This month David, Will and Charlotte discuss changes to the Scottish Child Payment; The next cost of living payment; Benefits up-rating; Problems with Pension Credit claims processing; New LHA exemptions; Work Capability Assessment outcomes; Healthy Start Vouchers
David Stickland: [00:00:03] Hello. It’s November, so it’s our November Benefits Newscast. As ever Will Hadwen is with me, Will works for CPAG Scotland as well as for us. And also Charlotte Richards, I’m delighted to say, is joining us. Charlotte works for Bristol City Council as a welfare rights adviser and she delivers a range of courses for us, including next week’s Universal Credit Calculations course. So hopefully you’ll know the format. We bring three things with us tonight, three things which we think are newsworthy, notable things that we should share with you in all things welfare benefits. We’re going to share the links and any references that we make. So we’ll go through things fairly quickly. Of course, if you want to look at things in more detail, you can you can turn to our website where you’ll find the detail of the links that you can click on. So Will, first up, I’m going to turn to you. Please would you tell us, tell Charlotte and I, which is your sort of number one topic for for today?
Will Hadwen: [00:01:13] So my number one topic for today is a bit of good news. And it is Scotland specific. But nevertheless, it’s such good news that I think it’s worth sharing. It’s about the Scottish Child Payment. The Scottish Child Payment is an extra amount of benefit that people can get if they’re on benefits such as Universal Credit. And it’s basically tops up their income currently by £20 a week. So it’s quite significant. It doesn’t get counted against your other means tested benefits. It doesn’t get counted for the benefit cap. Now, until recently, it was only available for families with children under six on a qualifying benefit. But from the 14th of November, it’s going to be extended to families with children under 16. Okay, that’s obviously huge. More numbers of people who will get help or get more help. And it’s also going up to £25 a week. So it really is a hugely significant thing that the Scottish Government are doing to boost people’s incomes. There’s only one downside that I can see, and that is that you have to claim it. Mm hmm. Although, according to their take up figures, it’s fairly healthy in terms of take up. But it could be healthier. Mm hmm. So, yeah, my message to any one based in Scotland or who advises people in Scotland is to encourage people to claim the Scottish Child Payment if they’re on a qualifying benefit.
David Stickland: [00:02:40] Make sure you get it. Okay. It’s interesting. You have to claim it. So what’s the claims process? How does that work?
Will Hadwen: [00:02:46] This process is very straightforward. I’m going to put a link in the sources, of course, so you can see what to do. You apply to the Scottish Social Security Service. Yeah. And you can’t back date it. So it really is quite an important benefit to claim as soon as you realise that you are entitled.
David Stickland: [00:03:07] Okay, cool. And you mentioned that Universal Credit is a qualifying benefit. Presumably the legacy benefits the equivalent.
Will Hadwen: [00:03:16] Legacy benefits too. Yep. Child Tax credit. Working Tax Credit. Income Support. Income Based Jobseeker’s income related employment and support allowance. And for those Pension Credit claimants, you are responsible for children Pension Credit.
David Stickland: [00:03:30] Fabulous. Thank you. Cool. Doesn’t it’s protected income. It doesn’t affect it doesn’t reduce any other entitlements. I think you said £20 a week going up to £25 a week. So call it £100 a month or whatever equivalent may you say. Make sure you get it if you’re working in Scotland.
Will Hadwen: [00:03:49] Exactly. Make sure you get it. And that there is also something called a bridging payment, which the Scottish Government are making and are very broadly. That’s because it’s taking them time to roll out the Scottish child payment and they’re making the final bridging payment this December. That will still be made to all families where children are eligible for free school meals. So there’s quite a lot happening to support families through what’s going to be a very tough winter.
David Stickland: [00:04:18] Great. Thank you. Charlotte, I’m wondering what your number one item is. Do tell.
Charlotte Richards: [00:04:27] My number one item is about a change to the local housing allowance. There’s a further exemption come in to the shared accommodation rate. So for most people under 35, the most the maximum they can get with their housing benefit or their Universal Credit towards their housing costs is going to be at the shared accommodation rate. There are a few exemptions already, but a new one has been added from the 1st October, which is for victims of domestic violence or modern slavery. So if somebody has experienced that over the age of 16 and they’re under 35 now and would otherwise come under the shared accommodation rate, they’re exempt from that and instead would be able to get the one bed rate. So can make quite a big difference to people who are in a already pretty difficult situation. So it seems that you need written claimant, claimants will need written evidence for it and that can come from a health care professional, police officer, registered social worker. It could be the claimant’s employer or a public, voluntary or charitable body who’s been working with the claimant. So that’s some good news. And the modern slavery rules, it’s about whether you’ve had a decision from the Home Office.
David Stickland: [00:05:54] Okay, so these rules are quite tricky, aren’t they? They’re the sorts of things that decision makers can misunderstand or get wrong or we as advisers can easily miss. So it’s going to be really important that people check these rules and, like you say, can make a really big difference in terms of amounts, because we’re comparing large differences, aren’t we? You know, the amounts when we look at shared accommodation rate as opposed to the one bed rate is really very different, isn’t it? So potentially large sums and this is in this is in universal credit, right. Is it also reflected in housing benefit?
Charlotte Richards: [00:06:34] It says yes, there’s a slight difference with the housing benefit though, in that if you’re not if you’re in shared accommodation, you can’t get the higher rate, whereas universal credit, you will get the one bed rate whether you’re in shared accommodation or not.
David Stickland: [00:06:51] Got it. That’s an important difference, isn’t it? Yeah. Great. Okay. And you mentioned evidence there, so we’ll be able to make some links on our website because there was a long list there which I didn’t quite get all of and will want to be able to make that available to everybody. So we’ll do that on the website. Good. Thanks. And you said that was from beginning of October, basically. So as of as of now, right?
Charlotte Richards: [00:07:16] Yes, from the 1st October. Yeah.
David Stickland: [00:07:18] Okay, cool. My number one item, which I do, I kind of have been banging on a bit about on training for a while is to do with cost of living crisis and inflation and benefit uprating, because there’s been a call on Rishi Sunak by more than 100 organisations calling on Rishi Sunak to honour his commitment to go ahead with the normal uprating of benefits. And I had a look through the story. I looked through the organisations and that that wasn’t the thing that I really want to share it. It made me think about the numbers within all of this and it made me look back over the last number of years. And what I discovered was in the last 12 years, there’s only been four years where benefits have actually been uprated with inflation because the years 2011, 2012, those were and then there was a 1% increase, which I’d forgotten about the years 13, 14 and 15. I often on training when we’re looking at benefit rates, I might mention when we’re talking about the cost of living crisis, that there was a freeze between 2015 and 2020 when benefit rates didn’t go up at all, and I think we all remember that. But what I’d forgotten was in the three years running up to that, it wasn’t inflation either. It was it was 1%, which amounted to a 70p per week increase. If you were receiving jobseeker’s allowance or basic amounts of ESA at that time, then it was a freeze between 2015 and 2020.
David Stickland: [00:09:05] And then we’ve seen uprating in 2021 and as of this year, April 2022, bringing a basic amount of jobseeker’s allowance up to £77 per week. So I guess I’m not making a point in terms of advice, but I’m really hoping that that we see that inflationary increase. And the call on Rishi Sunak is to, is to do it as soon as possible, not to wait until April. You know, that obviously would be even better, but as an absolute minimum for benefit rates to be uprated with inflation from at least April. So I guess we’ll all need to keep an eye out for developments on that and listen to the news and so on. And of course, we’ll let people know as as and when there are any developments. It’s quite shocking, isn’t it, when you look at the history over the last 12 years and you look at how much the the rates have gone up by, it’s it’s really bad. And almost in and of itself explains why we’ve seen the the increase in use in food banks and the additional pressures on food banks and so on now. Yeah. Will, can we go back to your list and maybe you can tell us what was your number two?
Will Hadwen: [00:10:26] Yes, so my number two is indirectly also related to the cost of living crisis, and it’s to do with Pension Credit, which is one of the qualifying benefits for the additional payment, as we know. But what’s happening with Pension Credit is really quite concerning at the moment because there are massive, massive delays in getting claims processed. There was a take up campaign which amongst other things increased the volume of Pension Credit claims.
David Stickland: [00:10:56] Yes, I remember that. Yeah.
Will Hadwen: [00:10:58] And so what we’ve now got is delays that go back to before the campaign. And I know myself that I was dealing with these delays right at the beginning of this year, but they’ve now been exacerbated by huge volume of new claims. Major result of the take up campaign. And and as a result of people thinking I want to get my cost of living additional payment. So it’s really, really concerning and it’s especially concerning for those people who absolutely depend on Pension Credit for their livelihood. So, for example, maybe you’re on Universal Credit and you reach pension age you would normally claim UC you may be entitled to some state pension, but it’s unlikely to be enough. And people are finding that even if they claim an advance just doesn’t help, it doesn’t really make any difference. If anything, it appears Pension Credit don’t get round to processing your claim until your pension date age date anyway. Oh yes.
David Stickland: [00:11:57] Yes. That’s something I wasn’t aware of.
Will Hadwen: [00:11:59] We’re not sure, but this appears possible just due to the backlog. So from an advice point of view, there are two things. One is to make complaints, and particularly if your client has lost out in a way that won’t be compensated for by backdating so that they will get the full amount backdated eventually and they will get the cost of living payment in a mop up exercise. But there may be other passported benefits that they had to fork out for at the time and incurred more expense by doing so. So it’s worth thinking about that. There’s also a pre-action letter on the CPAG website. I don’t think we should be using that indiscriminately, but if someone has had a long delay and is also somebody who really needs Pension Credit in in order to survive because they don’t have a state pension. Or they have a very small state pension, and it’s the difference between managing and not managing. I would really, really urge people to use that. I’m a bit wary because you’re not to bombard the legal department and it might lose its efficacy if too many people use it. But on the other hand, it’s a really serious situation for quite a few people.
David Stickland: [00:13:20] Hmm. Got it. Yeah. With the advance claims because advance claims can be made three or four months in advance.
Will Hadwen: [00:13:31] Three months before pension age. Yeah.
David Stickland: [00:13:33] So the law allows for that. I mean, I’m just wondering if. If there’s any mileage in making an advance claim and then starting the process of getting onto the DWP and considering a complaint before because, you know, you could argue that the delay is from when you make the claim.
Will Hadwen: [00:13:53] I certainly wouldn’t say to people, don’t make advance claims. I don’t think that’s the advice at all. I think the advanced claims provision is in the law and you should use it, particularly if you’re someone who’s on long term benefits before pension age. But it appears it’s not very clear, but it appears that the DWP might be counting their the sort of expectation of when the claim will be dealt with from pension age and not before. That doesn’t mean you can’t complain, of course, and it doesn’t mean you can’t use a pre-action letter if you really, really need that benefit.
David Stickland: [00:14:33] Okay. So just to summarise then for people claim promptly consider an advanced claim because they can be made up to three months in advance. Consider a complaint if you can, if there’s a what you think is an unreasonable delay and in the worst case scenario, consider using a Pre-action letter. Those are available on the CPAG website and they so we can provide a link to those.
Will Hadwen: [00:14:57] Absolutely. Yeah. And if you’re unsure whether to use one, get in touch with the Judicial Review Project.
David Stickland: [00:15:03] Thanks, Will. Brilliant. Charlotte, your second one, I wonder. What’s that?
Charlotte Richards: [00:15:09] Well back to cost of living payments again. So just an update on the next load of cost of living payments, the second part of it. So that’s due to be paid in between the 8th and the 23rd of November for Universal Credit claimants and income based JSA, Income related ESA, Income Support and Pension Credit, and the relevant dates that you need to have been entitled to are the 26th August. But between the 26th of August and the 25th of September. So if you had an assessment period for Universal Credit and you ended between those dates, then you should be entitled to the next payment, which is £324. Tax Credits slightly later are due to be paid between (sorry for people who are only on tax credits, I should say), the payments due to be made between the 23rd and the 30th November. Okay. Again, using those dates 26th August to the 25th of September of the relevant sort of period.
David Stickland: [00:16:21] Right. So coming up this month, next cost of living payment you’re saying is £324. Yeah. For Universal Credit claimants, the key thing to check and I think this caught me out before back in April or whenever it was because I didn’t quite recognise that it was going to be when your assessment period ends. But it’s when it ends, isn’t it? I was advising people to make claims, which I thought, Oh, you’re going to be just in time. And then it came to it and they and they weren’t because it’s when, when it ends. So your assessment period has to end between the 26th August and the 25th September, I think, as we said.
Charlotte Richards: [00:16:57] Yes. And you need to have an award as well. So I know I think I had a colleague who had a situation where somebody was getting four weekly pay packets and it just so fell, you know, fell that they had two within their assessment period, which meant they had no award of Universal Credit just for that assessment period. And it means that they’ve lost out on that. There’s nothing you can do about it.
David Stickland: [00:17:22] Actually. Unlucky.
Charlotte Richards: [00:17:23] It’s just one of those things. Yeah. Yeah.
David Stickland: [00:17:26] Okay, cool. Thanks, Charlotte.
Charlotte Richards: [00:17:27] It’s quite a rigid rules.
David Stickland: [00:17:29] Yeah. Thank you. All right, my next one. Another little hobby horse of mine Will, some of the statistics that we get to see. So this time it’s the work capability assessment outcomes in Universal Credit, which we were going to discuss an ESA a few months ago. We never got around to it. So I’ve kind of compiled both of both sets of results. And I think the thing that I really want to share with people is the importance of going through the Work Capability Assessment in terms of getting that extra amount in Universal Credit, which is another £350, whatever it is, £ per month, isn’t it? So super, super important. And I think when I look at the Work Capability Assessment criteria for the Limited Capability for Work Related Activity test on first reading, when I look at that with people that I’m working with, I quite often think this is going to be tricky. I’m not sure this is going to apply and then we go through it and I get more information from them. But I think actually you’ve got a really good case and then it turns out that we’re successful and the statistics show that very often people are successful and people might be surprised by this. So I’ve got the statistics which I can put on the screen. And for those people that are listening to this podcast, I’ll just mention some of it. So here you go. So these are statistics from July 2021/July last year through to June of this year, and basically the ratio is 1:1:3. So if you look at the most recent set of statistics, June 2020 to this year, 10 thousand of of about 50 what’s that 56,000 cases, 10,000 odd were basically found to be fit for work, 10,000 abouts were limited capability for work and 36,000 were limited capability for work related activity.
David Stickland: [00:19:27] So basically if five if you’re looking at five cases, you can expect one to be fit for work, one to be limited capability for work and three to be limited capability for work related activity in sort of typical cases or based on the statistics. So really important for people to help people go through this process, even though it’s difficult, it’s lengthy, stressful, and in lots of cases it’s nonetheless really important. And if I scroll down to taking a sort of longer term view, I don’t know how easy this is to see, but you can basically see the pattern. Back in 2008, when ESA was introduced, it was a small proportion that were found to be limited capability for work related activity or support group. Under ESA, most were fit for work and a relatively small proportion were limited capability for work. But over time, what you see as we scroll through to December of last year, the dark blue columns are rising. So basically that’s the support group or limited capability for work related activity, which now makes up the vast majority of outcomes. So I really want to encourage people to help their clients and service users go through that process, not least in order to get the extra amount that’s available in in universal credit. We’ve got a couple of minutes. Not very long. Let’s briefly do it. Will, what’s left on your list?
Will Hadwen: [00:21:00] So I have another take-up issue that seems to be my theme of this this month. And this a local government association report on Healthy Start, which found that it’s very under claimed. Okay. I thought was interesting because it’s not that much research done on some of these passporting benefits which are in a way very separate from DWP. It’s an NHS run scheme. Now it is just England and Wales. I’m talking about Northern Ireland as well. It doesn’t apply in Scotland, which has its own best start food scheme. But anyway, the problem is that people who are on qualifying benefits and could be getting a minimum of £4.25, sometimes more, to spend on fruit, vegetables, milk, infant formula, they’re not all claiming it. And I think that’s probably partly because there is a separate claim procedure and people have to claim for so many bits and bobs, even with Universal Credit. So it’s an income maximisation shout, really, just to make sure when you’re working with families, with young children or someone who’s pregnant to check healthy start or best start foods, whichever it may be where the client is based.
David Stickland: [00:22:18] Thanks, Will. And I know on on our courses it barely gets a mention. To be honest, it’s a bit of a footnote in our Introduction to Benefits course. So yeah, we include it as one in the list of available sort of passporting or means tested benefits. And we include the definition, but we don’t really talk about it. So if you’ve not heard of Healthy Start vouchers, then check out the links. We’ll put the links on the website. Really important income maximisation opportunity, as you say Will. Good. Thank you. And Charlotte, I wonder if you were nodding there. Was that also on your list?
Charlotte Richards: [00:22:53] That was on my list, yes. They said one in three people are missing out on it. Who could claim it? Yeah, it is. Yeah. It’s not a load of money, but, you know, we’re all scrabbling around for everything we can get at the moment, aren’t we? So I think that’s worth a mention. Yeah.
David Stickland: [00:23:07] Great. Thank you. I think that’s where we’ll bring it to an end then. Thanks both Charlotte and Will, as ever. A reminder to everybody that our advice service is is available. You’ll see the email in the corner of my screen there. That’s assuming you’ve attended training with this in the last 12 months. If you haven’t done, you can sign up for a course on our website, of course, and a date for your diary, trying to do our best to make sure that we make people aware of our next webinar, which I’ve lost. The other is 10th January at 2 pm, so 10th of January early in the new year. Assuming you’ve attended training with us recently, you can attend those for free. It’s a 60 minute session, you can ask any questions you like. We’ll be happy to answer them. Thanks both again. See you soon and everybody else. Take care. Bye bye.
Charlotte Richards: [00:24:04] Thank you. Bye.