November 2020 Newsletter
Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information.
In this issue find out more about:
- Two wages in one MAP - amendment to the regulations.
- Coronavirus benefit related measures - update on recent changes.
- Recoverability of a benefit overpayment - new case laws that may help.
- Changes Post-Brexit - new laws on EEA Nationals' entitlement to benefits.
- Worth a complaint? - recent Independent Case Examiners Report.
- HAVE YOU SEEN our Online Training? - take a look at what we have on offer.
- Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a box of chocolates for you!
2 wages in 1 MAP - good news for some
A change to the UC Regulations, from 16th November 2020, should ensure that many UC claimants no longer lose out financially by having two monthly wage payments taken into account in one UC Monthly Assessment Period.
The change allows the DWP to count one of the payments in a different assessment period in order to maintain a regular pattern. This can be allowed where the claimant is paid on a regular monthly basis, and more than one wage is reported via the Real Time Information system (RTI) in the same assessment period.
Who should benefit from the amended regulations?
• Claimants whose monthly wage payment date falls so close to the beginning of their UC Monthly Assessment Periods that when a wage is paid early - because it would otherwise fall on a non banking day - that two wages fall within one Monthly Assessment Period.
• Those who are paid early for example before Christmas.
• Whose earnings are paid on the last day of the calendar month, and their UC Monthly Assessment period ends before this ie 28th, 29th or 30th of the month.
It does not apply to:
• Claimants who are paid weekly, fortnightly, or 4 weekly.
• Claimants who have two wages in one Monthly Assessment Period because their employer has reported one of their wages late (but Regulations already allow an adjustment to be made in such cases).
What should claimants do?
Neil Couling, Senior Responsible Owner for Universal Credit, tweeted on 11th November that it will be a while before the UC software will automatically pick up on the claimant's pay cycle, recognise that a claimant has received two wages in one month and move the ‘incorrectly placed’ wage without a request from the claimant.
Another factor is that the Regulations are not mandatory – the phrase used is “the Secretary of State may….”, so this suggests that the matter should be looked into on a case-by-case basis.
So, for the time being, claimants will need to request that the DWP manually apply these new Regulations.
Note: If these adjustments do not happen automatically, then before requesting the adjustment the claimant should check that they will actually be better off if this happens. Some claimants who have no work allowance and who receive only a moderate amount of UC can be better off where two wages are taken into account in one period and none in the next.
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Coronavirus measures update
Job Retention Scheme
The Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Scheme) has been extended to the end of March 2021.
The grant covers 80% of wages for hours not worked, to a cap of £2.500 per month. The amount of support from the government will be reviewed in January 2021.
More details here.
Note that the government had planned to start a new Job Support Scheme when the Job Retention Scheme was due to end. This is not now happening - the JRS remains in place.
Working Tax Credit - drop in working hours
Back in the spring, the government said that claimants could remain on WTC even if their working hours had reduced below the number required in the Tax Credit Regulations as long as that was as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and a temporary situation.
They said this measure would remain in place until the Job Retention Scheme closes. So, now that the Job Retention Scheme has been extended until the end of March, we assume that claimants can continue to receive WTC where their working hours have reduced.
Self Employed Income Support Scheme
The government has increased the SEISS grant that covers the period from November to January. It will now be based on 80% of average monthly profits, capped at £7.500.
The current plan is for February to April's payment to be worth 40% of average monthly profits, up to a total of £3,750, but this may be reviewed.
Prisoners on temporary release
Prisoners on temporary release due to Coronavirus are able to access means-tested benefits during the period of that release. This measure was due to end on 13th November 2020 - but has been extended until 12th May 2021.
More info here.
Suspension of the Minimum Income Floor
Since the end of March, Work Coaches have had the discretion not to apply the Minimum Income Floor rule to self employed claimants who are financially affected by the pandemic. This easement was due to end on 12th November - it has now been extended until 30th April 2021.
Extension of free school meals during the Christmas Holidays
In Scotland and Wales, help over Christmas was already arranged for those who qualify for free school meals. In England, help will be available too. Following the campaign by Marcus Rashford, the government has made a u-turn and now says it will give £170m to local authorities in England to provide food during the Christmas holidays and also to help poor families with their bills.
A decision has not yet been made in Northern Ireland.
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Recoverability of a benefit overpayment
A new caselaw decision in Northern Ireland could help some claimants who have been overpaid.
The ruling is that, due to the progress of technology, a claimant can assume that branches of the Department of Social Development transfer information between themselves, and therefore where one branch makes a decision on a benefit award it is valid for a claimant to assume that other relevant branches of the Department will be informed of that decision.
NOTE that this caselaw is persuasive for English/Welsh/Scottish Tribunals but is not binding on them.
NOTE also that this caselaw will not be helpful for Universal Credit overpayments as under UC regulations all overpayments are recoverable, however caused.
New Legislation has received Royal Assent
From 31st December 2020, Free Movement rights for EEA Nationals living in the UK end.
EEA Nationals who wish to enter the UK after this date will need to apply for a Visa, which will be granted if they score enough points on the new immigration system, on the same basis as non EEA Nationals. However Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter and live in the UK as they do now.
What about those EEA Nationals already living in the UK?
If they have settled or pre-settled status then they will have the right to stay living in the UK. The deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30th June 2021.
What about their right o claim benefits from 1st January 2021?
The Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2016, which set out the 'right to reside' rules that outline when an EEA National is entitled to most benefits (including Universal Credit) will be revoked, but new regulations have been laid to ensure that, during the 'Grace Period'*, those EEA Nationals without full settled status are entitled to benefits so long as their situation complies with criteria that almost entirely mirror those under the revoked regulations - e.g that they are a 'worker' or have 'retained worker status', or are a 'family member', or have a 'derivative right through a child in education'.
*The 'Grace Period' is a period of 6 months starting on 1st January 2021.
This will apply to those EEA Nationals (and their family members) who were living in the UK on 31st December 2020 who:
- Have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme
- Have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme but not yet been granted a status
- Have been granted pre-settled status.
So what happens on 1st July 2021?
- Any EEA National (or non-EEA National family member) with settled status will be able to stay living in the UK lawfully and claim benefits.
- Any EEA National (or non-EEA National family member) with pre-settled status will be able to stay living in the UK lawfully, but will not have the right to claim most benefits. They can apply for leave to remain under the new Points Based Immigration Scheme^. But it is unlikely that they will be able to claim most benefits unless/until they have been given indefinite leave to remain
- Most EEA Nationals (or non EEA family members) arriving in the UK on or after 1st January 2021 will need to have been granted leave to remain under the new Points Based Immigration Scheme. But it is unlikely that they will be able to claim most benefits unless/until they have been given indefinite leave to remain
- As currently, with non EEA Nationals, not all forms of leave to remain confer entitlement to benefits.
- ^NOTE: The Withdrawal Agreement has a new clause which allows someone to apply late to the EU Settlement Scheme if the Secretary of State considers it reasonable so there is a possibility that they will be able to do this rather than apply for a visa under the new immigration rules system.
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|The Independent Case Examiner provides a free independent complaints review service for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and their contracted services.|
They have two primary objectives:
- to act as an independent adjudicator if a customer considers that they have not been treated fairly or have not had their complaints dealt with in a satisfactory manner
- to support service improvements by providing constructive comment and meaningful recommendations
They investigate customer complaints and can award compensation.
Their latest report highlights several cases - including one where the claimant has been awarded a consolatory payment of £500 and an ongoing payment to compensate her for the loss of her statutory entitlement to Tax Credits from the point at which her Tax Credit claim ended, to the point her child reaches 18, or the point at which her case would naturally have migrated from Tax Credits to UC.
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