July 2021 Newsletter
Welcome to our latest newsletter - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information.
In this issue find out more about:
- Minimum Income Floor - ending of the Coronavirus easements - for most.
- EEA nationals - continuation of benefit payments - short-term help for existing claimants who missed the deadline to apply to the EUSS.
- DWP UC publicity campaign - make sure claimants get proper advice!
- Problems getting a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) - some claimants not being referred.
- Arrears of ESA - over £600 million paid out.
- Bedroom Tax computer glitch - update.
- LHA change to rules - reminder of the changes from June.
- New broadband tariff - for benefit claimants.
- Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a box of chocolates for you!
Return of the Minimum Income Floor
The Minimum Income Floor is a rule that exists in Universal Credit. ‘Gainfully self-employed’ claimants are expected to be earning at least the national minimum wage for the number of hours they would be expected to work.
At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) was at first suspended completely, but soon after that the rules were changed so that easements could be allowed. The work coach could use their discretion to reduce the MIF to a lower amount or nil, or delay the MIF coming into effect.
Re-introduction of the MIF
New regulations apply from 31st July 2021, meaning that the Minimum Income Floor will be re-started for many UC claimants from September 2021 (or later).
Claimants who have had the MIF easements applied will be interviewed to check if they are still in 'gainful self-employment’. If the DWP decide that they are 'gainfully self-employed', the MIF will be applied again, from the Monthly Assessment Period (MAP) after the MAP in which that decision is made.
For those claimants who were part-way through their 12-month ‘start-up period’ in March 2020, the clock was paused when the pandemic hit. Once the DWP have checked and decided that these claimants are still classed as in ‘gainful self-employment’, the clock can re-start. Once they have served the remainder of their 12-month ‘start-up period’, the MIF will apply to them too.
What if their business is still impacted by Covid19?
Some easements remain in place until 31st July 2022. Anyone who can demonstrate that their business remains adversely affected by the pandemic can have their MIF reduced to zero. This will be at the discretion of the Work Coach and can only be for up to two consecutive MAPs, after which the situation would be reviewed. The maximum period for easements would be six months in total (3 x easements of 2 MAPs).
If economic conditions have sufficiently improved, the Work Coach could decide to remove the easement before it was due to expire.
EEA Nationals - missed the deadline?
Extra statutory payments for existing DWP and Housing Benefit claimants - for a short period of time!
The deadline for EEA and Swiss Nationals (and certain 'Family Members') to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30th June 2021. Anyone who failed to apply by the deadline is now, legally, without immigration status.
No new claims for benefit can be made by an EEA / Swiss National who has not applied to the EUSS (or who has not had a late application accepted).
Fortunately, the government has allowed an easement for EEA / Swiss Nationals who are already claiming DWP benefits; benefits for those who have not yet applied to the EUSS will continue temporarily in the form of new extra statutory payments.
Following a data matching exercise, the Home Office is writing to all EEA and Swiss National benefit claimants who have still not applied to the EUSS. The letters will be sent mid-July.
Claimants should be advised to apply to the EUSS as soon as possible. The Home Office will need to consider whether to allow their late application - so the sooner the application is made, the better!
The Home Office will write again on 21st September, giving a month before benefits are suspended, then a further month to apply before payments are terminated.
Which EEA Nationals that were living in UK by 31st December 2020 can claim UC from 1st July 2021 - updated to take account of the 'extra statutory payment' available to some.
|Need to know more?|
Book onto one of our online Workshops:
EEA Nationals and Lettings from a Benefit Perspective
Wed 21st July, 9.30am -12.30pm
The Benefit Rules for
and Risks to Rental Income
Thurs 12th August, 9.30am - 12.30pm
click here to find out more...
DWP campaign to promote UC
The DWP has some new web pages and is also using social media to publicise the positives of being on Universal Credit.
For many people, it is a change in their circumstances that triggers the decision to claim Universal Credit. But even if there is no change in circumstances, anyone who already gets Tax Credits, Income Related ESA, Income Support, Income Based JSA or Housing Benefit (or a combination of these 'legacy' benefits) could choose to claim UC instead, if they want to.
Some claimants could be financially better off, some could receive about the same amount and others could find that they are worse off financially when they swap from legacy benefits to UC. There is a lot to think about and claimants should seek specialist advice first. Once they have claimed UC they cannot go back to legacy benefits.
Although there is a link from the DWP web page to a Citizens Advice page on moving from legacy benefits, and another to a gov.uk page on moving from tax credits, there is little else warning that people could be worse off - so beware if directing claimants to this information.
There is also no mention of the forthcoming £20 per week drop in the UC Standard Allowance. Anyone doing a 'better off' assessment needs to remember that this will be lower from October.
Nor does it mention that when moving onto UC, deductions might start to be taken for old DWP loans or overpayments - or deductions could be higher than they were from legacy benefits.
Claimants must also consider how they would manage with monthly payments and the online claim.
And if they are entitled to the Transitional SDP Element, then timing may be important. For example if they are about to have a baby, or move from 'specified' to general housing. This is because the TSDPE can be eroded by the addition of (or increase to) another Element.
You can find the DWP Website page 'Universal Credit - could it be for you?' here.
|Need up-to-date Universal Credit information for your customer facing website?|
Click here to find out more...
We have heard of several cases of Universal Credit claimants not being referred for a Work Capability Assessment, even though they have been providing sick notes.
Recently, we have been alerted to this problem specifically affecting claimants who are responsible for a child under 3. Due to their caring responsibilities for the child, they have no, or minimal, work related requirements. So UC staff are telling some claimants that there is no need for a Work Capability Assessment. This is incorrect - the WCA is to assess their limited capability for work and the outcome could mean entitlement to extra UC.
The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA) is trying to find out how widespread the problem is. Please email email@example.com if this is an issue you are encountering.
£600 million underpaid ESA
Employment and Support Allowance was introduced in 2008. From 2011 the DWP started to reassess Incapacity Benefit claimants for ESA instead. Then, around 2014, welfare rights workers realised that there were systemic errors as many were being underpaid ESA. The DWP started a trawl of claimants - they have confirmed that the trawl is now complete.
118,000 claimants were found to have been underpaid and the average pay out was £5000. A total of £613 million has been paid out altogether.
The DWP report advises anyone who might have been missed by the trawl to ring 0800 169 0310.
Completing the WCA course
This is a practical workshop focusing on completing the Work Capability Questionnaire for ESA or UC
click here to find out more...
UC overpayments due to Bedroom Tax glitch
|In previous newsletters we have highlighted the Universal Credit computer glitch which is causing claimants to be overpaid. Despite reports that this glitch had been fixed, we have heard of some UC claimants who are still being affected. We also know that the DWP has pursued recovery of overpayments in such cases.|
The problem affects social housing UC claimants with three bedrooms who would normally only be eligible for one, but they have been granted a second bedroom on medical grounds. They should have a 14% reduction ie in respect of one spare room, instead of a 25% reduction, but the computer system applies no bedroom tax at all.
Where there was an APA managed payment to the landlord, any overpayment due to this glitch cannot be recovered from the landlord. The Regulations only allow overpayments to be recovered from the landlord where the amount the landlord received was more than their rental liability. In these cases this would not be the case. So if the DWP does send an invoice to the landlord due to this problem it can be challenged.
LHA rules - reminder
Changes to the rules on who is exempt from the Local Housing Allowance Shared Accommodation Rate from June 2021 mean that some private rented sector claimants will now get more Housing Benefit or UC Housing Costs Element. Those affected will now have their benefit based on the one bedroom LHA rate instead of the Shared Accommodation Rate.Care Leavers
The change affects single claimants who fall under one of the following groups:
The one bedroom LHA rate is now allowed for any single claimant aged between 16 and 35 who has for a total of at least three months (whether continuously or not), lived in one or more hostels (definition below) for homeless people and whilst living there were offered and accepted services to assist them to be resettled within the community. Before June 2021 they needed to be aged 25-35.
If they are aged at least 18 but under 25 (ie 18-24) they will get the one bedroom rate. Before June the exemption was only allowed whilst they were under 22 (18-21).
BT broadband tariff for benefit claimants
|BT has launched a new tariff - called BT Home Essentials|
It offers fibre broadband from £15 per month and is available to those getting:
Universal Credit (all claimants), Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support or Guarantee Pension Credit.
Click here for more information.
Campaign to keep the
£20 pw uplift
|Joseph Rowntree Foundation are urging the Government to #KeepTheLifeline by making the UC £20 uplift, introduced at the start of the pandemic, permanent and making sure families on legacy benefits are not left behind again.|
They are encouraging people who are supported by Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit, and have experienced the £20 uplift, to write urgently to their MP about how a £20 cut would impact them.
They have a pro-forma letter on their website.