April 2019 Newsletter
Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information.
Also in this issue find out more about:
- Disability Benefits - proposed changes in Scotland..
- Welfare Reform training - that will make a difference - Book now!
- 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!
Universal Credit and Carers
Many carers claiming Universal Credit are missing out!
Where a UC claimant is a (non-paid) carer and is looking after a severely disabled person or child for 35 hours or more a week, then their UC award should include the 'Carer Element' worth up to £163.73 a month.
But this 'Element' is often missed altogether, or for a period when the claimant should have been entitled to it.
A UC claimant who thinks they are entitled should request a Mandatory Reconsideration on their UC journal explaining why and giving the date from which they believe they became entitled.
There are many reasons why claimants are missing out, this but the main ones are:
1. The rules of entitlement under UC are different to the legacy benefit system
As the rules are different many claimants (and some advisers) don't realise they are in fact entitled.
To have the Carer Element included in a UC award, the UC claimant:
- Does not have to be awarded Carers Allowance.
- Could be working and earning above the 'earnings threshold' for Carers Allowance.
2. The DWP miss off the award
Even where the claimant is clearly entitled to it, it can still be missing from the award.
Sometimes the DWP say that to be entitled to the Carer Element in UC the claimant has to be getting Carers Allowance - this is not true.
3. The DWP don't always 'backdate' the Carer Element
Where a UC claimant has made a claim for Carers Allowance and has this backdated, then a Carer Element should also be included in their UC award for the same period (this falls under what is referred to as the 'relevant benefit' rules - click here).
4. Awaiting award of PIP, DLA or AA - need to notify DWP that they are a carer
Where a UC claimant has notified the DWP that they are a carer - and the person they are caring for is a member of their benefit family ie partner or dependent child - and that person is awaiting the outcome of a PIP, DLA or AA award, then once awarded and - if the claimant then meets the qualifying conditions for Carers Allowance - a Carer Element should be included in their UC award. And it should be backdated to the date the PIP, DLA, AA has been awarded from or the date the carer notified the DWP of their caring responsibilities - whichever is the later (this falls under what is referred to as the 'relevant benefit' rules).
5. Made claim for UC following death of disabled person - Carers Allowance in payment but no Carer Element?
Claimants who make a new claim for Universal Credit triggered* by the death of someone they cared for, are finding that although they qualify for the 8 week run-on of Carers Allowance, because they are not physically caring for someone the DWP are not including the Carer Element when assessing their UC award*.
The Carers Allowance is being taken as income £1 for £1, but with no Carer Element in the assessment the claimant is not benefiting from the run-on in the way that was originally intended.
Regulation 29 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013 does require a claimant to have 'regular and substantial caring responsibilities' for a severely disabled person in order to qualify for the Carer Element. However, Regulation 30 then defines what this is. Regulation 30 of the UC Regulations state: ‘a person has regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person if they satisfy the conditions for entitlement to a carer’s allowance.’ Obviously. if someone is in receipt of Carers Allowance then they must meet the conditions of entitlement to it!
We have devised a new standard letter UCHM8 that a claimant can use to initially request the inclusion of the Carer Element and then a Mandatory Reconsideration if necessary
We are aware that CPAG have raised the issue - via Judicial Review - with the DWP that there is reduced protection in UC when compared to the legacy benefit system for some carers having to make a new claim for UC. The DWP responded positively by allowing the Carer Element and stating that they would review their guidance for staff. So this is also highlighted in our letter.
*NOTE: Not all changes trigger the need to claim UC, and this change in circumstance will not always trigger the need to claim UC.
Where the claimant is getting Income Support to top up their Carers Allowance then they are best sticking with the Income Support top up - which will continue during the 8 week run-on - unless they need to claim UC eg if it is their partner who died and their partner was the HB claimant, or if they have dependent children in which case any Child Tax Credit would stop.
Mixed age couples..
The rules for Mixed Age couples are changing from 15th May 2019
Failure to act now could mean that they miss out on £7,500 a year extra income.
Unless the couple are already on:
- No new claims for Pension Credit or Housing Benefit
There are plenty of mixed age couples who could claim Pension Credit and/or Housing Benefit but who don't.
- Pension Credit, or
- Housing Benefit under the HB Pension Credit age Regulations.
There are still many pensioners who don't claim the Pension Credit / Housing Benefit they are entitled to - with around £3 billion a year in Pension Credit going unclaimed. Some of those missing out will be mixed age couples. So it is important to ensure these couples claim as soon as possible.
All mixed age couples not already on Pension Credit ad/or Housing Benefit should see if they can claim. We know that 4 in 10 households who could qualify for Pension Credit fail to make a claim!
If they make that claim before 15th May - even if they are awarded just 50p a week - this could then protect them from having to move onto UC if they have a change in their circumstances.
A mixed age couple where one is working and the other has pensions, living in a rented property with an eligible rent of £125 a week, would be entitled to some Housing Benefit if their joint weekly income was £450 or less!
But if they don't claim Housing Benefit now, and then have a change after 15th May 2019, they will have to claim the less generous Universal Credit.
Below we have given a couple of examples.
We all need to ensure that Mixed Age Couples don't miss out...…
We have devised a leaflet, text message, news article and letter for you to use.
What if they are already on Universal Credit?
Those mixed age couple already on Universal Credit can - before 15th May 2019 - end their UC claim and claim Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and/or Tax Credits instead if they would be better off. This could make a significant difference to their weekly income for several years. Click here for more information.
Jim and Mandy are aged 67 and 62 respectively. They currently live in a two bedroom social rented house in Newcastle. Mandy is working part-time and they manage on her wages and Jim's pension so they haven't claimed any benefits.
In July 2019 Mandy is made redundant. She gets a redundancy payment of £5,000 but that isn't going to last long, and they now need help paying their rent - but their only option is Universal Credit.
Had they made a claim for Housing Benefit before 15th May 2019 they would have been entitled to just £1.78 a week.
Not much, BUT that would have meant that when Mandy was made redundant Jim could have made a new claim for Pension Credit and they could have stayed on Housing Benefit too.
They would have been over £150 a week ie £7,800 a year better off - and Mandy wouldn't have to be spending 35 hours a week looking for a job!
Hani and Brinda are aged 71 and 64 respectively. They have been living with their daughter and her family, and so didn't feel the need to claim Pension Credit - they felt Hani's pension of £200 was enough for them to live on.
But Hani is struggling with the stairs and they have applied for re-housing.
In September 2019 they are offered a one bedroom bungalow. When they move in they will need help paying their rent - £100 a week. As they are not already getting Pension Credit they will have to make a new claim for Universal Credit.
UC awards them £65.55 per month.
Had they claimed Pension Credit before 15th May they would have got £55.25 per week in Pension Credit.
And then when they moved home they would have been entitled to a further £100 a week Housing Benefit.
EEA Nationals & Pre-Settled Status
At the moment an EEA National with Settled or Pre-Settled Status is able to claim benefits - including Universal Credit.
The rules on those with Pre-Settled Status are about to change...…
Regulations published on 16th April - to come into force on 7th May - state that Pre-Settled status will NOT entitle the holder to Universal Credit, or Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Based JSA or Income Related ESA.
This means an EEA national without Settled Status must rely on another form of Right to Reside if they wish to receive any of these benefits.
What is Settled and Pre-Settled Status?
Under the new EU Settlement Scheme - introduced because of Brexit - an EEA National (and certain family members) can apply for 'Settled Status' if they have been continuously residing in the UK for 5 years or more. Settled Status is also known as 'Indefinite Leave to Remain'. This not only secures their right to remain, work and claim benefits in the UK after Brexit, but also means they have a right to benefits as soon as it is granted (so long as they pass the 'actual habitual residence test').
Those EEA Nationals who have not yet been in the UK for 5 years can apply, but will be given 'Pre-Settled Status' which they can convert to 'settled status' once they've been continuously resident in the UK for 5 years.
At the moment 'Pre-Settled Status' gives the holder the right to claim benefits - but this is being withdrawn from 7th May.
What about those claimants who are getting benefit because they have Pre-Settled Status?
As far as we are aware, their right to benefits based on them having Pre-Settled Status will end on 6th May and they will then have to show the DWP / LA that they have a Right to Reside in order to continue to be entitled to that benefit.
Have you seen our new EEA Nationals and UC Help Pack?
Click here to get started....
Since 1st February families with 3 or more children have been able to make new claims for Universal Credit.
We have seen an increase in the number of queries we've received about how the Benefit Cap works which we thought it would be useful to share with you...…...
I have a couple on Universal Credit whose award is affected by both the Benefit Cap and the Minimum Income Floor - is this right?
Unfortunately, a family can be affected by both the Minimum Income Floor and the Benefit Cap.
Whilst families with earnings in any Monthly Assessment Period over £569.23 a month are excluded from the Benefit Cap - for self-employed earners it is their actual earnings that are considered rather than their assumed earnings ie where the Minimum Income Floor is applied.
One of my tenants recently took responsibility for her sister's two children. As she already had two children of her own, her Universal Credit award ended up being Benefit Capped.
But she had only finished work two months earlier - after working in the same job for several years - so I had assumed the Benefit Cap 'grace period' would apply.
But the DWP are refusing to apply the 'grace period' to her UC award because she was not subject to the Benefit Cap immediately on finishing work?
There is nothing in the UC Regulations to state that the 'grace period' will only apply if the claimant if affected by the Benefit Cap on the day they finish work. The Regulations state that the 'grace period' runs for a period of 9 months from the point at which the claimant is entitled to it.
So she needs to request a mandatory reconsideration of their decision not to apply the 'grace period' - she can quote UC Regulation 82 para 2(b) which states that a grace period runs for 9 months from the day after a claimant (who meets all the conditions for the 'grace period') finishes work. She could also ask them to quote the Regulation that states the claimant must be affected by the Benefit Cap immediately on finishing work for it to apply - they won't be able to because there isn't one!
I have a family on Universal Credit who are affected by the Benefit Cap. I helped them apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment - but this has been refused because there is no shortfall in their Housing Costs Element. Is there anything they can do?
So long as the claimant is liable for some rent, there will be a Housing Costs Element included in the Universal Credit assessment and they can apply for a DHP - even if that Housing Costs Element covers the claimant's actual rental liability.
So the Local Authority were wrong to refuse the DHP for that reason - and your claimant should challenge the LA's decision.
The Local Authority cannot tell how much of a Universal Credit award is to help the claimant pay their rent - once all the elements are added together the DWP will then go on to reduce this 'maximum Universal Credit' figure by any assessable earnings, unearned income, Benefit Cap reduction, and deductions; and the award is then paid in one 'lump'. You cannot break down this 'lump' into how much is for rent, for childcare, for children etc.
This is confirmed in Housing Benefit Bulletin G9/2016 which is about awarding a DHP where a UC claimant has been affected by the Benefit Cap which states:
'The benefit cap is applied to the Universal Credit award as a whole not a specific element. A capped Universal Credit claimant can apply for a DHP as long as their Universal Credit award includes housing costs. There is no need for some of those costs (or a de-minimis amount) to be left ‘payable’.'
Arrears Payment of
Impact on current award
An estimated 210,000 claimants who have been transferred from Incapacity Benefit to ESA have been underpaid due to DWP errors.
The DWP are currently trawling cases to check who has missed out. So far, the average amount of under paid Income-Related ESA has been £6000.
Will these arrears payments count as savings?
There are special rules that apply to arrears payments of certain benefits.
Where the arrears payment is for £5000 or more
If the arrears payment is for £5000 or more, then because the payment is due to the DWP’s error, the rules say that the payment should be disregarded as capital for the lifetime of the existing Income-Related ESA claim.
So what happens if the ESA claimant moves onto UC?
If the payment had been £5000 or more then, as long as there isn't a gap of more than a month between the ESA ending and the UC starting, the disregard will continue to apply for the lifetime of the UC award.
If the arrears payment is less than £5000
Then it is ignored for 12 months from the date received.
If the claimant does not spend the arrears payment within the 12 months – and they have other capital / savings, the arrears pay out could take a claimant's savings over the upper savings limit of £16,000 - meaning they are not entitled to benefit any more - or over the lower savings threshold of £6,000 where their savings affect the amount they are entitled to
But claimants should be careful how they spend their money! If the DWP decide that they have deliberately got rid of the money in order to be able to continue to receive the benefit after the 12-month disregard period – they might treat them as if they still have it. So it is best if they spend the money in a reasonable way and keep receipts!
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DLA, PIP, AA
Proposed changes in Scotland!
The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on its plans to replace Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance with its own Disability Assistance benefits:
- Disability Assistance for Children and Young People - New claims will start to be taken from the summer of 2020. This will gradually replace Disability Living Allowance.
- Disability Assistance for Older People – New claims will start to be taken by early 2021 – instead of claims for Attendance Allowance.
- Disability Assistance for Working Age People - New claims will start to be taken by the end of 2021 – gradually replacing PIP.
The qualifying conditions will be broadly the same as for the benefits they are replacing. However, the Scottish Government is proposing some changes, including:
- The application process is being redesigned from beginning to end to make it more person centred.
- The private sector will not carry out any medical assessments.
- When young people turn 16 their award of Disability Living Allowance or Disability Assistance for Children and Young People will be automatically extended until they reach 18.
- There will be a new definition of terminal illness
- The ‘moving around’ mobility descriptor for Disability Assistance for Working Age People is likely to be different to the PIP descriptor because the Scottish Government says it has ‘serious concerns about the way in which the ability to move around is currently assessed and measured’.
The deadline to respond to the consultation is 28th May 2019.
Updated leaflets for April 2019
Need Training in 2019?
When you understand Universal Credit,
you can make smart decisions about
what to do next!
We are now taking bookings for 2019
Please contact us asap - dates are disappearing fast!!
Please see the website/our training brochure for more details of the training we offer.
Our popular in-house courses cost just £965+vat for up to 16 delegates
- that works out at £60+vat per delegate!