June 2019 Newsletter
Welcome to this month's newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful benefit information.
In this issue find out more about:
- Fraudulent UC claims - leaving claimants in hardship
- Mixed age couples - act now!
- Claiming compensation for incorrect advice - some claimants have done it!
- Work Focused Interviews - avoiding sanctions
- New Bedroom Tax Decision
- Advice for Uni students with children
- Young people between college and uni - info for parents/carers on UC
- 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!
It has been reported in the media (and we are aware of cases) where people have ended up on Universal Credit through being scammed.
The fraudsters often pretend to be officials offering a government grant or loan and then use their victim’s identity to make a bogus claim for Universal Credit and an online request for an Advance Payment. The fraudsters keep a substantial amount of the Advance for themselves.
Often, the victim only becomes aware of what has really happened when their legacy benefits stop and they find they are now a Universal Credit claimant with a large Advance to repay which they did not receive.
The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers has written to Amber Rudd to request that the facility to apply online for Advances be removed and for victims of the scam not to be pursued for the debt.
We also feel that where someone can demonstrate that they have been completely scammed and had no knowledge whatsoever that the ‘loan’ or ‘grant’ was in any way connected with a UC claim, then the DWP should allow them back onto the legacy benefit system (particularly where they are vulnerable and are now worse off on UC compared with their legacy benefits). There appears to be no DWP policy on this and no guarantee that this would be allowed, but the claimant could make a request. Please contact us if you have any such cases.
Mixed Age Couples...….
Make sure you're giving your mixed age couples the correct advice.
The new rules are extremely complicated and it would be easy to overlook the options some mixed age couples have.
New claims for Housing Benefit and Pension Credit can still be made by many mixed age couples.
And there is a real risk that they are told they need to claim Universal Credit when they don't need to!
If you do one E-Learning course this year - make sure it's this one ….
You could save a couple
over £140 a week!
Claiming Compensation for incorrect advice
Many people end up on UC even though they did not actually need to claim it - and many are worse off financially as a result! The ‘lobster pot’ effect means that where someone has claimed Universal Credit, then they are stuck on UC* - even if they were wrongly advised and it was not the best thing for them to do.
If someone has been misadvised by the DWP, the local authority, Tax Credit Office or another advice agency that making a claim for UC was their only option and they have lost out financially as a result, they might decide to claim compensation.Neil Couling, Director General, Change Group, Department for Work and Pensions has given details of a couple of situations where the DWP have paid compensation to claimants who were wrongly advised by their staff - see below.This will be a long process and there are no guarantees that the claimant will get what they hope for, but they have nothing to lose by trying.
The claimant will have a stronger case and will be more likely to receive compensation if they:
• can provide evidence that they have been misadvised – ie state the name of the person who misadvised them, the date and time of the phone call or face to face conversation and a record of what the person said to them.
• the claimant did not contribute to the problem – ie by not telling the 'whole story'.
Examples where compensation has been paid include:
Someone who wanted to claim contributory employment support allowance was wrongly advised to claim Universal Credit because the DWP adviser said, 'There is no employment support allowance anymore.' The claimant claimed UC and lost their tax credits and is £63.84 a week worse off as a consequence. The DWP has awarded ongoing compensation of £63.84 per week.
A UC claimant was advised that child benefit was part of UC, so they did not claim child benefit and lost out on it for a number of weeks. The DWP paid compensation to make up for the loss of child benefit for the period.
Surprisingly, the number of complaints and requests for compensation made is very low - perhaps people are not aware that they can do so.
More info about claiming compensation here.
Make sure you are giving the correct advice!
Search for the information you need on our website
And if you are not sure - email us! firstname.lastname@example.org(*The only people who can escape the lobster pot are those who ‘fail’ the SDP gateway. The rules prevent them from claiming UC, so if they have claimed in error, they can be moved back onto the legacy benefit system.)
Advising someone who has been found fit for work?
Or helping with an ESA50/UC50 questionnaire?
We've updated our information on the
Work Capability Assessment criteria.
Click here for UC
and click here for ESA
Work Focused Interviews -
Sanctions can be imposed for various ‘offences’ but, in the year to January 2019, 86% of all the decisions to impose a UC sanction were for failure to attend or participate in a Work-Focused Interview.
A Work Focused Interview is an interview (normally held at the Jobcentre) between the claimant and the Work Coach to discuss the claimant’s progress with their work search or work preparation. The frequency of WFIs will vary, depending on how often the Work Coach feels they need to see the claimant.
Only claimants who are in the ‘no work requirements’ conditionality group (eg those whose youngest child is under 1, those with a limited capability for work related activities ie support group, full time carers) are exempt from having to attend WFIs.
For those who are required to attend WFIs – the following top tips are key:
• Turn up on time for WFI appointments
• If the claimant knows that they will be unable to attend – contact the work coach in advance to re-arrange
• Participate in the discussion – show willing!
• If the claimant has missed their appointment – book a new appointment ASAP – sanction periods for failing to attend/participate in a WFI increase for each day of ‘non-compliance’ re-booking will limit the sanction period to the shortest possible period
• If the claimant had a good reason for failing to attend/participate or was not properly notified of the appointment and the consequences of not attending – they should challenge the decision
Have you seen our
EEA Nationals and UC Help Pack?
Click here to get started....
The Court of Appeal has ruled that if a room works as a bedroom ie adequate storage space, privacy, natural light ie a window, ventilation, heating, then it doesn't matter if 2 children/adults etc can't fit into it.
So, in this case - where there was a 3 bedroom property with one double bedroom for the parents and two rooms that can only fit one child in each - the judgement was that because the two boys were of an age to be deemed able to share a bedroom the family were under-occupying and a 14 per cent reduction should be applied under the size criteria rules.
The judge said that HB regulation (B13(5)) 'depersonalises the assessment to be performed such that the characteristics of the particular individuals are irrelevant....
There is nothing in the regulations to indicate that any such assessment is required to take account of how a property and, in particular, the bedrooms in the property would be used by a particular family unit.'
Advice for Uni students
Students will see a drop in their income over the summer vacation as their student finance is for term-time.
Where the student has dependent children, then (unless they have moved to UC) they will normally be in receipt of Child Tax Credit (and maybe some HB) during term time. But what will they get during the summer vacation?
In the past they would have been able to claim Income Support or Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (and HB if not already getting any) during the summer vacation - but this is no longer possible for most due to the rollout of Universal Credit.
They might be advised to claim Universal Credit - but they should GET SPECIALIST ADVICE FIRST - as they could be worse off on UC!
Most student income is disregarded for Tax Credits - so if the claimant opts for UC during the summer, they are likely to find that when they go back to uni after the summer they are worse off.
They could also be worse off on UC if they are affected by the Benefit Cap, have DWP debts or have a disabled child. So they should get specialist advice before opting for UC - as there is no turning back!
& Child Element in UC
This is the time of year when many sixth form college students are finishing A level or equivalent exams. Many will be planning to go on to study at university or other higher education colleges in September.
Under the legacy benefit system, the parent/carer could continue to receive both Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit (if entitled) right up to the end of August ie through the summer months.
However, the rules under Universal Credit are different!
In UC, there is no provision to continue to include the Child Element or (if applicable) the Disabled Child Element in the UC assessment over the summer from when a young person finishes college/school and is going on into advanced education.
Entitlement to these elements ends from the start of the Monthly Assessment Period which includes the last day of the young person's course or their last exam. So, for example, if a young person's last exam was on 20th June, their parent's/carer's Universal Credit award could be less than they expect on the next UC payday after this!
So what are the options?
The young person might be able to get paid work over the summer.
Or, if the young person is age 18 or over, they could make a claim for UC in their own right. If the young person does make a claim for UC be aware that:
- The parent's/carer's Child Benefit would then stop.
- Most young people will to be entitled to £251.77 a month.
- They would have to sign a claimant commitment that is likely to require them to spend 35 hours a week, every week, looking for work - otherwise they could be sanctioned
- Their UC award would come to an end from the beginning of the Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) in which they start full time advanced education (unless they are one of the few students who can claim UC - click here).
If the young person does not start work of 24 hours per week or more, or claim UC in their own right, the parent’s/carer’s Child Benefit will continue to be paid until 1st September.
Updated leaflets for April 2019
Need Training in 2019?
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!
My customer claimed Universal Credit last year, after being found fit for work and their ESA ended.
They have now won their ESA appeal - can they swap back onto ESA?
Unfortunately not! Once someone is on UC, they are stuck in the UC 'lobster pot'.
However, their UC award should be adjusted to reflect the outcome of the ESA appeal.
So, if the appeal decision is that the claimant was entitled to receive the Work Related Activity Component (this could only be possible if they had been on ESA continuously since before 3 April 2017), then their UC should include the LCW Element from the start. Or, if the appeal decision was that the claimant was in the Support Group, their UC should be adjusted to include the LCWRA Element from the start of the UC award.