t expect this. They weren’t warned of the format of the interview. On the actual interview, the work coach was fantastic. They explained the format of it. They explained what it was, they explained why it was happening, and then we explained why it completely wasn’t appropriate for our client in those circumstances. That worried me and I was involved. I was there to help. Right. So I’m potentially worried about those where this isn’t appropriate. So this made me look a bit further to see what could I find out about “additional work coach time”. As far as I’m aware, it’s voluntary. It’s for people with a limited capability for work related activity and it needs to be appropriate. This person I was dealing with had a limited capability for work. They hadn’t volunteered for this. They didn’t know about this. It was extremely concerning and I’ve researched since and I can find very little, Will will probably be able to add more to what I’ve just said there. But I found very little about this “additional work coach time” from this virtual job centre based out of Plymouth in this instance. But there may be others elsewhere across the country and I just thought that was concerning and I was glad to be involved and have some help potentially.

David Stickland: [00:06:27] Because of course, we spend a lot of our time thinking about sanctions from the perspective of people who are, who don’t have limited capability for work or limited capability for work related activity. And you said this person had limited capability for work status, right?

Samantha Scarlett: [00:06:44] They do yeh.

David Stickland: [00:06:45] Yeah and so I’m thinking it would have been part of their, requirements to attend an interview. Right. But maybe this additional work coach time is something that is, is perhaps something that we’re that you’ve not come across before.

Samantha Scarlett: [00:07:05] It wasn’t with their normal work coach. It wasn’t based out of the Jobcentre. That was geographically where they lived. They don’t live anywhere near Plymouth. And it was, again something that was very much sprung upon. And we talk, don’t we, about conditionality and making sure you attend interviews. You’re trying to avoid those sanctions. But this was something quite new, and perhaps it was the way in which it was communicated. And it may well be extremely appropriate for a lot of benefit claimants out there who genuinely struggle to get back into the workplace and genuinely need that support. But in my case, it was completely misplaced. And the the adviser actually said, right, okay, we can stop this. We can make sure this doesn’t happen again and we’re really sorry.

David Stickland: [00:07:44] Okay. So you were able to sort of bring a halt to that, at the, at the interview but of course, you’d like to think that these, these interviews would be worked out appropriately in the first place rather than dragging people to unnecessary interviews. Yeah. Great. Thanks, Sam okay. Will, let’s come to your second. What’s the next item on your list?

Will Hadwen: [00:08:11] Yeah. And just to say on that one, I think it’s really good that Sam was there because this “additional work coach support” was originally it was a trial and then they expanded it. And, it’s for disabled, any disabled person or person with a health condition, and it’s supposed to be it’s either voluntary or somebody who would benefit, which is a very kind of vague way of thinking about it. So two things really. One as Sam points out, that this particular client was not someone who was going to benefit from it. But the other thing is that I have got so many clients who, when they attend this sort of discussion, they don’t fully understand that they cannot be made to look for work. They don’t appreciate that limited capability for work gives them that, that position. They do not have to look for it. They do not have to take it. And if they have limited capability for work related activity, then they should also be absolutely fine to not attend those interviews if they so choose, because they don’t have to.

David Stickland: [00:09:09] Well, I mean, I’m not sure I knew about this additional work coach time as, as a, as a concept and it sort of underlines the difficulty of, of understanding what’s sort of voluntary and what’s not. It’s really, really hard to know, isn’t it? And like you say, with, with looking for work and moving into work, you know, it’s good that we can be clear about that. Someone with limited capability for work does not have to do those things, but it really does illustrate how difficult it can be to understand what your obligations are. There are thereafter. Okay. Cool. So yeah, next on your list Will.

Will Hadwen: [00:09:45] Yeah. So next on my list is a positive case, a case that I noticed on rights net, a few weeks ago. And this is a case about erosion of the transitional element. And it’s really gratifying because this is a problem that we knew would happen. The problem did happen. And then advisers used the arguments that they had already thought of, which is where somebody was in supported accommodation and therefore was on UC and Housing Benefit. Now it happens to be about the transitional severe disability premium, but it doesn’t really matter. It would also apply to the transitional element in managed migration. The person moved from the supported accommodation into mainstream accommodation that could be covered by UC and as a result, her transitional element was impacted, I think practically wiped out because obviously a housing element is quite a lot and the judge said, yeah, this this is unlawful. This discriminates against somebody who is moving from supported accommodation into mainstream accommodation compared to someone who is just moving between two different mainstream tenancies, who wouldn’t see that same loss. Particularly when they’re moving to a cheaper form of accommodation. So it’s a really good case. I think it, it’s a bit of a green light for some of the other arguments that we might have where people lose money, when they have a change of circumstances and that would normally increase their UC but ends up decreasing their transitional protection.

David Stickland: [00:11:23] Okay. Thank you. And in terms of helping people understand what to be looking out for here, I’m right in thinking that typically this is going to be people moving from, like you say, supported accommodation, what we might think of as specified accommodation or exempt accommodation, sometimes moving to mainstream accommodation. So it’s a change from of Housing Benefit to Universal Credit Housing Element. Right and that’s why suddenly there’s an increased award of Universal Credit, which in that case had been used to wipe out the which the courts went on to say was wrong. So it’s moving from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit Housing Element. And I guess quite often people who are making that change are going to have a disability benefit. They’re likely to qualify for the severe disability premium in there.

Will Hadwen: [00:12:15] Yeah. Yeah. Often not. So I think for people who are getting severe disability premium that they’re disabled claimants and they would clearly be in a very similar situation to the judgment, but there might be other people coming to UC via managed migration who are, for example, living temporary accommodation to move into mainstream accommodation. And there might be similar arguments in those cases, you know, just off the top of my head, one of the most probably successful arguments would be if you had somebody who had been in a refuge due to violence, domestic violence and then moved into mainstream accommodation is just it’s a clear group of people who, again, would be losing out.

David Stickland: [00:12:56] Got it. Right. Really helpful. Thanks, Will. Sam, I think we’ve definitely got time for one more from your list, I wonder I wonder what that might be.

Samantha Scarlett: [00:13:07] A little bit of good news from me. Not necessarily benefits, but the Household Support Fund is going to be extended for another six months from the 1st April. Fantastic news. People say it doesn’t go far enough. Many organisations calling it to be extended for a year but it’s a great bit of support and, you know, it’s helping with the basics. So food, groceries, essentials, white goods, boiler repairs, all those kinds of things to keep you and your home warm, clothing, etc. so do look out. Each Local Authority is going to implement it a bit differently. Some local authorities have perhaps given it to the local Citizens Advice to administer. But do look out. Keep an idea. If they don’t update their websites, any local councils, get in touch with them, find out how they’re working it because six months is going to fly by, I’m sure.

David Stickland: [00:13:52] Right? So yeah, work with your local council. This money should be available, like you say is good news. Of course, it may signal the fact that there are massive gaps and holes and inadequacies in the wider system, of course, but it cannot be a bad thing, of course, that this money remains available. So. Yeah. Thanks that’s helpful. Good. Will, definitely i think we’ll have time to explore your final option. So we’ve just got a few minutes left. Yeah, I wonder what that might be.

Will Hadwen: [00:14:26] So this isn’t anything new. It is a sort of typical case I’m getting at the moment. Getting lots of managed migration cases and one of the things that is coming up is for people who would, if they weren’t being managed migrated, if they were just claiming UC, they wouldn’t get any, because their income is too high. So not necessarily just because of, of their savings, but for other reasons as well. They have too much income to normally get UC, but they were on Tax Credits. Now, there’s a specific way of working out the transitional element in those cases where what we call indicative Universal Credit is nil. In other words, the UC it looks like they’re entitled to is nil. You add quite a lot of extra money to the transitional element, and that comes from the extent to which income exceeds maximum UC. And what I’m noticing is that and we’re getting a lot of cases where DWP haven’t done this or they haven’t done it correctly. A lot of them where they just appear to have made it up but my big message is, if you’re daunted by these calculations and they are complex, don’t fret too much. If you have a feeling that your client is not getting the right amount of money, especially if they were getting benefits before, but now they’re not and they definitely claimed within their deadline, then ask for mandatory reconsideration. See what that comes back with? Quite often they’ll change at that point anyway because they realize they’ve made an error.

David Stickland: [00:15:54] Great. Yeah. Okay. So yeah have a go at challenging the decision. Explore it further. Who knows you might be successful, you may have uncovered a wrong decision that then gets corrected. Right yeah. I was smiling slightly because I know that that people struggle with this this concept where income is too high and it is very difficult to explain in a simple way. But on on the managed migration course, which often you’re running for us Will, it’s made a lot easier with some visual aids isn’t it. And with some slides. So if people want to find out more about that and understand how it works better, then then then of course, come on our managed migration course. Fabulous. Thanks. Sam, what was the last? I’m not sure we’ll have long to talk about it, but what was the final item that you brought with you?

Samantha Scarlett: [00:16:38] The last one on my list was that we’re coming into April, so it’s benefits uprating time. All the amounts we know and love are going up some by a little bit. Some not at all. Benefits cap isn’t rising at all. Um, we’ve got the limited capability for work related activity finally going above £400, £416.19. We’ve got the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit going up from £139 to £151. In terms of Universal Credit, you’ll start to see those in assessment periods from the 8th April. I’m looking to Will there definitely the 8th onwards. So that’s great. It’s just a reminder that you’ll start to see those amounts not quite filter through for UC from the 1st April, but keep checking those benefit awards, award letters as well, and do get in touch with us if you need to.

David Stickland: [00:17:23] Definitely. And we’ll have a new benefit rates poster to share I think very soon. So that will be available. It’s a really significant increase, isn’t it? Thankfully, to working age benefits as, as well as, older people’s benefits right across the board, like you say, not necessarily including the benefit cap and some other areas, perhaps. But yeah, it was eight point something percent, 8.5%.

Will Hadwen: [00:17:48] So it’s 6.7%.

David Stickland: [00:17:51] It right? I think it was eight.

Will Hadwen: [00:17:53] I you might be remembering that State Pension is going up by 8.3% but as Sam said this is not across the board because there are some figures, for example, the benefit cap that are not going up.

David Stickland: [00:18:07] Okay.

Will Hadwen: [00:18:08] For UC some people won’t see the increase until June just to say. Of course, you should keep checking if you’ve got a really unlucky assessment period, it won’t be till June to get it.

David Stickland: [00:18:19] All right. Well, it’s nice to end with some good news. Even if I managed to discover that it’s not entirely quite as good as I thought it might have been. But, thank you both. Uh. Thanks, everybody. Of course, we’ll share the resources on our website. We have more courses on our website. Of course we have our advice service as well. So please make use of that. Until next month, thanks Will, thanks Sam. Also, thanks everybody for listening. Wish you well. Goodbye.