Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Newsletters: Feb/March 2018

February/March 2018 Newsletter

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

In this issue find out more about:

  • Free School Meals - new rules from April for UC claimants in England
  • ESA payments - why someone might not get paid whilst awaiting their appeal
  • HB Change of Address - a HB change of circumstances should not trigger a UC claim
  • New video - our new short video explaining monthly assessment periods
  • Changes to the Simple Payment Service - some changes for claimants without a bank account
  • Rent changes - how to notify the UC department about tenants on the Live UC Service
  • Our training courses - you can use any surplus budget from this year and spread the cost with our training vouchers
  • Success stories - helping you to help your tenants.

    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!

Free School Meals for Universal Credit claimants -
changes from April 2018

New rules from 1st April 2018 will introduce an earnings threshold for new Universal Credit claimants.

Currently, in England (and Wales) free school lunches are available to all children whose family receives Universal Credit. Even if the parents are working, as long as they are entitled to some Universal Credit, their children are ‘passported’ for free school meals, estimated to be worth around £400 per year per child.

A change to the rules in England will mean that new Universal Credit claimants who have earned more than the threshold will not be eligible for free school meals.

The new rules will affect those who make a new claim for Universal Credit on or after 1st April 2018. Unless they are protected (because they moved from other benefits which passport to free school meals onto UC), they will be subject to the new rules.

To find out more about the threshold and protections - click here.

What to advise now...

Currently on UC but not getting free school meals?
The claimant can make a claim now –www.gov.uk/apply-free-school-meals

Working and not currently claiming any benefits?
It is worth a parent (or responsible carer of a child / young person) checking to see if they could claim UC.
Even if they are only going to qualify for a small amount of UC to top up their other income, it could be well worth it!
If they make their claim by 31 March 2018 and remain entitled to some UC, they will be protected from the new free school meal threshold earnings rules and will still be entitled to free school meals regardless of whether their earned income exceeds the threshold, until their children leave the stage of education they are currently in, or until 31.3.22 if this date is later, or until there is a break in their UC claim.

Whether they would be able to claim UC will depend on where they live and how many children they have - if they live in a Full / Digital UC Service area and have 1 or 2 children, then they could claim Universal Credit.

Getting Working Tax Credit – is it worth swapping onto UC?
If someone is receiving Working Tax Credit, then they are not eligible for free school meals under the existing rules.
So, would it be worth them claiming Universal Credit instead – and making that claim before 31st March 2018 so that they get then get free school meals for their child / children?
Maybe – but before they do so, it is important that they get advice, in case there are other factors which mean they would be worse off on Universal Credit. These factors could be, for example:if they have a disabled child their overall income may be less under UC,the claimant might be expected to look for extra work under a UC claim, or the claimant may have deductions taken from their UC, reducing the amount of UC payable.

Whether they would be able to claim UC will depend on where they live and how many children they have. If they live in a Full / Digital UC Service area and have 1 or 2 children, then they could claim Universal Credit.

What about other claimants?
If they are currently getting one of the other ‘passport benefits’ then they should already be eligible for free school meals anyway, and therefore protected from the new rules.

In Scotland, there is already an earnings threshold. A UC claimant will not be passported for free school meals if, in the Monthly Assessment Period immediately preceding the application for a free school lunch, they had earned income of more than £610.
In Wales, the Welsh Government has not yet decided what to do about free school meals for children in families claiming UC.

No new claims for
Universal Credit

Just a quick reminder:

Nobody living in a Live / non-digital UC Service area can make a new claim for Universal Credit. They will be able to claim
'legacy' benefits instead.

This has been the case since 1st January 2018.

Please see our Briefing for more information.

BUT Remember that some people who have previously been on Universal Credit have to re-claim Universal Credit - it is not classed as a 'new' claim because they are still considered to be a UC claimant. More info here.

Getting Payments of ESA
whilst awaiting an appeal

We have received a few queries recently about claimants who have been refused payments of ESA pending their appeal where they were expecting their ESA to be re-instated.
Unfortunately it appears that the DWP are correct.

The only claimants who can get their ESA reinstated when they are appealing a ESA decision are those:

  • Who have been 'found fit'* for work and either:
  • this is the first ever decision regarding their work capability, or
  • the previous decision on their work capability was that they did have a limited capability for work ie that that were 'unfit for work'.

*ie didn't score enough points nor fall under any of the exceptional circumstances.
NOTE: Where a claimant has failed to return their ESA50, or failed to attend their medical and they are appealing that decision, then they cannot get ESA reinstated.

Back in 2015 when the 'repeat claim' rules were introduced -which look at who can get paid ESA whilst awaiting a Work Capability Assessment -there was also a change to the rules on which claimants can get ESA reinstated whilst awaiting the outcome of an appeal. Indeed the amending Regulations were called The ESA (Repeat Assessments &Pending Appeal Awards) (Amending) Regulations 2015 - click here.

But this is the first time we have become aware of such changes causing a problem. Perhaps the DWP have issued new guidance to staff. Or this may have become an issue because, in Full UC Service areas, those found fit for work have been trying to avoid having to claim Universal Credit - but as they cannot claim JSA whilst awaiting the outcome of the appeal,are being left with no income at all and so are seeking advice.

Anyone trying to avoid Universal Credit and hoping to get payments of ESA reinstated whilst awaiting their appeal should be aware of this!!

So,where the claimant is appealing a ‘found fit for work’ decision, you need to consider whether there has been a previous decision on their limited capability for work and what that last decision was, ie. the last time the DWP made a determination regarding the claimant's capability for work. If it was also a ‘found fit for work’ or 'treated as fit for work' decision then the claimant cannot be paid ESA whilst appealing the current 'found fit for work' decision.

They can still appeal the decision, but may need to consider making a claim for Universal Credit (if they live in a Full/Digital UC Service area) or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (if they live in a Live/non-digital Service area).

NOTE: The 'repeat claim' rules work differently during the assessment phase (whilst the claimant is awaiting their Work Capability Assessment) compared with whilst someone is awaiting their appeal hearing. The rules allow payment of ESA for those who have a new or significantly worse medical condition during the assessment phase, but this rule does not apply to those awaiting an appeal.

More information, examples and a flowchart here.

Need Training in 2018?

If you have any money left in this year's budget why not buy a training voucher for use next year ??

Vouchers are available for any amount and can be redeemed against a course booked before 31st December 2018.

Please click here to see our training brochure.

HB - Change of address within Local Authority

= change of circumstances!

Housing Benefit claimants who move to a new home within the same Local Authority area will need to let the Housing Benefit Office know of their move and their Housing Benefit award should continue.

This is a change of circumstances: there is no need for a new HB claim.

However, some HB Offices ask claimants to fill in a new claim form (online or paper form). They do so for their own convenience, usually because the new claim process is an easy way of gathering all the information needed.

If the Full/Digital Universal Credit Service has been introduced in the area the claimant is moving within, they might be incorrectly advised that they have to claim Universal Credit.

But, if there is an existing HB claim and the only change of circumstances is the move, and that move is within the LA area (ie there has been no separation or taking on a partner which has brought a Tax Credits award to an end, nor any other change causing any of the 6 'legacy benefits' to end) then there is no need to swap over to Universal Credit.

So even where the Local Authority insist on completion of a 'new claim form' - they should not be treating it as a new claim, but rather a 'change of circumstances', so they do not need to claim UC.

Please let us know if this has caused any issues in your area.
Have you seen our UC Trigger crib sheet?

Have you seen our new video?

It's all about UC
Monthly Assessment Periods.

Find our short video explaining how UC works here

We are currently working on a longer more detailed version - watch this space!
Claimants who cannot open a bank account

– changes to the way they are paid.

Benefit payments for those who are not able to have a bank/building society/credit union account or Post Office card account may currently be paid via the Simple Payment service. Most claimants who use this service are issued with a card, which they can take to a PayPoint outlet and withdraw money which has been ‘uploaded’ onto their card by the DWP.

The government has announced that the Simple Payment service is to be replaced by HM Government Payment Service by 20th March 2018. Anyone using the Simple Payment service should receive a letter explaining how the changes will affect them.

It does not sound like a huge change. The announcement says:

  • Most customers will continue to receive payment by the same method (SMS text or card).
  • Payment will continue to be through PayPoint outlets in the same way as the Simple Payments service.
  • Customers could opt to be paid by text, pdf email containing a voucher or card.
  • Benefits or pensions issued under the new service will need to be withdrawn within 30 days of receipt or the customer will need to contact DWP to have the payment voucher reissued.
  • Unlike the Simple Payment card where holders could withdraw up to £499.99 in one transaction. Payments under the new scheme will be made in sums up to £100, so anyone receiving over £100 will receive multiple vouchers requiring separate transactions to collect the money.
Waiting days abolished!

Nobody making a new claim for Universal Credit from 14th February 2018 onwards should be subject to the 7 'waiting days'.

Good news!

But still keep your eye out for historic errors!

Ever since their introduction, there have been problems where claimants who should not have been subject to the waiting days had them applied to their claim.

You may still come across claimants who had the waiting days imposed incorrectly. Check the date they first made their claim against the start date of their Monthly Assessment Periods - if they are a week apart, then this could be the case.

Where the DWP have made an error claimants can ask for the week's Universal Credit owed to them! There is no time limit for an official error to be corrected.

NOTE: This may mean that the DWP have to re-build the UC claim on their system and this will then change the claimant's Monthly Assessment Periods and pay date - so it is always best that the claimant gets advice first before requesting the waiting days are disapplied to ensure it is in their best interests.
BUT: Changes to the UC Regulations from April 11th 2018 will mean that the DWP will be able to award the extra week's UC entitlement without having to reset the claim - watch out for a standard letter in our next newsletter!!

Have you seen our latest UC Booklet?

It's all about the
UC Digital service.

Find out how to order copies here.

Digital UC - The Essentials

Universal Credit is so much more than just claiming online.
Delegates on our 'Digital UC - The Essentials' course are always amazed at how much they didn't know about UC - how different it is to the existing benefits system - how much claimants are missing out on - and how much poor advice is being given to claimants leaving them in financial hardship and struggling to pay their rent.
This course aims to equip delegates with the information and tools they need to tackle the problems that arise, ensuring claimants receive their full entitlement and deal with the complexities of the system.

Why not book this in-house course for your staff for just £895+vat for a full day's training?
Just email: training@housingsystems.co.uk

Click here for the outline

"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

"This was really, really useful - the best UC course
I have attended so far."
Debt and Welfare Benefits Officer
Rent changes

You can notify the DWP of rent changes for tenants who are on Universal Credit
- on the Live /
non-digital Service

The deadline is 30th March
Find out more here.

Recent successes

We are aware of many success stories from members who either used the information on our website/or used our email query service.

A housing worker recently contacted us about a couple who had been notified of a large Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support overpayment.

The couple had made their claim last year after one member of the couple had had a stroke, so instead of a full wage, he was on Statutory Sick Pay. They had provided payslips with all the required evidence. An overpayment occurred because the local authority failed to include the SSP as income.

The claimants were considering withdrawing their appeal after the local authority had 
contacted them. The LA admitted to the claimants they had made an error, but advised them to withdraw their appeal. They told the couple they would not win as,despite it being the LA's error, they should have been aware that the SSP had not been taken into account.

We advised the housing worker as follows:

There was no reason for the couple to withdraw their appeal:they had nothing to lose!

To win their appeal, they would need to show that they could not reasonably have known that they were being overpaid.

There were several arguments that could be used to support the fact that the couple could not reasonably have known they were being overpaid. They had never claimed HB previously, they had provided all the payslips which had been requested, they had not been able to understand their award notices, the rules are complex and they could not reasonably have been expected to know that one type of sickness/disability income - SSP - would be included as income when his PIP was not.

Some case law decisions might be relevant: eg CH/2554/2002 - Where there was no mention at all of the claimants State Retirement Pension on the award notice, the claimant might have concluded that this was being ignored as income and therefore not realise they were being overpaid; or CH/2554/2002 - A 'typical claimant cannot reasonably be expected to read or understand the calculations' so they could not reasonably be expected to realise that they were being overpaid.

The local authority agreed to write off the overpayment - which was over £850 of Housing Benefit and more than £200 in Council Tax Support.

If you have a complex query and you cannot find the information you need on our website, you can email us at info@housingsystems.co.uk

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 highlight a new letter - UC HM4.

UC HM4 is for claimants to use when two monthly wages are counted within one UC Monthly Assessment Period because their employer was late notifying HMRC of the wages paid.

When this happens it normally means that there is no entitlement to Universal Credit for that Monthly Assessment Period and those claiming UC on the Digital service will need to make a 'rapid reclaim' in order to be able to receive UC again for subsequent Monthly Assessment Periods. This also causes budgeting difficulties,and some claimants actually lose out financially when this happens.

There is now case law that states the DWP should use the date the wage was actually paid rather than the date the employer reported it - and this is highlighted in the letter.

You can find more information and a link to the letter here.

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 the many tools which are at your fingertips too!

Have you seen our....

HB Overpayment for UC Claimant Flowchart?

If you receive an invoice for a Housing Benefit overpayment made to one of your tenants who is now a Universal Credit claimant - check out this flowchart to make sure you are only paying where it is appropriate to do so!

You can find the flowchart here.

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.
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.

Well done to last month's winner - Jeanette
from Teign Housing- a £50 cheque will be making its way to HITS, her nominated Food Bank.

To enter this month's competition, just email the answer to the question below to us by Friday 23rd March for your chance to win.

Here is this month's quiz question:

Max and Erica live together in a one-bedroom flat and are claiming Universal Credit to top up Max’s wages. Erica was looking for work, but she has recently given birth to their first child.

Which of the following statements is FALSE?

They will not be able to get a child element included in their Universal Credit award until they have reported the change in their circumstances to the UC department.

They will not be able to get a child element included in their Universal Credit award until their claim for Child Benefit is processed, which may take several weeks.

They will not be able to get a child element included in their Universal Credit award until they have provided evidence that the baby is living with them and is their responsibility.

Find your answer here.

email your answer ie A, B or C to: info@housingsystems.co.uk

Using the links in the newsletter
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Not a member yet? Would you and your colleagues find information like this useful? Then contact us for more details about becoming a member: info@housingsystems.co.uk.
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