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Newsletters: December 2019

December 2019 Newsletter

Season's Greetings!

Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information.
 

In this issue find out more about:

  • PIP appeals - What should a claimant do if they are made an offer?
     
  • Universal Credit  - Make sure claimants don't get caught out by annual verification
     
  • Council Tax Exceptional Hardship Fund  - What is it? 
     
  • Update: APA Managed Payments - Pilot of new schedule system. 
     
  • Two Child Limit challenge - CPAG granted permission to appeal to Supreme Court - what should claimants do?
     
  • New Standard Letters  - Sorted an untidy tenancy, but DWP not awarding any back pay?
     
  • E-Learning Zone  - new for 2020! 

  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!
PIP appeals -
made an offer?

If someone has been refused an award of Personal Independence Payment or has received a lower award than they expected to get, they have the right to challenge that decision.

Challenging PIP decisions is a two-stage process (as it is for most other benefit decisions).

The first stage is called Mandatory Reconsideration – which is where the PIP dept will look again at their decision, taking into account any new information provided by the claimant.
If the decision is not changed, or the claimant is still not happy following the Mandatory Reconsideration, they have the right to lodge an appeal with HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

If the decision is not changed at MR stage – is it worth appealing?

Yes! Recent statistics show a continuing trend of a much higher success rate at appeal, compared with that at MR stage.

Official DWP statistics to the end of October 2019, indicate that 23% of decisions have been changed at MR stage.
Whereas Ministry of Justice statistics for July – Sept 2019 show a 76% success rate for those who appealed a PIP decision.

My client has been made an 'offer' - should they accept it?

Some claimants receive a phone call from the PIP dept, shortly after they have lodged their appeal.

This can happen where the decision maker looks again at the case, prior to preparing their appeal submission. If the decision maker thinks that they can award some, but not all, of what the claimant is requesting, they will ring the claimant to discuss this.

The claimant might be under the impression that they have only two options:

  • Agree to the new decision and there will be no appeal
  • They still want to appeal, so the decision cannot be changed 

But that would not be correct. 

If the claimant wants to accept the ‘partial’ offer, they can do so without losing their right to appeal. They would, if not happy with the offer, have to submit a further appeal - against the revised decision (rather than the original one).

The advantages of accepting the offer would be:

Firstly, they would be paid PIP from the start date of the award, and

Secondly, if they have been offered standard rate and they want to argue at the appeal for enhanced rate – then they are starting off from a better position. 

 

CLICK HERE: For more info
Universal Credit
Don't get caught out by..
Annual Verification!
Make sure Universal Credit claimants don't get caught out by the system of Annual Verification. And that the DWP apply the rules correctly.

Certain UC claimants have to re-verify their claim every 12 months - if they fail to do so then their UC claim is closed down.

If their UC award is terminated due to failure to comply, then even if a new claim is successfully made the claimant may have lost out on:

SDP Transitional Protection Payment - as entitlement ends when the award of UC ends.
Transitional Element - which applies to some claimants manage migrated onto UC under the pilot running in Harrogate - as entitlement ends when the award of UC ends.

Who is affected?

Annual Verification is generally for those claimants who have to look for work - and who have had to do so for a continuous 12 month period. This includes couples where just one of them fits this description.

Any claimant required to complete annual verification needs to comply within set time limits to ensure their UC award isn't terminated. But they should also make sure that the DWP don't terminate their claim early - ie by not applying these time limits correctly.

What’s the process?

The claimant is sent a "to-do" informing them that they need to confirm their circumstances. If any of the claim details are no longer correct, it will ask the claimant to report a change in circumstances. This needs to be completed within 14 days of the to-do. 

If the claimant fails to confirm their circumstances, on day 15 the claim will be suspended and the claimant then has a calendar month to provide the information or the claim will be terminated. 

Once terminated the claimant could claim again and be put back on the same monthly assessment period: this will be classed as a break in their claim and will end any transitional protection – e.g. SDP compensation, LCW transitional element. 

What if the claimant has had a change in circumstances that they've failed to report? 

If there has been an undeclared change, that results in an overpayment, the DWP will raise the overpayment and consider whether a penalty for failure to notify a change is appropriate. And the overpayment will be recovered by making deductions from the claimant's future UC award (where possible).

If there is an undeclared beneficial change - ie one that meant the claimant's UC award should have increased, the DWP will apply that change from the Monthly Assessment Period in which the verification is completed (unless they have a good reason why they failed to notify the change earlier). 

The aim of this verification is to reduce any fraud and/or error in the system.


 
Council Tax -
Exceptional
Hardship Fund

 
In April 2013 Council Tax Benefit was replaced with localised Council Tax Support Schemes - to help those on low incomes pay their Council Tax bill.

However, frequently those entitled to Council Tax Support are still left having to pay something towards their Council Tax bill.

Before April 2013, claimants were able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if they were struggling to pay any Council Tax that was due, but since then this has not been possible.

Instead, every Local Authority has to have an exceptional hardship fund. This is a statutory fund to alleviate hardship by reducing the Council Tax bill in exceptional cases. It is financed by the Local Authority themselves.

These funds are not always very well advertised and awareness of them is low. 

Where awarded, the claimant will not receive a cash payment; instead it is an adjustment to their Council Tax Bill and can reduce the bill to zero. 

What are the rules? 
The overall principle is to help people paying the current year’s Council Tax liability where it is causing the claimant exceptional hardship, even after doing whatever they can to reduce their outgoings. 

Each Local Authority can set their own scheme, so the rules can vary. Generally, if the claimant is struggling to pay any rental liability as well, they will be expected to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment first.

And some schemes have conditions, such as having to work with a third party agency for budgeting support, before any assistance will be given. 

Housing Systems has a standard letter (click on link below) to apply for the fund, however it is worthwhile checking the rules of the local scheme to tailor the application or to check local eligibility. A claimant will need to provide details of their budget and evidence to support their application. 

If a Local Authority refuses to provide further help, or says that they do not run such a scheme, the claimant can appeal to a Valuation Tribunal. The Tribunal has the power to order an authority to reduce, or even cancel, a Council Tax Bill.
Letter here

APA Managed Payment - trial
 
In a letter to social housing providers dated 16th December Neil Couling has confirmed that the DWP have 'started a small-scale test with a small group of Social Landlords to align the way that we pay Managed Payments to Landlords (MTtL) with a claimant's Assessment Period. This means they will receive the APA Managed Payment at the same time as the tenant receives their UC payment', with daily schedules via the Landlord Portal.

The letter states that 'subject to a successful test we aim to roll this approach out to all Social Landlords on the Landlord Portal early in 2020.'

 

New Standard Letter

We have a new standard letter for untidy tenancies.

This is for anyone who is a joint tenant where the other joint tenant left the property before the remaining joint tenant claimed UC.

The housing cost element should be based on the remaining joint tenant's liability to pay 100% of the rent from the start of the UC award.

But often DWP award the 100% from a later date: - this letter requests they revise the amount of the Housing Costs Element back to start of the award and issue a back payment.
Letter UC HCE3b can be found here.

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Two Child Limit
- challenge

 
In SC and Ors v SSWP [2019] EWCA Civ 615, the Judge decided that the way the Two Child Limit worked for kinship carers was unfair (with the result that the government subsequently changed the rules). But that, as a whole, the limit was not unlawful.

CPAG have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal's decision. If they win, the government will need to change the rules again (or revoke them altogether). 
Generally, in such cases the change only affects other cases from the date of the decision/date rules are changed - unless they are 'lookalike' cases which have already appealed and that appeal been 'stayed' awaiting the outcome of the lead case.

CPAG is contending that the Two Child Limit unlawfully discriminates against a number of different groups including, but not limited to: children, children with multiple siblings, large families, and those with a religious or moral objection to the use of birth control. Further, they content that the principal policy justification for the limit is logically flawed. They believe that it is a policy which encroaches upon very personal and intimate decisions about family size, and planning and treats some children as less deserving of a benefit intended to meet their basic needs purely because of their birth order.

This would appear to cover any family affected by the Two Child Limit (although the two families involved in the appeal are lone parents).

So families affected by the Two Child Limit could request an appeal now (after having a failed MR) and ask that their case be 'stayed' awaiting the outcome of the Supreme Court. They could then find, if the Judge agrees that the Two Child Limit is unlawful, or unlawful in a situation similar to theirs, that their award is changed from the date they requested the MR.
For a standard letter to do this - click on the link below.

Background
The Two Child Limit - introduced on 6 April 2017 - limits the number of Child Elements included in an award of Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Universal Credit (UC). 
This limit only applies to a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017.
There are a limited number of exceptions to this Two Child Limit, meaning that a Child Element is included for each child who is adopted from local authority care or who is being looked after under a non-parental caring arrangement.
The remaining children in the household are ordered by date of birth. A Child Element will be included for a third or subsequent child who is the second, third etc child in a multiple birth, a child likely to have been conceived as a result of rape or a coercive or controlling relationship or who is the child of a young person for whom the claimant is responsible. 
Click here for letter UC TCL1

New Mapping Tool:
Short video of student mapping tool
This mapping tool helps you work
out which students
can receive
Universal Credit.


Take a look at this video showing someone working their way through it.

Note the video opens up in a new window.
CLICK HERE to see all our mapping tools
New E-Learning Zone
Our new E-Learning zone will be launched in the New Year...

We've been working hard on developing E-learning courses aimed at housing professionals and benefit advisers.

You can have specialised E-Learning courses about Universal Credit at your fingertips for all your staff to enjoy.

Developed by experts in the field.

 
CLICK HERE to learn more


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 the November winner - Claire Reese from Wrexham Council - a £50 cheque is making its way to her chosen food bank.

To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 17th January 2020 for your chance to win.


This month's competition is a bit different.....

We would like you to tell us (briefly) about:
  1. In 2019 - how our website or services have helped you - just give us one example of something that you have found useful and tell us why
  2. Looking ahead to 2020 - is there something we could add to the website which you would find helpful?
Please be honest - all entries will go into the hat, so no need to butter us up!

email your entry to: info@housingsystems.co.uk
Congratulations to Rowena from Thames Valley Metropolitan who won our Christmas Card 'Spot the Candle' competition.

A payment of £500 has been made to her chosen Food Bank - the Hope Centre in Derby.

Using the links in the newsletter
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