Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.

Newsletters: August 2017

August 2017 Newsletter

Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information.

In this issue find out more about:

  • Important Upper Tier Tribunal- it is unlawful to refuse the right of appeal when a late MR request is not accepted.
  • Open training courses:Basic Benefits, PIP for Young People in Supported Housing, Digital UC - just £95+vat per delegate.
  • Key Digital UC problems- make sure your customers don't lose out!
  • Loss of the Family Premium in HB- ensure your HB offices are correctly following guidance!
  • Digital UC - Lettings Flowchart- have you see our new UC flowchart: essential if working in a Digital area.
  • Training courses- book in-house for your staff for just £845+vat.

    "Excellent trainer, very relevant and flagged up some strategic issues. I never thought I'd say I enjoyed a Welfare Benefits training session - but I really did!In fact we'd like to make it an annual event." Keniston HA
As well as:
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!
  • This month's really useful standard letter.
  • This month's really useful tool!

Upper Tribunal Decision

In October 2013 the procedures for challenging DWP decisions changed. The changes introduced the formal step of 'Mandatory Reconsideration' into the process: Where a claimant wishes to challenge a DWP decision, their first step must be to request a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR).

Since the changes were introduced, the DWP had held that without a MR decision, the claimant had no right to to take their case to an independent tribunal, ie. no right of appeal. So, where the claimant had made a late request for a MR and this late request was refused - ie no MR decision had been made -the claimant had no right of appeal.

But a new decision by a panel of three Upper Tribunal judges has ruled that the DWP's stance was unlawful and that a claimant does have the right to go to appeal even if a late MR request is refused.

The panel of three judges unanimously decided that the lack of access to an independent tribunal in these situations is a breach of a claimant's rights under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act ie the right of access to an independent and impartial tribunal in the determination of one's civil rights.

The correct position, they felt, was that where a claimant makes a MR request at any time within 13 months of the original decision, they will, if the DWP refuse to consider their late request, have the right to take their case to appeal ie to an independent tribunal. The judges felt that not to allow this right would improperly make the DWP the 'gateway to the independent tribunal system'.

The cases, supported by CPAG, were of two women both with serious health problems who were refused ESA and made late MR requests to challenge the refusal decisions. The DWP decided that neither of them met the criteria for a late MR being accepted and therefore they were unable to pursue their case to appeal.

SG v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appeal CE/766/2016) and R(CJ) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (JR/3861/2016) - click here.

NOTE: This outcome does not just apply in ESA cases but for all DWP benefits.

If you have a claimant whose MR request was made late ie outside the calendar month time limit - and the decision they wish to challenge is less than 13 months ago - they can now go on to request a late appeal of that decision and cannot be refused on the grounds that they have no MR decision.

For more information on challenging:
ESA decisions -click here.
PIP decisions -click here.
UC decisions -click here.
JSA sanctions -click here.

Note different rules apply to challenging HB decisions -click here.

Open Training Course - get booked on!

Introduction to Welfare Benefits
Thursday 12th October 2017
Exeter - Cornerstone Housing

9.30am - 4.30pm

Click here for more details

PIP for Young People in Supported Housing
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Leeds - Marriott Hotel
9.30am - 4.30pm

Click here for more details

Digital Universal Credit - the Essentials
Wednesday 18th October 2017
Plymouth Community Homes
9.30am - 4.30pm

Click here for more details

Book a place on one of these courses for just £95+vat per delegate
email info@housingsystems.co.uk


Key Digital UC Problems

Make sure your customers
don't lose out!

Below are just a few of the common problems in'Full'/Digital UC Service areas to watch out for...

New claim closed as failed to make appointment, or closed straight after failure to attend appointment
A couple with two children living in a social housing property with a rent of £140 a week could miss out on nearly £50 a day if their original claim is closed and they need to make a new one!

We are aware that some UC claimants - particularly in 'Full'/Digital Service areas - have had their new claims terminated or made 'defective' a few days (or in some cases hours) after they missed the deadline for making an appointment or where they have missed (or turned up late for) their new claim interview or identity verification appointment at the Jobcentre.

It is crucial that claimants do everything they are told to do and frequently check their UC Journal for messages, particularly in the first few days of their claim. There are likely to be a number of tasks that they will need to complete - with short deadlines. If they fail to complete them within the deadline then their claim could be seen as defective and cancelled - meaning having to make another new claim and so losing out on days or weeks of UC.

So what are the rules?
We have outlined how we think the rules should work on the relevant pages of the website- but in some circumstances it appears that the DWP have been following guidance which does not appear to be supported by Regulations, particularly where verification interviews are concerned. So we are investigating this further and will keep you updated. If you are assisting someone whose new UC claim has been terminated, email us so we can advise on the particular case.

ESA claimants who move onto UC
We are aware of claimants missing out on nearly £1,000 because the DWP are not transferring over their ESA component to their new claim for UC and insisting the claimant 'starts afresh' with a Work Capability Assessment and three month assessment period.

Where an ESA claimant needs to claim UC (eg. an Income Related ESA claimant who moves into a Digital UC Service area and needs help towards their rent) they should have their work capability decision transferred across to their UC claim.

However, many claimants are not having that decision transferred across meaning that not only are they missing out on having the appropriate Element (Limited Capability for Work or Limited Capability for Work Related Activity)included from the start of their UC claim,but that they are unnecessarily being referred for a new Work Capability Assessment and having to 'serve' the three month 'relevant period'. This is incorrect because they have already had their capability for work assessed under their ESA claim and the UC Regulations state that the decision should be transferred across.

The DWP is able to review a claimant's work capability at any time - so they may well refer the claimant for a WCA -but the claimant should still have the correct Element included in their award and be put in the correct conditionality group while being reviewed - ie it is a review the DWP should be conducting, not treating it as a new request to be found unfit for work.

More information here.

Being told UC is the only option
Many claimants are worse off on UC - some up to £95 a week worse off - so these claimants may be best not claiming UC yet if they don't really need to.

Some people could be better off if they can avoid UC for as long as possible. The DWP (and other agencies) sometimes advise people that they have no alternative but to claim UC when that is not the case.

Claimants can be worse off on UC for many reasons, including: lack of severe disability premium in the UC assessment, lower disabled child element for those children not on the high rate care component of DLA, lower standard allowances for some, no earnings disregards for some, different eligibility rules on service charges, higher deduction rates etc, click here for more information.
(But some claimants can be better off on UC, click here for more information.)

Here are a few examples of people who may be advised to claim UC when they do have another option - but do bear in mind that each set of circumstances would need careful consideration - so claimants should seek advice!

Some people whose IR-ESA ends when they are found fit for work and who challenge that decision,would be better off in the longer term if they are able to manage without claiming UC during the mandatory reconsideration period. More info here.

Parents who have been on IS / IB-JSA / IR-ESA,Child Tax Credit and HB who make the move into work. Getting Working Tax Credit when you are already on Child Tax Credit is not counted as a new claim and therefore does not trigger the need to make a UC claim.

Someone may have been getting a small amount of HB whilst working and then finish work. They may have paid sufficient NI contributions to qualify for 'New Style' Contributory JSA (or ESA if unfit for work). 'New Style' Contributory JSA or ESA can be claimed without claiming UC so it is possible to remain on HB and claim 'New Style' CJSA / CESA. More info here.

Those whose Contributory ESA expires after 365 days and who need to claim Income Related ESA instead can do so if their ESA is not 'New Style' - this is not a new ESA claim and therefore this change alone should not trigger the need to claim UC.

You can find more information on all of the above problem areas - and more here.

Digital UC & Lettings

have you see our new flowchart?
An essential tool if working in a Full/Digital service area.

Click here to find out more......
New Training Courses

Dealing with Digital - click here
Full Service UC and Lettings - click here
UC - Taking on the Challenge - click here

Book these courses in-house for just £845+vat.
- that's under £55+vat per delegate!

"Excellent trainer, very relevant and flagged up some strategic issues. I never thought I'd say I enjoyed a Welfare Benefits training session - but I really did!In fact we'd like to make it an annual event."
Keniston HA

Retaining the Family Premium in HB

– ensuring it is not lost after a past period of nil entitlement

One of last year’s welfare reform changes was the removal of the Family Premium in Housing Benefit - a loss of up to £11.34 a week.

The Family Premium was abolished for all new claims for HB dated on or after 1 May 2016; and existing HB claimants - ie those with a Family Premium included as at 30th April 2016 - retain entitlement to the Family Premium until they are no longer responsible for a child or make a new claim for HB.

We are aware of one HB Office which removed a claimant's Family Premium by requesting the claimant make a new claim for HB when they should have applied a‘closed period supersession’. The HB Office in question has now corrected their policy in line with official guidance, however we are highlighting this issue in case there are other local authorities who are adopting a similar policy...

The case through which this error came to light (and which one of our subscribers successfully challenged with our help) was a parent whose income had increased in one week and, for that week, she had no entitlement to Housing Benefit.

As the change in circumstances (increase in income) was actioned after it had happened, this meant there was a ‘closed period supersession’.

HB Circular A6/2009 explains ‘closed period supersessions’, and clearly states:
‘A claimant does not need to make a new claim if you discover that there was no entitlement for a fixed period within an award. The award may be superseded for that period and the supersession only replaces the original decision to that extent’.

The HB Office had not referred to A6/2009, but instead relied on older HB circulars to support their policy that any break in entitlement would cause the loss of the Family Premium.

We think the correct approach in this case was to apply a 'closed period supersession', meaning the tenant’s claim was not 'broken' and an overpayment should have been created for the week she was not entitled.Therefore, as no new claim was required, there was no loss of the Family Premium.

The HB Office concerned did eventually revise their decision along these lines - meaning that the tenant now receives £11.34 more per week HB.

This month's useful
standard letter

With hundreds of useful standard letters on the website it would be surprising if you were aware of all of them.So each month we highlight one for you.

This month we would like to remind you about Standard Letter ND9.

This letter is for Housing Benefit claimants who have anon-dependant living with them and the non-dependant is off work sick or on maternity leave. The lowest non-dependant deduction should apply in these circumstances:if the deduction is more than £15.25 per week, then the claimant can use this letter.

Click here for more information.

This month's

useful 'tool'

In addition to highlighting one of our standard letters in each newsletter- we thought you may find it helpful if we also remind you each month about one of the many tools which are at your fingertips too!

So - this time we would like to draw your attention to our

Universal Credit Waiting Days flowcharts.

We have one for single claimants and another for couples.

The 7 'waiting days' do not apply to all claimants. We are aware of many cases where claimants who are not subject to the waiting days miss out on 7 days' worth of Universal Credit because waiting days have incorrectly been applied.

For a single claimant age 25 plus living in a social housing property with a rent of £100 a week this would mean missing out on £174.35 - as well as having to wait an extra week to get paid.

And for a couple with two children with a rent of £140 a week, it would mean missing out on £342.05!

This is because no other benefit can be paid during the waiting days as, although the claimant's UC claim hasn't actually started yet, they are classed as a UC claimant.

One group of claimants who should not have the 'waiting days' applied are those who have, in the month before making their UC claim, been on one of the benefits Universal Credit is replacing - Income Support, Income-Related ESA, Income-Based JSA, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit or Housing Benefit. But there are many more groups of claimants who are also excluded.

The flow charts provide a quick and easy way for you to check if your customer is or is not subject to the waiting days.

If your customers are aware that they should not be subject to the waiting days,they should let their work coach know at their new claim interview - and if on the 'Full'/Digital Service also make a journal entry.

You can find the flowcharts on this page.

Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank

Every month we give you the chance to win £50 for your local food bank.
Well done to last month's winner - Jo from Southdown Housing - a £50 cheque is making its way to the Trussell Trust

The winner will be selected at random and can nominate a food bank of their choice to receive a £50 cheque from us, and will receive a box of chocolates for themselves.

Just email the answer to the question below to us by Friday 15th September for your chance to win.

This month’s question is:

What are the criteria for a Universal Credit claimant to qualify for a Carer Element to be included when their award is assessed?

Find your answer starting from this page.

email your answer to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

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