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Newsletters: January 2020

January 2020 Newsletter

Happy New Year!

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

In this issue find out more about:

  • Brexit- What it means for EEA Nationals and benefits.
  • Tax Credit overpayment- Because of change of status and now on UC.
  • SDP confusion- Getting the DWP to accept a new claim for legacy benefits!
  • Recent report on HB- Highlighting underlying entitlement
  • This Month's Standard Letter- Helped one claimant get over £2,000 in back pay!
  • E-Learning Zone- new for 2020!

  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and chocolates for you!
Brexit-
and what it means for EEA Nationals claiming benefits

It is now clear that Brexit is going to happen. And it will impact on many EEA nationals living in the UK - on their rights to live and claim benefits here.
But, initially at least, it seems it will be ‘business as usual’.

What changes on Brexit day for EEA nationals living in the UK?
If the Withdrawal Agreement Bill receives Royal Assent and becomes an Act in time for Brexit day on 31st January 2020(and we suspect it will), then there will be a ‘transition period’ during which the current rules that affect EEA nationals will continue apply.

This transition period is set to last until 31st December 2020. Until then, free movement continues, and so EEA nationals (and their family members) will be able to rely on their rightto benefits as now.

But all* EEA nationals (and their family members including those from outside the EEA) should look into applying to the EU Settlement Scheme to secure their right to live and claim benefits in the UK when the transition period ends.
*This includes those with a permanent right to reside.

Between 31st January and 31st December 2020
An EEA national (and some family members) will be entitled to benefits if:

  • They pass the Habitual Residence Test (ie are ‘habitually resident’ in the UK and have a qualifying ‘right to reside’')
Or
  • They have been given ‘settled status’under the EU Settlement Scheme.
  • ie they have been living in the UK for a period of 5 years or more

Note: Pre-settled status does not give the right to benefits. We are aware that sometimes applicants are given pre-settled status when they should have been given settled status – so they should seek advice about challenging this decision.

What about when the transition period ends?
Unless the transition period is extended - which can only happen through a change in primary legislation as the EU Withdrawal Bill precludes this – then everything changes from 1st January 2021.
Passing the 'Habitual Residence Test' ie having a qualifying ‘right to reside’ - even if this is a 'permanent right to reside,' will no longer entitle an EEA national / family member to remain in the UK or claim benefits!

Who will be entitled to benefits from 1st January 2021 onwards?
An EEA national (and their family members) will only be able to claim benefits from 1st January 2021 if:
  • They have been granted settled (but not pre-settled) status under the EU Settlement scheme, or
  • If they already have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ granted before the UK joined the EU, or
  • They have applied for and been given anew immigration status that allows them to claim.

What should we be advising EEA nationals to do now?
All EEA nationals (and their family members including those from outside the EEA) should look into applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, to secure their rights to live in the UK – and for those given settled status their right to claim benefits – after 30th December 2020.

CLICK HERE: For more info
Tax Credit Overpayment?
Because of a delay in reporting a change in status?
This was a query that came in recently:

Question:
I have a client who has been overpaid Tax Credits because she did not notify HMRC on time when her new partner moved in.

Her single Tax Credit award should have ended when he moved in - but they delayed claiming UC and continued receiving her Tax Credits for several weeks.

I know that in the past (before UC was introduced), they would have made a new (couple) Tax Credit claim and when they did so, the overpayment would have been reduced by any 'notional entitlement' - ie the amount of Tax Credits that they would have received if the new couple Tax Credits claim been made at the correct time.

I assume that it is no longer possible to have the overpayment reduced in this way, now that it has to be a new claim for UC?

Answer:
It would be unfair to remove the possibility of reducing the overpayment simply because a new claim for Tax Credits can no longer be made (because UC has been introduced)!

There is no official guidance on this, but we believe that offsetting should still be possible.

The couple will, of course, need to provide sufficient details of their joint income and circumstances to enable HMRC to calculate their notional entitlement for the period from when they became a couple to the date they claimed UC.

If HMRC refuse to apply notional offsetting then they should make a complaint.
Click here for more info on what happens to a UC claimant's legacy benefits

SDP confusion
Getting the DWP to accept a new claim
This was a query that came in recently:

Question:
When a working age resident in our extra care scheme sold her home,her Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit ended, because she had more than £16,000 in capital. She used the capital (and her PIP) to live on and pay her rent.

When the capital reduced, because she lives in specified accommodation, she made a claim forHousing Benefit.

She was awarded HB based on an assumed income from her savings of £14,543. The award includes the Severe Disability Premium (SDP).

So, we contacted the ESA dept with her to try to make a new ESA claim. The ESA dept said she could not make a new claim for ESA - it would have to be Universal Credit instead. We pointed out that her HB includes the SDP - so she is not allowed to make a new claim for UC and therefore can make a new claim for ESA instead. The ESA dept said they do not know why HB are paying the SDP because they shouldn’t be because it’s been abolished.
Are they correct?

Answer:
No - the Severe Disability Premium has not been abolished! So - assuming she meets all the conditions for it - her HB award should include it!

The UC Regulations say that anyone who has the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) included in an 'existing benefit', or who has had the SDP included in an existing benefit within the past month and has continued and still continues to meet the qualifying conditions for the SDP, will not be able to make a new claim for Universal Credit.

Instead, they will be able to make a new claim for a legacy benefit (or remain on one).

The 'existing benefits' are Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit.

Your resident was able to make a new claim for Housing Benefit because she is classed as living in 'specified accommodation'.

Her Housing Benefit award notice should show the Severe Disability Premium. (If the SDP has been missed she can ask for it to be added - assuming she meets the criteria.)

So this needs escalating to the ESA Manager or the Complaints Resolutions Team.

Update- good news! This case has been sorted out - the ESA dept have now accepted a claim.
CLICK HERE for lots more info on the SDP gateway
2020 Wallplanner

Would you like one of our 2020 Wallplanners?

Just drop us an email - info@housingsystems.co.uk

and let us know how many you would like.
Housing Benefit-
What is underlying entitlement?

A recent “Focus Report” on Housing Benefit by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has highlighted some examples of error and bad practice in cases brought to them in 2018/19.

Mismanagement of overpayments, and poor responses to revision requests and appeals, feature heavily in the report.

In one case- “David“ had been both underpaid and overpaid HB by the local authority. The underpayment was due to the local authority incorrectly recording his accommodation as two bed (thereby wrongly applying a bedroom tax); the overpayment was due to a delay in adjusting his HB when notified that he had started work. The Ombudsman criticised the local authority for failing to take account of the underlying entitlement in assessing the overpayment amount, for seeking to recover the overpayment from his rent account before it was calculated correctly, and for taking two years to finally sort it all out.

So what is underlying entitlement?
It is the amount of HB the claimant would have been entitled to during the period of the overpayment. The underlying entitlement might even reduce the overpayment to nothing.

Does the claimant need to request this?
Regulation 104 of the HB regulations actually stipulates that HB Offices must consider underlying entitlement – the claimant doesn’t need to ask for it.

But the HB Office can only work out the underlying entitlement if they have the details of the claimant's income and personal circumstances during the overpayment period.

It is therefore crucial that the HB Office ask the claimant to provide details of any underlying entitlement and take it into account in calculating how much the claimant has actually been overpaid.

What if the overpayment was caused by the claimant failing to tell the HB Office about a change – and perhaps had committed fraud?
It doesn’t matter.
For example: Charles had been on Income Based JSA, but started work without declaring it, so he was overpaid IB-JSA and HB. When the HB Office found out they asked him to pay back all his HB for the period he was working. But his wages were sufficiently low to entitle him to some HB. The HB Office have to take this into account and reduce the overpayment accordingly.

What if the claimant is struggling to provide the evidence the HB Office need to assess any underlying entitlement?
The normal HB Office rules regarding evidence don’t apply to underlying entitlement, so they can work on minimal evidence.
Even if the HB Office decide the evidence isn’t sufficient, the claimant could go to appeal and the Tribunal will decide on the basis of probability whether, and by how much, the HB overpayment should be reduced by underlying entitlement.

Is there a time limit for asking for underlying entitlement?
No. An overpaid HB claimant can request underlying entitlement be considered at any time, even years later: there is no reference to any time limit in the HB Regulation 104, and the general revision/appeal time limit of one month (extendable to 13 months in some circumstances) only applies to 'decisions' under the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000 Schedule 7 (1); as ‘decisions’ on overpayments are actually 'determinations' they don’t fall under these regulations.

Where a HB Office has not applied underlying entitlement to a HB overpayment they can use our Standard Letter TOP1.

What should I do?
Tell any overpaid claimant to inform the HB Office of all their circumstances and income during the overpaid period. You can tell them this in our letters notifying tenants of HB overpayments: TOTOP1 & TOTOP2.

Click here for more on underlying entitlement
This Month's Standard Letter
Each month we like to remind you about one of our many standard letters.
This month we are highlighting -

UC LCW9 COMPLAINT THAT REQUEST FOR WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT HAS BEEN IGNORED

We were glad to hear recently that using this letter has helped a very vulnerable claimant.

The claimant is a young person with significant mental health problems. She started sending in 'fit' (sick) notes to the DWP around March 2019 but had not been referred for a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Her Claimant Commitment stated she should be spending 35 hours pw looking for work.

With help, the wording from letter UC LCW9 was copied onto her journal.
As a result she was referred for a WCA straight away and her Claimant Commitment was reduced to just 1 hour pw job searching, pending the outcome of the WCA.

Following the WCA, she was found to have a Limited Capability for Work Related Activities - so the LCWRA Element (£341.92 pm)is now included in her UC assessments.
She has also received over £2000 in arrears of the LCWRA Element which has been correctly added - as the letter points out - from the monthly assessment period which started after the MAP in which the 'relevant period' ended (and the 'relevant period' started when she self-certified for the first 7 days of sickness / handed in her first fit note).
Letter UC LCW9 can be found here.
New E-Learning Zone
Our new E-Learning zone is nearly ready...

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 everyone in your team to enjoy.

The following courses have been developed by experts in the field and are currently available:


Who has to claim UC? - The Triggers
(not all changes trigger a claim for UC!)

Mixed age couples
(both an Advanced and Essentials course are available)

Students and UC
(a complex area where many students are missing out)

We are developing the following courses and have given an estimated date of when we hope they will be ready:

The SDP Gateway - how it works: Feb 2020

Making a successful claim (for UC): March 2020

An introduction to UC: March 2020

EEA Nationals and UC: April 2020

Housing Costs and UC :May 2020

CLICK HERE to find out more

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Keep yourself up to date and find out what we're up to!

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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 December winner - Ann Walton from Halo Housing - 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 21st February 2020 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question -

Chloe is a lone parent who is doing a master's degree. She gets a post graduate loan of £10,906 which is for tuition fees and maintenance.
She is claiming Universal Credit.
The UC dept have explained that her student income has been calculated as follows:
1.70% of the postgraduate loan has been disregarded
2. the 30% which is taken into account has then been divided over the 9 monthly assessment periods (from the MAP in which the course starts to the MAP before the MAP in which the course finishes) to give a monthly amount.

The UC dept have used the monthly amount as calculated above - they said she doesn’t get the £110 per month disregard as it is a post graduate course and the disregard is only for under graduates....is that correct?

Find your answer here

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

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