David, Will and Lindsay discuss: additional amounts to be added to the SDP transitional element for new UC claims from 14.02.24; cost of living payments; UC managed migration; new local housing allowance (LHA) rates; The enhanced review team and UC suspensions; and capital and UC.

Benefits Newscast February 2024

David : [00:00:04] Hello. Welcome. It’s our first Newscast of 2024, and I’m joined by Will Hadwen and Lindsay Fletcher. We’re going to talk about, topical benefits issues, stuff that’s crossed our desk, etc. Will, maybe I can turn to you first. I wonder what’s caught your eye recently. What’s the first thing you’ve got?

Will: [00:00:30] The first thing I’ve got is some extra amounts for people entitled to what’s called the Transitional Severe Disability Premium in Universal Credit. We’ve been waiting for these for a very long time. And what it’s about is when they introduced the Transitional Severe Disability Premium, they didn’t compensate people for the loss of the Enhanced Disability Premium. And then there are other people who might also have a disabled child who could lose out if their disabled child wasn’t getting the highest rates of disability benefit. And so what these changes do is bring in some amounts for those people. It’s important to emphasize it’s only people who are claiming UC under natural migration, not managed migration. And it’s only people who were entitled to the Severe Disability Premium. So there are other people who lose out because they have a disabled child, but they’re not covered. What we’ve recently found out. Is that it’s only going to cover new claimants. So that’s new claims from the 14th February and it won’t yet be paid out to existing claimants. Now that’s interesting because there’s lots of people who have got a Transitional Severe Disability Premium element in the years since it was brought in. Some of those people, it might have eroded completely, but they will all need to be looked at and the DWP will have to work out what extra they’re entitled to. So we don’t have a date for that. The DWP have just said that they’re working on a process and they’re working on a timescale, and when they have one, they’ll let stakeholders know. But considering that we’ve been waiting after the court case, which was January 22, I think, we’ve been waiting for a very long time, so it’s a bit disappointing. Do you agree Lindsay?

Lindsay: [00:02:24] Definitely. Definitely kind of unfair that, you know new claimants after the 14th February are going to get the extra straight away. But yeah I don’t envy them trying to work out what they owed to people and what’s left after erosion. So I’ll let them off for a little bit. Yeah. That’s not another two years. Not another two years.

Will: [00:02:46] Not another two years. That’s fair enough. Yeah. It is very complex, as Lindsay says, because this element, because it’s a transitional element, it goes down, as UC rises, whether that’s an increase in rates or a new element. And so it is complex to work out how much people are owed. But I think, yeah, let’s, let’s hope we’re here by the end of this year. Right.

David : [00:03:08] Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So it’s complex. We’ve spoken about these issues a little bit before, haven’t we. So people can maybe remember some of that. But, yeah, it’s complex. And I’m really thinking about how we can flag this up for people in terms of what to look out for still and sort of the main points to be aware of. So let me have a go at doing that. It’s, it’s, it’s for people getting who have had legacy benefits and who have had a Severe Disability Premium. And I’m really mindful of picking up on what you said a moment ago, Will, because it’s easy to confuse. I think it’s yes, it’s about other premiums, including the Enhanced Disability Premium. Yes, it’s about child amounts where there’s been Disability Living Allowance under Tax Credits. But I think what’s easily to easily forgotten is that you still have to have been getting the Severe Disability Premium, right. That’s right. So if you’re somebody that’s worse off under natural migration because you’ve lost out on the child allowance, but you didn’t get the Severe Disability Premium, then you’re not helped by this, is that right? Correct.

Will: [00:04:12] And the judge specifically said that in the case that this comes from. Yeah. Okay.

David : [00:04:17] So we’re looking out for legacy benefit claimants. We’re looking out for Severe Disability Premium. And then we’re sort of recognising that the transitional amounts that have been included previously were insufficient, basically. So there might be extra amounts in respect of these other things, the other premiums, the fact that children weren’t looked at within some of those previous changes.

Will: [00:04:37] Yes. The Enhanced Disability Premium is going to be the most common thing that people have missed out on, especially if they were coming from ESA in the support group, because all of those people should have had the Enhanced Disability Premium. But as ever, if you’re not sure on the entitlement conditions for the various premiums and elements, then, um, and you think it might apply to a claimant, you can always get in touch with our advice service, right?

David : [00:05:00] Yeah, definitely check with us because this is complicated. And I’m also mindful of, of of what you said about it being natural migration because a lot of what we’ve been talking about recently has been the managed migration. So that’s when you get a migration notice. Very different to the natural migration, of course. So being clear about that.

Will: [00:05:22] Yeah. If you make a qualifying claim after receiving migration, notice a claim by your deadline, then and you get a transitional element, then you’re not also going to get this. And that has been really confusing people who’ve seen publicity about it.

David : [00:05:37] And I think final point that I want to make or think about is that under natural migration, quite often people are better off on Universal Credit. So we can’t we want to remind people of the importance of checking. And again, people can check with us if you’re not sure whether people are better off or worse off at the point that they’re making the claim.

Will: [00:05:56] That’s right. And that can apply to some disabled people. So it’s really important thing to check.

David : [00:06:01] Yeah, yeah. Cool. Lovely. Thanks, will. Lindsay, so I’m looking forward to hearing about your issues. What’s the first thing you’d like to share?

Lindsay: [00:06:11] Thanks, David. I think just a simple reminder of the cost of living payment that’s coming up in February. So it’s the final one of this block, so it’s going to be £299. And it should be paid between the 6th February (so not long) and the 22nd February. You had to be in receipt of a qualifying benefit back in November. That was the qualifying period. So you had to have been paid a benefit qualifying benefit between the 13th November and the 12th December, or specifically, and this is what catches a few people out and you might get some queries in February, if people don’t get it. You had to have a Universal Credit assessment period that ended between them two dates. So very specifically had to end between them two dates.

Will: [00:07:07] With an award in it.

Lindsay: [00:07:08] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. With an award. So some people will obviously have a nil award be paid between them two dates. They might have a live award but a nil payment. So they’ll, they’ll miss out unfortunately. So very harsh. Obviously if people have done over time or many people got like a wage rise backdates in November, so potentially could miss out. And I think a reminder that even if you should, that you should get it even if the Universal Credit paid to you says nil. But if you did actually have an award but all the money has been sent to your landlord or been deducted to pay back debts or advances, and there’s nothing left to come to you. Sometimes people say a claimant say they’ve got they don’t get any UC. But if you look at someone’s statement, they do. It’s just paid out and there’s nothing left for them. Yeah, so that’s one reminder. Another one is if people have separated from a partner since the qualifying dates, then the cost of living payment will go into the bank account that the UC was paid into. That might confuse some people. So if anyone’s expecting it and they can report it missing if they don’t get it and they’re expecting it from the 23rd February, and at the minute, there’s no plans been announced for any further cost of living payments. And I’m not very hopeful. Do you agree Will ? That’ll be any further ones.

Will: [00:08:48] I just don’t think it’s going to happen again this year. There’s no indication at all. Yeah.

David : [00:08:58] Okay. Thank you. Lindsay. Yeah. I’m really interested in what you said there about deductions and payments to the landlord, because I think with Universal Credit, it’s particularly it can be particularly difficult to tell apart entitlement from the payment, right, because of the way it’s presented on an award notice. And I think for some of us, we’re kind of sticklers for understanding entitlement. And that’s what we’d like to sort of see reflected better on a Universal Credit award right. But it sometimes a bit confusing because of the deductions that might be or the payments that might be made out.

Lindsay: [00:09:35] Yeh because people just look what goes into their bank account, not realizing that sometimes they have got something, it’s just been paid out. Sometimes it’s they do have an award; it’s just recovered for overpayments or advances. But yeah, received some kind of award with a assessment period ending between 13th November and 12th December.

David : [00:09:57] Got it. Thanks. Uh, great. Useful reminder on that. And just, just before we move on those dates again. So if we’re looking sort of retrospectively and checking for entitlements over the last few months, I think you said it was the qualifying dates were 13th November to the 12th December, and for Universal Credit that would be a necessity, an award with an assessment period ending in within those times. Yeah. Cool. Great. Thanks very much. Um, Will what’s next?

Will: [00:10:31] I’ve gone for somewhere else it’s quite complicated. I’m wishing I hadn’t now. So I thought I’d talk about managed migration. Again. I’ll get the easy bit out of the way. Which is that one Jobcentre Plus district has started managed migration a bit earlier than was expected. It got brought forward at quite short notice. And that is Mercia. Right. Which is it’s not an old Saxon Kingdom. Well it is, but in this case I think it includes Coventry, Shropshire, Worcestershire. So kind of that bit of the Midlands.

David : [00:11:06] Right and presumably we can share those postcodes or areas.

Will: [00:11:10] We can share a list of the areas. Yeah and what’s happened is it was supposed to start in early February and instead it started this Monday, i.e. today. Although some people in Coventry have reported, apparently, that they’ve been receiving migration notices already. But anyway, the message is if you’re an advisor in them areas, then watch out because people on Tax Credits only might start to get migration notices.

David : [00:11:37] Right, so basically that’s happening now for those people. We’re recording this on the 22nd January. So yes, by the time people get this it will be happening in those areas. Right.

Will: [00:11:46] It’s happening. Related to that in a way is people who are getting their migration notices now, they should have a deadline, which is kind of, so about two thirds of the way through April. So sort of if you’ve got a migration notice that had been dated today, your deadline would be the 23rd April. Okay. Now, the reason that is significant is you might be able to time things so you don’t lose out. So the first thing would be think about when Tax Credits are uprated which is the 6th April. Yeah. So wait until you’ve had at least one day of entitlement to Tax Credits at that higher rate and everything’s being uprated by 6.7% this year. The other thing is to make sure that you don’t claim UC in such a way that you’re a transitional element, if you get one, is going to be eroded because your UC increases after the first assessment period. So you want your first assessment period to start on or after the date that UC is uprated. And I don’t know for sure when that’s going to be. But last year it was the 10th April which is a Monday. So my best guess is the 8th April. Which is a Monday, so you want your first assessment period to be to start on or after that date, then your uprating happens, then and you’re okay. You’re grand you won’t have uprating in a subsequent assessment period. So that’s the message.

David : [00:13:22] So, yeah, I had a case actually, where this had this crossed my mind the other day. And, and of course, it’s because if you get a transitional element, that’s eroded by future increases in elements, including due to uprating. So if you manage migrate or if you move to Universal Credit under the managed migration, let’s say in March because the deadline is March. And actually, my client the other day that I was working with had a deadline for some time during March. So am I right in thinking that in those cases, if your deadline is before the uprating, there’s nothing really there’s no way you can delay, is there ? There’s you just have to sort of.

Lindsay: [00:14:04] You can ask for extension.

Will: [00:14:06] You can ask for an extension. Yeah. I doubt you get an extension for this reason, but you can give another reason. Like you need advice, you need support. You could risk your final deadline, which is the month, calendar month, starting on your deadline. But the problem with that is that your Tax Credits would still end at your deadline. And so you’d have a really big budgeting issue and probably don’t think most people will be able to do that. Yeah. So yeah, this only works if your deadline works within it. And there may be other reasons to time your UC claim differently. For example, you’re expecting a change of circumstances or you’re expecting income that is taken into account. Got it. So there’s lots of things. All cases will be different. Sure. Great.

David : [00:14:53] But I think it is a really good point because, you know, obviously there are going to be more and more of these coming online or into our caseload as of sort of now and over the coming weeks and months. So you know, for those that are happening now and have the opportunity to delay between now and April and there’s, you know, there’s a good while to go between now and April, isn’t there. So it is a really sort of pertinent point. Yeah. Thank you.

Will: [00:15:18] You. But you’re right to say it only really applies to people getting their migration notices now or recently. Yeah, yeah. Got it.

David : [00:15:26] Okay. That’s really good. Thanks. So, Lindsay, we definitely have time for one more.

Lindsay: [00:15:32] Yeah, I mean, that kind of leads nicely into the one I was going to talk about Will that they’ve just released the expected new Local Housing Allowance figures. So the increased rates from April and it still needs to be finalized I think. But this is pretty much what they expect them to be. Quite a generous increase from the ones I’ve looked at for a few of my clients. One of them was looking at about £80 a month extra housing element compared to the current rates. One was looking at about an extra £120. Not saying they’ll all be that generous in all areas, but the ones I were looking at were, because obviously them rates have been frozen since, you know, 2020. Hopefully they’re not frozen for that long again. But obviously that’s not going to help people affected by the benefit cap because that’s not been increased. It might even bring new people into the benefit cap limits if they were just slightly under. And if people are already have a transitional element. So if they migrate before March, as soon as the increases in April, that’d be a very, very big erosion of the transitional element. Okay. So even more of a reason if they get one now and they live in private rented and they’ve got a shortfall, wait until after the April uprating if they can.

David : [00:16:59] Okay. Good point. So yeah, similar but slightly different okay. In terms of the reasons.

Will: [00:17:06] Well the only thing I was going to say is that most people getting migration notices now don’t get Housing Benefit. So if you do rent privately, you’ve also got to weigh up the fact that, you’re not getting a housing element now and you could be getting one, and that might offset the fact that you’ll get one and then.

Lindsay: [00:17:24] You might individual cases. So yeah, something to bear in mind isn’t it.

Will: [00:17:27] It’s very complex.

David : [00:17:29] So we might be busy over the next few weeks, months or so with advisers checking. Of course you can and we’ll be very happy to help with all of those. So, like you say, Lindsay, uh, Local Housing Allowance rates have been frozen for the last few years and they’re going to be reset, and it’s according to the sort of market, isn’t it? So the 30th percentile or whatever the current sort of market rates in each area. So we’ll see some significant increases. And for lots of people, you know, that would be a really welcome thing because they’ll get considerably more.

Lindsay: [00:18:01] Even if they don’t regardless of the transitional element issue eroding. It’s, you know, it’s positive news for a lot of people.

David : [00:18:08] Sure. Yeah. Albeit for some people they won’t see the, the increase for, for sort of various reasons within the wider system. Okay we haven’t got very long, but I wonder if you could both briefly mention the remaining issues. We may not have long to talk about them, but we’ll certainly sort of share resources on our, on our website. So Will, what’s left for you, I wonder?

Will: [00:18:33] So my last thing is a lot less complex, but, really serious for the people affected, and that is that I’m seeing more and more clients who are having their claims investigated by the Enhanced Review Team. This is in Universal Credit again, and it involves them being asked for a lot of evidence, some evidence they haven’t provided before, some that they have, like ID and taking a photo in front of their door and stuff like that. And sometimes, but not always, their Universal Credit or part of their Universal Credit is suspended whilst these investigations are ongoing, the DWP have the power to do that if they are suspicious about your entitlement. But sometimes these people are waiting weeks or even months to get their awards reinstated when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and they are entitled and it’s just a message to complain. And if it really doesn’t get resolved and somebody is in hardship, there is a pre-action letter which I will link to and also, of course, you can get in touch with us for further support.

David : [00:19:39] Great. Thank you Will and finally, Lindsay again. We haven’t got long, but I wonder what the last issue you’ve got is. And we’ll obviously share links, I.

Lindsay: [00:19:48] Think, on that issue Will, I think they’ve said recently they’re going to they’re not going to suspend people routinely anymore unless people are just blatantly not cooperating.

Will: [00:19:58] They have said that I’ve yet to see the evidence, but let’s hope so, yeah.

Lindsay: [00:20:04] So my final thing is just something what people might have noticed lately, a recent improvement on Universal Credit statements, that they’ve started showing people’s savings amounts on UC statements didn’t do that previously. So what’s but it’s still because people might have heard that the DWP are going to start to be able to look at people’s bank statements, bank accounts, things like that in years to come. That’s all going on behind the scenes. This is not linked to that yet. This is just what people have reported, as what their savings are. They are now on people’s UC statement saying, this is the figure we hold for you. So hopefully that should maybe pick up on errors. People are more likely maybe to report their savings of reduced so the tariff income can be adjusted. Okay. And I’ve already seen one who which was an attached credit managed migration who had a second property. So it was classed as having £90,000. And that’s on the statement. So we can see oh that must be being ignored for 12 months. But I’ve still not seen any kind of countdown or warning to people of that 12 month clock ticking away. That concerns me that for some people who haven’t had advice, it’ll suddenly come to an abrupt end after 12 months and I can’t see anywhere. It would be nice if there was some kind of warning on the statement of how long they’ve got left on that respect.

David : [00:21:36] Definitely. Okay. So thank you. That’s helpful for us in terms of information, I guess. It’s also an opportunity to say to people who may not be familiar with the capital rules, necessarily, that as you’re alluding to there, Lindsay, there’s lots of situations where capital can be ignored. So you can still claim Universal Credit even though you own capital. It’s often to do a property, isn’t it? Where it can be ignored for perhaps a period. Yeah. Great. Thank you. I think that’s our time up. Thank you both. Thanks, everybody, for listening or watching. Of course, you’ll find details of our other training on our website. You’ve got access to our advice service if you’ve attended training with this recently. Thanks again. Both. Thanks, everybody. Wish you well. Bye.

Lindsay: [00:22:23] Thank you, thank you. Bye.