Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
News Headlines 2021
26th October 2021: Covid-19 related easements to ESA extended to 24th March 2022. Easements to ESA that mean someone with coronavirus or self-isolating (or looking after a child/QYP in one of these situations) can be treated as having a LCW without providing medical evidence or having a WCA and do not need to serve waiting days. For more on claiming ESA with coronavirus click here. For the Regs click here.

25th October 2021: Government announces £65 million support package for vulnerable renters. The newly announced funding increases what has already been committed through the Homelessness Prevention Grant. The grant is aimed at preventing homelessness and will be given to low-income earners with rent arrears - it is up to local authorities how they support renters. Click here for more.

22nd October 2021: Warm home discount scheme is open - helpline (0800 731 0214). Those getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit on 04/07/21 ('core' group) and some benefit claimants with low incomes (broader group) will be entitled to £140 off their electricity bill over winter. Those in the 'core' group will receive a letter informing them of their entitlement and those in the 'broader' group will need to contact their energy supplier directly. Click here for more information.

17th October 2021: Do you have any clients/tenants who have had problems with health assessments for benefits?
The Work and Pensions Select Committee would like people to respond to a survey for an inquiry into health assessments and how they might be improved. In particular, it is looking at -
How DWP could improve the quality of its assessments;
What lessons can be learnt from the pandemic and should the changes made continue; and 
How could DWP make apply for benefits more straightforward for claimants.

15th October 2021: Some UC claimants being asked to provide pictures of them standing at their front door, standing with their road sign and with a local paper dated on the same day as they upload the pictures.
Claimants who made their claims for UC during lockdown and so were not asked to attend an ID verification interview are being asked to upload these pictures as an alternative to attending Jobcentres which are still not fully open. More on ID verification here. 

14th October 2021: Two separate Court of Appeal decisions hold that the 'Proof of Payment rule' for the Childcare Costs Element and the Benefit Cap earnings assessment are not irrational.
Both decisions were based on the fact that UC was designed to be based on payments actually received in the month. Even though this causes problems for claimants who need to pay their childcare costs up front and/or earn the earnings threshold for the benefit cap but are paid every 4 weeks. More on the childcare element here and more on the benefit cap here 

14th October 2021: Late applicants to the EU Settlement scheme CAN make a claim for HB, UC and other benefits.
They need to provide a certificate of Application, and to be eligible they will also need a qualifying Right to Reside. Confirmed in HB Circular A10/2021.

8th October 2021: Household Support Fund will be available to those with no recourse to public funds and can be used for housing costs in 'exceptional cases of genuine emergency'. 
Draft guidance has revealed that authorities have the ability to deliver the scheme through various routes including providing vouchers or food, or issuing grants to third parties. At least 50% of the total funding should be used to support households with children. 

7th October 2021: The £20 uplift to Universal Credit ends.
To see the reduced Standard Allowance rates click here.

30th September 2021: Claimants currently getting Tax Credits and/or Child Benefit paid into a Post Office account need to make alternative arrangements and notify HMRC by 30th November 2021. Earlier this month, the DWP announced that it was extending the deadline for closing Post Office accounts to November 2022 - HMRC have not joined them in this decision.  More on claiming UC without a bank account here. 

30th September 2021: Claimants of Working Tax Credit who are working reduced hours due to Covid-19 will need to report their
reduced hours from 25th November 2021.
The rules on reporting reduced hours on Working Tax Credit were eased earlier in the pandemic but normal rules will resume from 25th November 2021. 
More from gov.uk here.  

30th September 2021: Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) ends today. Gov.uk advice for those affected here. Info on UC for self employed on the website here.

30th September 2021: Job Retention Scheme (furlough)  ends today.
The government have stated that employers have 3 options:
Bring employees back to work on their agreed terms and conditions
Terminate their employment (normal redundancy rules apply)
Agree with employees any changes to terms and conditions of employment.
How redundancy payments affect UC on this page.

30th September 2021: Government launches £500 million support fund for vulnerable households.
The money will be made available to Local Authorities in October 2021 and it is up to them to determine their own eligibility conditions - though the government suggest small grants should be given to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities. For the government announcement click here. 

29th September 2021: Maximum third party deduction of 5% of the claimant's Standard Allowance for legal fines. 
Though taking 5% of the claimant's Standard Allowance has been DWP policy since May 2021, this will be reflected in the Regulations from 29th October 2021. For more on third party deductions for court fines click here.

29th September 2021: 
DWP have updated UC claimants’ journals with the following message: 
‘We introduced a temporary increase to Universal Credit payments in April 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This means you have been receiving up to an extra £20 a week (£86.67 a month).
This temporary increase to Universal Credit is ending soon for all claimants. Your payment on [relevant date] is the last time you will receive this extra amount.' And it directs claimants to this guide for help with managing money.

27th September 2021: TalkTalk offers jobseekers 6 months of free broadband. JobCentres will have referral codes to give to eligible claimants who can then call up with the code to pre-pay for 6 months of unlimited broadband. At the end of the 6 months, claimants can choose to roll onto a contract with TalkTalk or cancel the service for free.

21st September 2021: Amending Regulations allow the DWP to pay benefit arrears in instalments where in best interests of claim and claimant agrees.
Applies to many benefits including Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance - click here for more details.

13th September 2021: New caselaw states that fostering allowances paid by approved agencies to carers of looked after children should be disregarded as income for Housing Benefit.
The judge ruled that foster carers who receive fostering allowances from a private company that was used by the Local Authority to find accommodation for the child should be treated the same as those receiving fostering allowances directly from the Local Authority. More on how income is treated under Housing Benefit here.

11th September 2021: Glitch in digital "View and Prove EUSS status" system is causing problems for EEA Nationals.
The Guardian reports that when someone applies to change from Pre-Settled Status to Settled status the system only shows a certificate of application and does not show that the person has Pre-settled status. Although this is sufficient to prove a right to live, work, rent and access benefits not all employers/banks etc realise this and applicants are being rejected. More on the EU Settlement scheme in this section.

10th September 2021: From 1st October 2021 claimants living in a social sector property that has been adapted under a sanctuary scheme will be excluded from the Bedroom Tax. 
Following a European Court of Human Rights judgement in 2019, new Regulations have been published which exclude victims of domestic abuse living in a social sector rented property that is adapted under the sanctuary scheme from the Bedroom Tax. This applies to both Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. See the Regulations here. And find more info on the Bedroom Tax under UC here and HB here. 

9th September 2021: Post Office card accounts closure extended until November 2022.

Due to disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the planned closure of Post Office card accounts has been extended by 12 months to allow the most vulnerable claimants to make alternative arrangements. More from gov.uk here. More on claiming UC without a bank account here. 

3rd September 2021: People arriving to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) will be given Indefinite Leave to Remain on arrival. This means they will be eligible for UC and other benefits. More from gov.uk here. More on  Indefinite Leave to Remain here.

31st August 2021: 
According to the DWP's Touchbase newsletter, the Universal Credit system now automatically identifies claimants who receive a second monthly salary payment in one benefit assessment period. 
The second payment will be moved forward to the next assessment period to ensure the claimant’s benefits don’t fluctuate from one month to the next.  
note although the system automatically identifies this, it appears the moving of the payment still has to be done manually.

25th August 2021: DWP's request for tenders to help deliver "Move to UC" have now closed with 19 complete applications.
Note the work described as "working within the wider UC Programme to enhance existing UC Product to identify people still claiming legacy benefits and to safely move people at scale from the legacy benefits, to UC" should start by 25th October 2021 with a 24 to 30 month contract. "Move to UC" ie the managed migration process, began in Harrogate but was halted due to Covid. More from gov.uk here. More on managed migration here

2nd August 2021: Child Disability Payments, which replace DLA (care) for children in Scotland are now available in Dundee City, Perth and Kinross and the Western Isles. Applications open for the rest of Scotland in the autumn.
Rates, and most entitlement conditions for CDP are the same as DLA (care) and it will be treated the same in respect of other benefits. More from gov.scot here.

2nd August 2021: 5th SEISS scheme open. 
If turnover is down by 30% or more they get 80% of 3 months' average trading profits, up to max £7,500.
If turnover is down less than 30%, they get 30% of 3 months' average trading profits to max £2,850.
Anyone who only became self-employed in 2019/2020 doesn't need to show proof of a drop in turnover. 
HMRC will contact affected individuals directly to tell them when they can apply.
More from gov.uk here.

27th July 2021: Advice Worker Survey.
 The Ministry of Justice is surveying advice organisations to improve their understanding of the needs and characteristics of people seeking legal support and how organisations currently provide advice.
This survey is specifically aimed at frontline staff who provide advice to members of the public, including advisers (volunteers and paid), caseworkers and lawyers.
 It should only take approximately 8 minutes to complete. 
Survey here.
If you have any questions about this work, please contact holly.challenger@digital.justice.gov.uk

 27th July 2021:
The Public Law Project (PLP) would like to hear about your experience of benefit sanctions since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – including whether or not sanctioning decisions is currently a key issue for the individuals you support.
The 5 minute survey will be used to help shape a research project looking at why claimants do – and do not – challenge benefit sanction decisions. Link to survey here.
If you have any questions about the survey or would like to find out more about the broader research, please contact Caroline Selman at c.selman@publiclawproject.org.uk

26th July 2021:
UC claimants were notified on 23rd July that the £20 uplift to UC is to end in the autumn. They are being notified on their journals. If a MAP ends on 5th October it should include the higher amount, but if it ends on 6th October, the standard allowance would be back to the usual rates. 
 Joseph Rowntree Foundation article on the end to the uplift here.  £20 uplift info on our Covid pages here.

26th July 2021: The DWP has agreed to compensate a couple in full for loss of benefit income when moving to UC, because their SDP was reinstated after they claimed UC. They were originally not protected from UC because they didn't have an SDP when they claimed UC, but the DWP conceded their Judicial Review represented by Garden Court Chambers. The DWP will pay £9,680 in arrears and more than £300 per month in ongoing compensation, plus an ex-gratia compensation payment of £1,600 and their full legal costs. Garden Court Chambers report here. This could mean that a claimant who was in a similar position between January 2019 and January 2021 should seek legal advice to see if they could also be compensated.

23rd July 2021:On 15 July a draft plan was laid before Parliament to extend Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment to surviving co-habiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death. Once approved by Parliament, the changes will apply retrospectively from 30 August 2018, with any backdated payments being made as lump sums. More from gov.uk here.

23rd July 2021: Citizens Advice are running advice sessions at Yorkshire Building Society branches in Yorkshire as part of a trial.They will be offering advice on benefits, debt, employment, housing, consumer issues and more. Info on the scheme here.

21st July 2021: Various school meal/activity programmes for the school holidays on this page.

16th July 2021: 
DWP has agreed to change its practice of pressuring disabled benefits claimants who had appealed a DWP decision into accepting an "offer" of less than they are legally entitled to. Those called were often not told about their appeal rights or dissuaded from going to a tribunal. As a result of a PIP claimant's challenge (supported by Public Law Project), the DWP has agreed to re-write their policies and guidance and will retrain DWP officials.
Details from Public Law Project here.
12th July 2021: Covid easements to the Minimum Income Floor end from 31st July 2021. But there are "easements" for some - those who were part way through the 12 month "start-up period" had the clock stopped when the easements started - so they can serve the rest of the start-up period, and the DWP has the discretion to continue easements for those whose businesses are still affected by Covid. Details on this page.

12th July 2021: DWP have begun the "Could UC be for you?"campaign on social media and on their webpage.
.Although there is a link to a link from Citizens Advice on moving from legacy benefits, and another to a gov.uk page on moving from tax credits, there is little else warning that people could be worse off - so beware if directing claimants to this information. There is also no mention of the forthcoming  £20 per week drop, nor of high rates of deductions. Website page Universal Credit - working for you here 

6th July 2021: New extra statutory benefits payments to continue temporarily for EEA nationals and family members who have not yet applied to the EUSS.
New claims for benefits cannot be made. Home office is writing to those it has identified and will write again in September, giving a month before benefits are suspended, then a further month to apply before payments terminated. (This data matching exercise appears to be separate from the formal notifications to apply which only allow 28 days). In both cases good cause for lateness must be shown. Letter from DWP to Revenues & Benefits managers here.

6th July 2021: 2 new gov.uk factsheets for landlords on the EU Settlement Scheme.
One is on Right to Rent, confirming retrospective checks not required and landlords shouldn't evict those who haven't yet applied; one with information for late applicants to the EUSS - who have 28 days to apply from receiving an official notice from the Home Office. Fact sheet on late applications here; factsheet on Right to Rent here. Updated guidance on Right to Rent for landlords here.

28th June 2021: Deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme is in 2 days - 30th June. Those who have applied by then but not heard will have their rights protected. NOTE:
It appears those who apply within 28 days of receiving an official notice to apply will NOT have their benefits stopped automatically if they apply within that time. DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson has said "Those currently receiving benefits will not see their payments stop automatically from 1 July. It is, however, important that anyone who hasn’t applied to the EUSS does so quickly, including if the HO contacts them following the deadline, to ensure that benefit payments don’t stop"  Parliamentary answer here.
More from a news report here.

21st June 2021: EEA nationals  and family members who cannot use the online application for the EU Settlement Scheme can now download a form.
This is only for those who have no passport /ID card, or otherwise are unable to use the online application and have already contacted the EU Resolution centre and been allowed to use a "paper" application. Form available on Home Office website here.  EU Resolution centre helpline contact details here

21st June 2020: Will Quince statement gives hope that UC claimants will shortly not need to alert work coaches to 2 month's wages paid in one assessment period.
In a parliamentary answer on 14/06 he said "We expect to automate identification of affected claimants in mid-summer 2021. This will allow us to proactively correct awards before they are paid, without the need for the claimant to raise the issue. "

16th June 2021.
DWP overpayments recovery guide changed to state that recoverable hardship payments do not have to be repaid in exceptional circumstances. These are effectively recoverable reductions in a sanction where the claimant is in hardship. The guidance states:"5.83 In exceptional circumstances the Secretary of State can use their discretion to waive all or some of an overpayment and any associated penalty and recoverable hardship payments where it is appropriate to do so.
5.85 Waiver is considered on the individual circumstances of the case but is normally only considered where both current and future recovery action will result in severe issues for the welfare of the debtor or their family
." This follows  a successful Judicial Review by Public Law Project. More on hardship payments here

7th June 2021: Only 23 days til the deadline for EEA nationals and their family members to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
From 1st July they will be unlawfully present if not applied (special rules for pending applications). Check out our new flowchart for the situation from 1st July: here.

2nd June 2021: Leigh Day solicitors are asking for cases of disabled students refused UC due to changes in the regs that mean they have to not only be getting PIP but have been found to have a limited capability for work.
Needed by 6th July. More details here. Info on disabled students and UC on this page.

1st June 2021: Eviction ban ends today.
Advice from Shelter here

31st May 2021:
Changes to the LHA rate
Max age for care leavers to get the one bed LHA rate (rather than shared accommodation rate)raised from 22 to 25.
No age limit for eligibility to the one bed LHA rate (rather than shared accommodation rate) for those who have lived in a homeless hostel for 3 months or more. 
More on LHA rates on this page.

20th May 2021: Financial vulnerabilities: call for evidence.
The DWP Serious Case Panel would like anonymous case studies for them to consider in order to "expand their understanding of the financial circumstances that make customers vulnerable, to support internal learning, decision-making and change design."
Please click here for the areas they would lie information on, and where to submit. 

17th May 2021: Fraud and error statistics.
In 2020/21 overpayment and underpayments of UC and State Pension combined (no other benefits reported for 2021) were 3.9% overpayment, 1.2% underpayment. Both are the highest reported rates to date. 
Housing Costs errors remained the largest Claimant Error underpayment reason. The increase from 0.2% to 0.5% was due to more claimants incorrectly declaring their Housing Costs. The Fraud overpayment rate rose from 1.4% to 3.0%. 
The estimated rate of overpayments in UC rose from 9.4% to 14.5%.
Official Error overpayments decreased from 1.3% to 0.9%.
Stats here.

14th May 2021: DWP changes Court Fines Deduction rate in its Benefits Rates Policy Paper. 
The paper states that court fines are deducted from UC at 5% of the standard allowance. This follows the High Court ruling in March that the DWP's rigid policy of deducting the maximum rate of £108.35 was unlawful. Policy paper here. More on TPDs for Court Fines here.

13th May 2021: Over 5.42 million applications have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme up to the end of April 2021.
5,423,300 applications were received.
5,118,300 applications were concluded.
52% were granted Settled Status and 44% were granted Pre-settled Status.
Of the remaining applications, 1% received a withdrawn or void outcome, 1% were invalid and 1% were refused. Statistics here.

13th May 2021: 
DWP and HMRC will be issuing letters on or around 14 May, 21 May and 28 May to people they believe may need to apply to the EUSS. The letters will include guidance on who should apply and how to do so, and will advise them of support available to assist applications. HMRC will also be issuing text messages on EUSS to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens in late May. How to apply to the EUSS here.

11th May 2021: 320,000 applications to the EU Settlement scheme not yet processed. There are less than 50 days to the application deadline, although some may be allowed an extension if the Homs Office accepts they have reasonable grounds. And those pending applications should be protected More here.
Guardian article here

10th May 2021: 
From July 2021 DWP will make its first referrals to a new Restart Scheme. It will give UC claimants who've been out of work for between 12 to 18 months enhanced support to find jobs. Providers, including Maximus, Serco and G4S,will work with employers, local government and other partners to deliver tailored support for individuals More from gov.uk here.

4th May 2021:
BT introduces a Home Essentials tariff of £15 a month on fibre broadband for those receiving Universal Credit, Guarantee Pension Credit, IB JSA, Income Support, and IR ESA More here.

4th May 2021: New guidance for money advisers on Breathing Space (Debt Respite Scheme). It confirms that UC Advances are excluded debts. Also states "Government debts like tax and benefit debts are all likely to qualify, unless they are included in the list of excluded debts." The scheme starts today.
Guidance here.

3rd May 2021: Permission granted for 2 ESA claimants to seek a judicial review in the High Court of the decision not to apply the £20 a week uplift to ESA.
This was introduced for UC claimants - an additional £20 a week in the standard allowance - during the pandemic. But it was not applied to ESA. More on the case here. More on the UC uplift here.

3rd May 2021: DWP guidance on PIP reviews where a telephone assessment is impossible.
The guidance confirms that where there is sufficient evidence  to make a decision this should be forwarded to the DWP, but shorter (9 to 12 month) review periods should be used; and where there is insufficient evidence the DWP has discretion to make a nil award. Guidance here. 

3rd May 2021: 
In [2021] EWHC 1085 (Admin), the High Court ruled that the government's ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy unlawfully fails to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
The High Court quashed the judgement in In ST & Anor v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2021] EWHC 1085 (Admin) (29 April 2021), to impose NRPF on a South African parent of a British child.
Lady Justice Laing concluded that paragraph GEN1.11A of Appendix FM to the Immigration rules (which states when the NRPF will/will not be applied to a parent or child) does not fully comply with the requirements of section 55 of the Borders Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to ensure that any functions or services in relation to immigration have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the UK.
If a non EEA national with a child has been told they have No Recourse to Public Funds they should seek advice from a registered immigration adviser as soon as possible.
More on NRPF on this page.

25th April 2021:Face to face medical assessments resume. 
Where the DWP feel they cannot gather sufficient information for the assessment by phone or paper,  face-to-face assessments for Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit in England resume from 12 April 2021, 26 April Scotland and Wales; face-to-face assessments for PIP and work capability assessments for Universal Credit and ESA resume from May 2021 in England Scotland and Wales in line with when indoor socialising is allowed in each country.

23rd April 2021:NHF report "Universal Credit in a time of crisis".
Summary here. To combat rising arrears ,housing associations have been working hard to support tenants during the pandemic, eg helping tenants to claim benefits, supportive approaches to rent collection, hardship funds, check-in calls, and shopping for customers. Great work!

21st April 2021: Covid Winter Grant Payment to be extended to 20th June 2021 and renamed Covid Local Support Grant. LAs in England can use the funding to provide essentials such as food and help with utility bills to families and vulnerable individuals. LAs can also provide warm clothing and bedding, soap, boiler repair, purchase of fridges and ovens, and sanitary products. .
More on this page. Therese Coffey statement here

30th March 2021: F
ace to face assessments disability and work capability assessments are starting up again for cases where the DWP is unable to make an assessment from paper evidence or by phone.
Face-to-face assessments for Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit in England will resume from 12 April 2021;
face-to-face assessments for PIP and work capability assessments for Universal Credit and ESA will resume from May 2021. More from gov.uk here 

30th March 2021: In Scotland, from 26th July, the Child Disability Payment replaces DLA for children.
The Disability Assistance for Children and Young People (Scotland) Regulations 2021 set out the eligibility criteria and claims and payment rules. Regs here.
29th March 2021: Benefits uprating regulations for Northern Ireland published. 
SR.No.82/2021 and SR.No.83/2021. 

29th March 2021: 1,400 self-employed women who claimed Maternity Allowance between April 2015 and July 2017 were underpaid because they were not told they'd need to pay Class 2 NI contributions to get the higher rate. Some could be entitled to as much as £5,498. 
But to get the back pay they will need to pay the missing contributions: DWP say they will contact the underpaid women to tell them how to do this.

24th March 2021:'Substantial risk' consideration for a Limited Capability for Work/Work Related Activities Related Activities decision should take into account risk in travelling to and from the Jobcentre and job interviews, as well as to and from work. 
In CUC/747/2020 the Judge held that the tribunal erred in law under paragraph 4(1) of Schedule 8 to the UC Regs in considering only the problems the claimant may have had travelling to and from work.
More on the 'substantial risk' rules here.

24th March 2021: 
Welsh £500 funeral payment for families who have lost a child age under 18 from 1 April 2021. This will be offered when the death is registered so there is no need to make a claim. There is no means test. More from Welsh government here.

24th March 2021: 80 new temporary JobCentres announced. Also 10,000 of the planned 13,500 new Work Coaches have been recruited. List of new Jobcentres from gov.uk here.

24th March 2021: A successor to 'Gov.uk Verify'- a single sign-on digital identity service - will be piloted.
Verify is used to prove identity for Government services including Universal Credit, Income Tax, checking state pension and driving licences, etc. Many UC claimants have difficulty with it and verify ID in a different way: more on ID verification for UC on these pages.
The new service will be largely government-built and government-owned. More detail here.

23rd March 2021: DWP launches a basic Benefits Checker. Claimants currently in receipt of legacy benefits should seek advice before claiming UC as they could be worse off and will not be able to go back. Benefits Checker here. Worse off on UC? here. Better off on UC? here Our UC calculator here.

17th March 2021:
Retrospective Verification of UC awards The DWP is now reviewing UC claims which were not verified due to the high volume of new claims being received due to the pandemic. More on this page.

11th March 2021: In Ncube v Brighton and Hove City Council the High Court has ruled that councils can lawfully provide emergency accommodation for people who aren’t entitled under homelessness legislation because of their immigration status, for example because they have ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF).
The court has ruled that, while the public health emergency persists, local councils can lawfully provide accommodation to those sleeping rough who are otherwise ineligible for support. Councils can use their powers under section 138 of the Local Government Act 1972 and section 2B of the NHS Act 2006 to provide safe emergency accommodation as the current pandemic constitutes an emergency and public health issue. More from Shelter here.

11th March 2021:
A new £2 million Social Housing Fuel Support Fund will help Scottish social landlords to support tenants who are struggling with fuel costs during the coronavirus pandemic. Examples of activity that may be funded include vouchers to allow people to top-up prepayment meters, but is not limited to those with prepayment meters. Projects have to be able to be delivered by 31 March 2021. It will be funded by the Scottish Government, and managed and administered by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA). More from SFHA here including application form.

11th March 2021: The ban on bailiff evictions, and the requirement to give 6 months' notice on NOSPs, has been extended to 31 May 2021. More from gov.uk here.

3rd March 2021: Budget Benefits news:

Universal Credit:
The £20 uplift in Universal Credit Standard Allowance will continue for a further 6 months from April 2021.
The Minimum Income Floor suspension continues to the end of July 2021, gradually being re-introduced in August but with a discretion not to be applied to claimants whose self employed earnings are adversely affected by Covid.
From April, New Claim Advances & Benefit Transfer Advances can be repaid over 24 months.
Third Party Deduction maximum rate will be reduced from 30% of standard allowance to 25% .
The surplus earnings threshold, due to be reduced from £2500 to £300, will remain at £2500 until 31.03.2022.

Working Tax Credit*:
The temporary £20 uplift ends but claimants will receive a £500 one off payment.
This includes those getting Child Tax Credit only, who would be entitled to Working Tax Credit but for their income being too high to qualify.

Local Housing Allowance Shared Accommodation Rate:
From June 2021, care leavers remain exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate until age 25.
And those exempt from the Shared Accommodation Rate due to having lived in homeless hostels for 3 months will include claimants under 25 (currently 25-35).

3rd March 2021: Furlough to be extended to September. Employers will be expected to pay 10% towards the hours their staff do not work in July, increasing to 20% in August and September.

3rd March 2021: Fifth EISS payments. A fifth grant, covering the period from May 2021 to September 2021, works as follows:.  
Those whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will  receive the full grant worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £7,500.  
Those whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850.  
The scheme has been extended to include those whose business started in 2019-20.

3rd March 2021: The Budget announced a pilot no-interest loans scheme. This will help vulnerable consumers who would benefit from affordable short-term credit to meet unexpected costs as an alternative to relying on high-cost credit. 
1st March 2021: National Insurance Number applications should be available online to most people by end of March 2021.  Parliamentary answer from Guy Opperman here.

 26th February 2021:
HB Personal Allowances for some pension age claimants are reducing from April 2021.
From £191.15 down to £177.10 for single claimants who reach pension age on or after 1 April 2021;
From£286.05 down to £270.30, for couples who both (or in polygamous marriages*, all) reach pension age on or after 1 April 2021
*plus £93.20 for each additional spouse who is a member of the same household.

Other pension age claimants stay on the higher rates.

19th February 2021: Tax Credits, Child Benefit and Guardians Allowance rates for 2020/21 published. Regulations here. 

19th February 2021: War Pensions rates for 2020/21 published. HB Circular A2/2021.

19th February 2019: National Insurance Contributions Thresholds for 2020/21 published. Regulation here.

18th February 2021:The Scottish Government has announced a new £100 Covid Spring Hardship Payment targeted at low-income families whose children receive free meals in schools and early learning and childcare settings. More from gov.scot here.

18th February 2021:
The Welsh Self Isolation Support Scheme has been extended until June 2021. It is now open to applications from people with a personal income of less than £500 per week and those on Basic Statutory Sick Pay who have been asked to self-isolate by Test, Trace, Protect service, the NHS Covid-19 App or by their child’s education setting.

12th February 2021: From 26 July 2021,DLA for children in Scotland will be replaced with a child disability payment. Children will have the same passported benefits, exemptions, concessions and reliefs as for DLA. The Disability Assistance for Children and Young People (Consequential Amendment and Transitional Provision) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (SSI.No.73/021) here.

12th February 2021: DWP has started sending letters to those using Post Office Card Accounts for their UC payments, State Pension and other benefits, telling them that Post Office Card Accounts are going to close, and advising them to open a bank account and to inform them of alternative account details.
The current end date for the POCA contract with DWP is November 2021.
Claimants will still be able to use the payment exception service. More on how UC can be paid on this page.

12th February 2021: Latest statistics on applications to the EU Settlement Scheme show that 
up to the end of January 2021 across the UK 5.06 million applications were received and 4.68 million applications were processed.
53% were granted settled status and 44% were granted pre-settled status. 1% received a withdrawn or void outcome, 1% were invalid and 0.8% were refused.

3rd February 2021: From 16th February 2021 the Scottish £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended.
It will be available to workers earning the Real Living Wage or less, as well as those in receipt of a council tax reduction; and to those with caring responsibilities for someone over 16 who is asked to self-isolate. People can apply within 28 days of being told to self-isolate. More on this page.

3rd February 2021: From 5th February 2021 the Welsh Self-Isolation Support Scheme is extended to people who have been notified of exposure to Covid-19 by the NHS contact tracing app.More on this page

2nd February 2021:DWP to employ 450 extra staff to handle calls to the Debt Management team in next 3 months.  This follows news that almost 4000 calls went unanswered in the first week of January. to Written answer by Will Quince here.

1st February 2020: DWP issues revised HB circular A1/2021 giving benefit rates for 2021/22 as the original contained many errors.
Revised version here.

27th January 2021:
SDP Gateway closes today meaning people with a severe disability premium in a legacy benefit are not prevented from claiming UC.
However some will be entitled to a transitional SDP element when they move onto UC. More on this page.

25th January 2021: Salvato, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] EWHC 102 (Admin) (22 January 2021) considered the lawfulness and rationality of the "Proof of Payment Rule" in eligibility for the Child Care Element of Universal Credit.
This rule means that the claimant is only entitled to the Element if they have already paid the child care costs.
Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that the Proof of Payment Rule unlawfully discriminates indirectly against women (over 80% of those entitled to the Element are female). 
He rejected the Secretary of State's submission that the discrimination was justifiable - as to replace it with another system 'would require an enormous investment and resource'. 
He further concluded that making entitlement to the Child Care Element dependent on proof of payment, rather than proof of liability to pay, is irrational. 

Mr Justice Chamberlain had considered representations from a number of bodies including CPAG, Save the Children and Gingerbread, and will invite further submission before deciding what happens next (the appropriate "form of order") .

15th January 2021:
from 15 January 2021, the Tax Credits Reviews and Appeals (Amendment) Order 2021 allows HMRC to review final tax credits decisions, even where the tax year has been finalised or the claim is closed, to backpay disability elements so long as the claimant has notified in time that they had a qualifying disability benefit (PIP, DLA, AFIP, AA).

15th January 2021: From Monday 18th January, Jobcentre opening hours will be 10am to 2pm. The phone lines, Relay UK service and Video relay times are unaffected.

12th January 2021: New regulations on eligibility for the SDP Transitional Element in UC mean that, from 27the January 2021, where a couple separate, the partner who was not the claimant, can be entitled to this Element when they claim UC as a single person. Previously they could not. More on the SDP Transitional Element here.

12th January 2021: Will Quince in an answer to parliamentary questions has stated:
There are no plans to introduce suspension of a) a repayment of UC advances and b) sanctions.
Work coaches will work with claimants to ensure claimant commitments are reasonable for claimants’ circumstances, and allow them to continue to adhere to Covid-19 public health advice.'

9th January 2021:The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021  extend the halt on evictions to 21 February 2021 from 11 January 2021. Evictions can still be carried out where the amount of unpaid rent arrears outstanding is at least an amount equivalent to 6 months’ rent.

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