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Newsletters: January 2022
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January 2022 Newsletter

Happy New Year and welcome to our first newsletter of 2022 - bringing you right up to date with useful welfare benefit information. 

In this issue find out more about some of the issues below:
  • Discretionary help for those having difficulty paying their Council Tax Bill - have you heard of the Council Tax Exceptional Hardship Fund?
     
  • Treated as liable for rent - case law
     
  • Erosion of TSDPE - rules when one element is gained and another is lost!
     
  • Recent changes due to Covid-19 - temporary rules on sick notes
     
  • NI emergency fuel payment scheme - new scheme announced
     
  • Ideas for our webinars?
     
  • Recent Question - what happens when someone on HB moves in with someone on UC?
     
  • Your chance to WIN £50 for your local FOOD BANK and a Webinar place for yourself
Discretionary help for those have difficulty paying 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.

Click here for a Standard Letter

Treated as liable for the rent - case law

A recent Upper Tribunal decision confirms our understanding that, in order for someone to be treated as liable for the rent (so they can claim HB or UC housing costs) in the tenant's absence, the person remaining in the property must already have been living there before the tenant left the property.

In this case (CH/990/2020) the claimant moved into her boyfriend’s Local Authority flat after he had stopped paying rent and had been sentenced to more than 2 years in prison. She tried to claim Housing Benefit but was refused. The First Tier Tribunal found that it was not reasonable to treat her as liable for rent.

The Upper Tribunal Judge upheld the FTT decision and agreed with the submission made by the HB Office’s representative that -
'to continue to live in the home' should be interpreted with some retrospectivity as well as looking to the future. I read it as supporting a person to remain in their existing home when the formally liable party stops paying. I read it as a safety net for an existing occupier when the formally liable party is no longer paying. I do not read it as allowing a person to subsequently move into a home after the formally liable party has stopped paying and establish a liability. I do not think it was intended as having a wider reading and interpretation.'

Spring programme of online workshops
 
UC Housing Costs: Problem Areas
UC - For Better or For Worse
UC Limited Capability for Work Problem Areas
EEA Nationals & UC
Introduction to Welfare Benefits
UC Managed Migration 
UC & Supported Housing
Appealing Work Capability (ESA & UC) and PIP decisions
Click here to find out more...
Erosion of TSDPE -
when new Element in UC award

Some claimants who were getting Income-Related ESA, Income Support or Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, that included a Severe Disability Premium in the month before the date their UC award starts, might qualify for the Transitional SDP Element (TSDPE) as an extra Element in their UC assessment.

The Transitional SDP Element is a fixed amount for the claimant's first Assessment Period – but after that it can be eroded or lost due to certain changes in the claimant's circumstances.  The amount of the Transitional SDP Element can reduce when another Element increases or a new Element is awarded. (The only exception is where the Childcare Costs Element is awarded or increased – that will not erode the Transitional SDP Element.)

How does this work if the change means a new Element replaces the LCW Element?
Is it the net loss or the total amount of the new Element? 

The Regulations are a little unclear, so we asked the DWP Policy Team.
Their reply indicates that they treat the replacement of the LCW Element with the LCWRA differently to other changes.

Swapping from the LCW to LCWRA Element – the TSDPE is eroded by the net increase. 

Example:
Freya is single and gets UC which includes the LCW Element and the TSDPE. Following a review Work Capability Assessment, she is found to have LCWRA. Her LCW Element is replaced by the LCWRA Element. 
The DWP will treat this as a relevant increase to her health-related element and the TSDPE will be eroded by the net increase of £214.74 (the difference between LCWRA £354.28 and LCW £132.89).

But note that this will only apply where the LCW to LCWRA is for the same claimant – not the other member of a couple!

Other changes - the TSDPE is eroded by the whole amount of the new Element. 
This can lead to an overall loss.

Example:
Tony is a single UC claimant. His UC includes a Carer Element and the TSDPE. He has just had a Work Capability Assessment and has been found to have LCWRA. So, his Carer Element is replaced by the LCWRA Element (under the UC Regulations he cannot get both).

The DWP will look at the actual increase – ie the full amount of the new LCWRA Element. So, his TSDPE is completely eroded.

Tony has lost both his TSDPE of £285 (completely eroded by the LCWRA Element) and has also lost his Carer Element (replaced by the LCWRA Element). So his total losses are £448.73. He has only gained the LCWRA Element of £354.28 – so he has an overall loss of £105.10!

Click here for our Hot Topic and more examples

Covid 19 changes update

Sick notes - temporary rules to free up GP capacity to support the vaccination programme

Universal Credit and ESA claimants will not need to submit medical evidence after seven days of sickness. The temporary suspension will be in place until 26th January.

Employees will not need to provide a GP sick note for Statutory Sick Pay until their absence exceeds 28 days (normally sick notes are required after 7 days’ absence). This temporary rule applies until 26th January.

SSP rebate for small companies
Employers who have fewer than 250 employees are (again) able to claim rebate for Statutory Sick Pay for employees whose period of absence from work due to Covid 19 started on or after 21st December 2021. This measure was previously in place up to the end of September 2021 - but has been reintroduced due to the high number of Omicron cases.

Work Capability Assessments - mostly over the phone

Recently published information shows that between June 2020 and November 2021 around three quarters of UC and ESA medical assessments have been carried out over the phone, with around 15% being paper-based and only a very small proportion face-to-face and via video link. More info about assessments - for UC here and ESA here

Northern Ireland Fuel Payments Scheme

Two new schemes in Northern Ireland have been announced to help those on low incomes with their energy bills this winter due to the global fuel crisis. It is possible to get help from both schemes if the eligibility criteria are met for both.

Energy Payment Support Scheme
The Department for Communities will make a one-off payment of £200 by the middle of March 2022 to those who are eligible. No application is needed.

The payment will be made to anyone who was ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland and in receipt of a qualifying benefit during the week Monday 13th December to Sunday 19th December 2021 inclusive. The qualifying benefits are Pension Credit; Universal Credit; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Income-based Jobseekers Allowance; Income Support. 

Emergency Fuel Payment Scheme
This is one-off payment (sent directly to the electricity, gas or oil supplier) of up to £100 for eligible households in Northern Ireland that are experiencing an emergency fuel crisis during Winter 2021/22. Applications can be made up until 31st March 2022.
The scheme is run by the Department for Communities, the Consumer Council, Bryson Charitable Group, and a range of local energy companies.

To be eligible for the payment, the household must:

  • have a total gross annual household income of less than £23,000 (excluding Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carer's Allowance or Attendance Allowance)
  • or
  • have been made unemployed in the last 8 weeks and be awaiting confirmation of benefit / first benefit payment
  • or
  • have had benefits payments recently interrupted

In addition to one of the above, one of the following must also apply:

  • they have run out of  / have 3-5 days or less worth of pay-as-you-go electricity/gas, or oil 
  • or
  • they have received an electricity/gas bill within the last 5 days / are due to receive an electricity/gas bill within the next 5 days and cannot afford to pay it.
Webinar

Pension Age Benefits
- engagement and entitlement

Thursday 10th February, 10.00am - 11.30am

Just £35+vat per delegate
 
Click here for more information and to get booked on

Ideas for a webinar?

We want your ideas! 

We are putting together our Webinar programme for 2022 and would be interested in your suggestions for topics  or speakers you would like to see included. 

HS Webinars aim to open up and investigate some of the complex areas affecting tenants in social housing, with the help of like-minded organisations.  

Knowledge of other areas affecting claimants can maximise the value of interventions and increase awareness and understanding of the tools and organisations that can help. A UC claimant could also have needs linked to debt, housing, health, wellbeing, caring responsibilities or disability - the list could be endless. 

We want to explore some established connections between benefits and other areas, connect with partners and consider the possible responses from housing providers and advice agencies.

Each webinar will present a topic, provide information and generate ideas for working practices, with the help of a guest speaker from a trusted organisation and a Housing Systems speaker. 

So - if you have an idea of a topic or guest speaker you would like to see in 2022 - please email in to info@housingsystems.co.uk and put 'webinar' in the subject line. 
Any ideas would be appreciated - click on the link below for past webinars, or to book on to the Pension Age Benefits Webinar with Age UK on 10th February.


Recent Question

Q. I have a customer who is a single parent with 2 children. She receives Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. She has a new partner: he is on Universal Credit, and they are moving in together. I understand that they will need to claim UC as a couple - but what date should her Housing Benefit end?

A. The answer depends on where they will be living!
- see the two different scenarios below

1. If she is moving out of her current property to live with her new partner, her HB should run to the Sunday after she moves (unless she moves on a Sunday - ie it will end that day).  There is a chance that she might be able to get HB to cover up to the end of her notice period too - if she fits the rules and the HB Office agree.
Example
Grace and her 2 children move in with her new partner Rob on Saturday 15th January. 
Grace makes a claim for UC and links her claim to Rob's UC claim, so that they are claiming as a couple.
Rob's UC monthly assessment periods run from 4th to 3rd of each month - the joint claim will have the same dates. This means they are classed as a UC couple from 4th January ie from before Grace moved in. Grace and Rob will have a housing costs element included in their joint UC award to help towards their rent for where they live together.
Grace's Income Support and Child Tax Credit end (retrospectively) on 3rd January. Any Income Support paid to Grace from 4th January should be classed as unearned income when their UC is assessed on 3rd February. Any CTC for that period becomes a UC overpayment and will be recovered via deductions.
But Grace's HB for the property that she has moved out of does NOT end on 3rd January. The rules allow some protection - to avoid a gap in help with rent for the property she has left but was living in up to 15th January. Where someone has moved out of a rented property to move in with a new partner on UC, their HB ends at the end of the benefit week in which they move out (normally the following Sunday). So, Grace's HB ends on Sunday 16th January. The HB that she is entitled to from 4th January to Sunday 16th January is not counted as income for UC. It is not classed as an overlapping payment because it is for a different property.

2. If she is remaining in her current tenancy and her new partner is moving in with her - HB ends from the day before the start of the monthly assessment period in which they are a couple for UC
Example
Mia receives IS, CTC and HB. Her new partner Josh moves in on 15th January. 
Josh gets UC and his monthly assessment periods run from 4th to 3rd of the month. 
Mia makes a claim for UC and links her claim to Josh's UC claim, so that they are claiming as a couple.
Mia and Josh are a UC couple from the start of the monthly assessment period 4th January, (ie from before they lived together).
Mia's IS, CTC and HB all end on 3rd January - because from 4th January, support is provided via UC instead.
Any IS or HB that is paid for the period 4th January onwards should be classed as unearned income when their UC is assessed on 3rd February. Any CTC for that period becomes a UC overpayment and will be recovered via deductions.

Note that there is no Transition to UC Housing Payment ("2 week run-on") in either of the above situations - there is no entitlement to the run-on where someone joins an existing UC claimant as their partner.

See our latest Hot Topic here

Your chance to
win £50 for your local food bank and a FREE webinar place for yourself!

 
Every month we give you the chance to win £50 for your local food bank plus a FREE place for you for our next webinar!

Congratulations to Jo from Southdown who won our December quiz.  A £50 donation has been made to Brighton Foodbank on her behalf.

Why not enter our competition and possibly win a donation 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 donation from us, and they will also receive a FREE webinar place for our next webinar 


To enter this month's competition, just email your entry to us by Friday 4th February 2022 for your chance to win.

This month's competition question:

If a UC claimant has 'complex needs' - where should the UC Work Coach or Case Manager record the details?


Find the answer on this page

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

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