This month, David and Will are joined by Maureen Bello to discuss the government's cost of living payments, help for household retail campaign, issues affecting students, Lightning Reach, the two child limit and the work capability assessment.

[00:00:04] David Stickland

Hello. Welcome to our August Benefits Newscast. As usual, I’m joined by Will Hadwen, who’s one of our regular trainers, who also works for CPAG Scotland. Also joined by Maureen Bello, who’s a welfare benefit specialist at a housing co-operative and also one of our one of our regular trainers. The format, I should say, is the same as usual. So each of us have brought with us three items; new stories, developments, caselaw, new legislation, or simply things that we’re interested in and we’d like to share. So I’m going to start with Will. Please Will, would you tell us what your three items are?

[00:00:53] Will Hadwen

Well, I’m going to start with something we had last month as well, but a little bit of an update, which is the cost of living payments, which are going to be made to some benefit claimants. So they’ve started to be paid and most people who are on means tested benefits should get them by the end of this month. But if you’re on tax credits and you’re not on any of the other benefits, you have to wait until the autumn, unfortunately. The other thing that’s come up is that some corporate appointees who basically like the local authority or something like that, who act as an appointee for lots of benefit claimants, have discovered that they can’t tell who the payments are meant for. So if you’re watching this and you are a corporate appointee and you work in that area, get in touch with us and we can tell you how to sort that out. The other thing related to that and the winter fuel payment, effectively that’s being increased. That’s the help that’s going to pensioners and that’s going to be an extra £300 per household. So they’ve brought in the legislation to do that. And that’s great news. It won’t deal with the whole rise in people’s energy bills, but it is the first time the winter fuel payment has been increased since 2010, apparently, which I thought was shocking.

[00:02:13] David Stickland

So obviously, that’s welcome news for the winter fuel payment. So all of that is contained within the cost of living crisis payment, right?

[00:02:21] Will Hadwen

Yeah. Let’s let’s let’s have a look at that because there is a really a fairly good factsheet, well they call it a fact sheet, it’s on the Internet. And I can share that with you right now if I know what I’m doing, which I hope I do.

[00:02:37] David Stickland

Do, please do. Whilst you’re doing that, I’ll just remind everybody that all of our links we’re going to provide. So not just the sites or the pages that you’re sharing now, Will, but everything that we talk about, our references, our sources will share with you as usual so you can access those. So what we’ve got here, Will?

[00:02:55] Will Hadwen

So what we’ve got, the way this document has changed, it’s been up for a while, well, since May, when it was announced. But what’s changed is this table here. So I’ll just get my pointer and you can see that, for example, if you are on Universal Credit for the qualifying month, then you should be paid by the end of this month. And that’s how it’s going to work for most people for the first payment of £326. But if we go down to the bottom, if you’re on tax credits, but you’re not earning these other benefits, you get your first payment in the autumn.

[00:03:28] David Stickland

Got it.

[00:03:29] Will Hadwen


[00:03:30] David Stickland

All right, that’s great, thanks. So, yeah, we’ll make that available to everybody. Maureen, let’s turn to you. So you’ve brought with you three items. I wonder if you can share one of them with us? Maybe go with your sort of top one, why don’t you?

[00:03:47] Maureen Bello

Okay. What I really wanted to discuss or at least bring awareness to was in relation to what Will was just talking about, but it’s going to go a bit further. It’s the new Help For Households retail campaign. So now, in addition to the cost of living costs and payments and everything that’s been provided, there’s a retail campaign to support that as well. So for example, Asda is going to be offering £1 meals for children during the summer holidays, which is going to be hot or cold. So it’s to support people now that the kids are on holiday, you can imagine how much more stress is going to be on their finances. Morrisons is doing, if an adult eats, a child gets to eat for free. Sainsburys is also doing a project where a family can be fed for £5, and also Vodafone are bringing out a new social tariff, which is going to be £10 a month for people on benefits. Amazon as well are also going to have a specific page dedicated to household support. It’s great, you know, so it’s the new retail campaign initiative to help for households, to support them in this time. So I thought that was really good because I know with all these payments you’ve just mentioned, yes, it’s going to help, but how much is it going to help? People are going to need so much more. So, yeah, that’s one of the…

[00:05:19] David Stickland

Well, thank you for sharing. And I guess, you know, the thing that’s different about that, I guess, is that it’s something that you’re going to be doing all the time. You’re shopping for those items regularly, right? Especially for food and stuff. So maybe there’s sort of ongoing concessions, let’s call it, you know.

[00:05:37] Maureen Bello

Exactly. And another good thing about it is, whereas usually they would be eating the meal at school now where they’re on summer holidays, some of them are not going to qualify for a lot of things. So Asda, for example, you can go into it’s cafe and get a hot meal. So it’s not necessarily products and groceries, but also at least get a hot meal for individuals that can’t afford to feed the kids. You know.

[00:06:02] David Stickland

Okay. I’ll be honest, I don’t know a lot about this, so we’ll provide people with the link so they can find out a bit more and, you know, make reference to some of those things you’ve just mentioned. Is there a place or do you have any links that you can share?

[00:06:14] Maureen Bello

It’s fairly new so it was just announced today, actually, so it’s really, really new

[00:06:19] Maureen Bello

But maybe later I can provide you some links that you can add with all the others that you’re going to be sharing.

[00:06:26] Will Hadwen

I’d just add to that in Scotland, and possibly elsewhere as well (I’m not sure about Wales), there is a commitment by the Scottish Government to help local authorities provide food and other helpful things like activities over the summer holidays to try and bridge that gap. So that’s worth checking out as well.

[00:06:50] David Stickland

Okay. Thanks both. Obviously, that’s going to be super necessary, I guess, particularly at these times, like you say, Will, with summer holidays coming up. Great. Thank you. Now, one of the items that I’ve got is sort of simply benefits related. And it caught my eye partly because on our Introduction to Benefits course we talk about this a lot, and I get asked some questions which seem to be sort of related to this issue, which is the Work Capability Assessment and the Work and Pensions Select Committee taking evidence on the Work Capability Assessment. So they’ve taken evidence from the Secretary of State, Therese Coffey, and they’ve also taken evidence from two academics. And basically the conversation on the Introduction to Benefits course often goes along the lines of why is the test like this? Has it been reformed recently? Does it work? And it seems some of the the discussions in the Work and Pensions Select Committee sort of reflects some of that. What came out of it for me was that there was certainly little appetite for transparency, which perhaps should be no surprise on the part of Therese Coffey. She didn’t want to share statistics, she didn’t want to delve into it and sort of have it looked at publicly, let alone any kind of appetite for reform. And I think over the years we’ve had some of the

[00:08:27] David Stickland

Ministers have talked about reform, but it’s never happened. So I suppose it’s not a surprise that the evidence from the academics kind of doesn’t reflect terribly well on the test, or perhaps the governments that have overseen the test over the last number of parliaments. And those academics were Professor Ben Barr, who’s a professor of Applied Public Health Research at the University of Liverpool, and Dr. Ben Bamberg Geiger, who’s a reader in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Kent. And basically they were asked, is it working? And the answer to that was simply, well, pretty much no. I’ll share some quotes with you in a moment. No, it’s failing and what’s needed. And basically the response was trust. So let me share just very briefly some of what was said. And let me put this on the screen, in fact, because just bear with me one moment won’t be very long. There you go. Hopefully you can see that. Let me make it a bit bigger. So they were asked whether the Work Capability Assessment tells the DWP what it’s supposed to do, i.e. the impact of a health impairment on somebody’s ability to work. And this is one of the quotes. Across those three outcomes, we see that the assessment process seems to be failing, in that it does not seem to be improving the employment chances of people with disabilities, particularly with the increasing risks of poverty and potentially adverse effects on mental health and well-being. Went on to say, “To deal with your immediate question, the work capability assessment does not assess people’s capability for work.”

[00:10:11] David Stickland

Somebody giving evidence before described it as Pseudoscientific. It gives the appearance of objectivity and of assessing something meaningful, but it suffers from two particular problems that mean that it does not achieve what it really should. The first is that it’s set up not in its own words, but very obviously to assess the genuineness of someone’s impairment. But it does so without any transparency or any evidence base about the situations in which it overrules people’s accounts of their own lives. It does that very unreliably. It goes on, goes on, goes on. And then they go on to talk about trust. I won’t read through all of this, but one of the things that I will turn to is this bit here. “It’s not enough for an assessment to be fair; it needs to be perceived to be fair, both for its legitimacy, for the people going through it, and for the wider public legitimacy and accountability that we would expect of something that affects large numbers of people every year.”

[00:11:06] David Stickland

So when I read through all of this, I kind of thought, yeah, this is this is where we’re at, isn’t it? And we’ve been here for a long time. We know the test, it doesn’t work. And it almost seems to be that people can expect to be disbelieved, to be told that they don’t qualify, and then to have to go through an appeals process, probably needing the support of a benefits advisor. So I guess I really just wanted to sort of share that, not least because lots of people who have come on our Introduction to Benefits course haven’t had an opportunity to. We don’t really talk about it at any length. We don’t get involved in any of the politics. And I guess from a practical point of view, we just have to keep on doing what we’re doing, which is to work with the test as it is. And usually when you’ve got support from somebody who has experience of this, you can get an outcome which is kind of positive, let’s say, in that you’re not then subject to sanctions and conditionality and work across and hopefully you get the extra amount in Universal Credit, the Limited Capability for Work related activity element, which of course is so valuable, particularly at these times.

[00:12:19] Maureen Bello

Yes. And just to add to that, this is why even when people are not too sure what the outcome is going to be, it’s always good to encourage that an appeal is lodged anyway, you know? Yeah. Though likely to be much more successful at appeal. So just urging people to appeal even when they’re not sure what they’re doing, still just lodge an appeal.

[00:12:43] Will Hadwen

It’s really hard emotionally, I think. But basically I try and encourage people to not take it personally, which of course is impossible because they feel like they’re being told that they’re lying, they’re exaggerating. But usually the appeal tribunal is the place that will put that right. And the unfortunate thing is the other thing that Dr. Coffey said is you’re not going to get statistics on Work Capability Assessment appeals and UC. We have no plans. So all we’ve got for UC is just the UC appeal statistics. We don’t know how many of them are about Limited Capability for Work, but I think we can trust that the ESA statistics would mirror that section of the UC statistic. So I completely agree with Maureen. Go for it. If you’re not happy with the decision, challenge it. Yeah.

[00:13:30] David Stickland

Okay, thanks. That’s certainly important from a practical perspective. Anybody that wants to read the full evidence, you can do so, of course, we’ve included the reference. Okay. Will, we’ve certainly got time for one more of yours. What’s next on your list?

[00:13:48] Will Hadwen

So I had another topical issue, which is Students. It’s the summer holidays, Students usually have a Student Finance package, but that’s not necessarily intended to keep them going over this long holiday. So what people may not realise is, first of all, if you stop being a Student, then you can claim benefits in the normal way. So if your course is finished, you can claim Universal Credit, for example, and moreover, you could claim Universal Credit up to a month before your course ends, because you need to be in the assessment period in which your course ends. Okay, so that’s one thing. The other thing is, if you are a Student who is eligible for Universal Credit, and I’m not going to go through all the exceptions, but for example, you have children, then you may not qualify during the academic year because of your student income that might wipe out your UC. But once you reach the summer holiday, any assessment period in which the summer holiday starts, which falls completely in the summer holiday, your student income isn’t taken into account, so you can claim Universal Credit, and it is worth doing so it really is. You do end up getting more money overall. Just watch out if you take an advance because you won’t have paid back your whole advance before you go back to uni or college. So that’s that’s up to you obviously, whether you want to take it or not. But do you bear in mind you won’t have fully repaid once your

Universal Credit stops again due to your student income.

[00:15:21] David Stickland

Great, thanks. So to everybody out there working with Students, there’s an income maximization opportunity here.

[00:15:30] Maureen Bello

And if they have children, remember, obviously the childcare costs because they may also want to work in that summer holiday, while having children, so at least having the ability to claim the childcare costs is very important. And there’s this new childcare cost toolkit that really helps you identify all the care that you may be eligible for. I could send the link so that you can also add that as well, but the campaign is really encouraging people to take up all the childcare that they’re entitled to, because what they’ve realised is that some people are not claiming all the childcare costs and it’s not only because of it’s their fault, it’s because the areas in which they live. Some of the providers have not accepted this government offer for the 30 hour or 15 hours. The providers are not obligated to take up these offers. However, this toolkit identifies all the different options, you know, including obviously reminding them Universal Credit would pay up to 85%. So I think it’s really good that people do check out their childcare cost entitlement.

[00:16:43] David Stickland

Brilliant. Thank you, Maureen. And yes, definitely we’d like to share that link. So we’ll we’ll be doing that. Okay. We’ve got less than 5 minutes left, I’d say so we can probably squeeze in a couple more. We’ll keep it fairly brief, perhaps. Maureen, we took your first one before. What was number two on your list?

[00:17:04] Maureen Bello

Okay, so there’s this new portal. It’s been created by a social impact startup company called Lightning Reach. They started during the lockdown. But the brilliant thing about this portal is that as Support workers, or whatever we do in our roles, we know the experience of having to complete various different grant applications. So I’m trying to identify the different grants that our customers or service users may be entitled to. Now, what this portal is doing is bringing everything together. So once a person completes a profile on this portal, you only have to do it once. So you set up a profile. It then goes through certain… you can actually verify your ID on that profile as well. They’re working with Openreach where it can get your bank information in real time without you having to upload documents, trying to get evidence. The aim is to reach people A.S.A.P. So on this platform there are various providers, so when they make that one application, it gets submitted to different people. So that’s a good thing about it. They’re also working with local authorities. Lambeth Council has come on board with this now, when if and when you make an application through the portal, you can also make a DHP application directly with that one application. So more local authorities are obviously coming on board and they’re funded by the Innovative UK.

[00:18:42] Will Hadwen

Innovation UK, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:18:43] Maureen Bello

Yes. And they have a few funders at the moment, benevolent funds. They’re trying to get more charities on. They can help people administer funds that they have as well, but it’s really good and I do encourage people to check it out because the good thing about it is because they’re still growing, even if you do create a profile and you’re not matched to a particular organisation, when one does come on board that’s suitable, they will be the one to notify you directly. So not only can we have our clients claiming individually by themselves within 20 minutes, Support Workers can also assist them. So they’re creating a platform as well, where Support Workers can help with those applications. So it’s really going to be, I think it’s going to be the new thing. They’re working with Turn To Us as well.

[00:19:34] David Stickland

Okay. So this is called Lightning Reach.

[00:19:38] David Stickland

It’s another thing that I’ve not heard of, so I’m going to have to get up to speed on that. Thank you, Maureen. That is fabulous. Very quickly before we finish, my second one was the statistics on the number of households affected by the two child limit. Basically, 360,000 households where there’s a third child that, well, actually, it’s just less than 360,000 households where there’s a third child that doesn’t attract any support, either through Universal Credit or Tax Credits. And I guess I just wanted to sort of remind people of that. Again, it’s something that we cover on our Universal Credit course, but it’s not something that we cover on our Introduction to Benefits course. And I, we talk about the total benefits cap on our Introduction to Benefits course, and I sometimes say, well, there are other caps, it’s not the two child limit and all that kind of stuff. So it’s really just to remind people of the two child limit. You can find the statistics in the links that we share, but also to remind people that the key date is the 6th of April 2017. So for children born before then, basically there is no two child limit. It’s only for children born on or after the 6th of April, where a third child may not attract any support through those means tested benefits. And also, there are exceptions to that rule which we need to explore as well. So I thought I’d just mention that. And my third one, I’ll ask you both for your other two very briefly. My third one was DWP to test an alternative version of the UC Managed Migration notice and to tell people that from the 25th of July it’s heading to Truro and Falmouth. We’ll keep an eye out on that. Still haven’t seen any notices. I don’t suppose either of you have either. But let me know if you have. What were your what were your remaining?

[00:21:39] Maureen Bello

That was one of mine as well.

[00:21:41] David Stickland

That was one of yours, okay.

[00:21:41] Maureen Bello

So that’s okay, there’s obviously the new Cost of Living Stakeholder toolkit as well that is useful for people to share on their social media to promote this assistance from the government. And there was a new guidance generated by the government specifically for housing benefit and supported housing. So I think that’s really, really good because it explains everything in detail. So yeah.

[00:22:10] David Stickland

Okay, fabulous. Thanks for those, Maureen. What was your last one Will, just very briefly?

[00:22:16] Will Hadwen

Yeah, my last one was I’m getting increasing queries from people are just desperate to make a bit more money, really. And asking about selling unwanted goods or doing a tiny bit of work for a panel or something like that. So they’re not self-employed, they’re just just doing a little, little thing here and there. And that gets really interesting. I’m not going to go into it because we don’t have time. But unfortunately, the basic advice is you do need to declare that to Universal Credit. And if it’s paid work, it’s going to have the same effect as other earnings. If it’s not paid work, it will be disregarded. So, yeah, that’s over to the decision makers to look at.

[00:22:53] David Stickland

Got it. Okay. Thanks both. Don’t forget, everybody, the links for everything we’ve been talking about. If you want to find out more, head to the part of the website where you can find the links, you can look them up, you can look at the the stories in more detail. Don’t forget also that we have our advice service. So assuming you’ve attended training with us in the last 12 months, if you want to discuss any cases, question stuff you’re not sure about it, you can contact us using the advice email up in the top corner of the screen there. We have other courses on our website, of course, so if you’ve not attended training with us recently, please do. Our next newscast will be recorded in late September, ready for October. We’re having a month off in August, so please look out for that. Please also remember that our next Update Webinar, hour long Update Webinar, which is free for you to attend if you if you’ve been on training with us in the last 12 months. The date for that is the 14th of September and that will be at 11:00am. We’re going to leave it there. Thanks both Maureen and Will. Brilliant as ever. Appreciate all of that. Thanks, everybody, for listening. We wish you all the best. Take care. Bye bye.

[00:24:07] Will Hadwen