The Early Warning System was set up by CPAG in Scotland to collect and analyse case evidence about how social security changes are affecting the wellbeing of children, their families and the communities that support them. We will be producing a regular summary of emerging issues during the Covid 19 pandemic. This summary includes case studies from the week 13th – 17th April
New this week
Personal independence payment (PIP)
On 23rd March DWP announced that there would be no new reviews or reassessments carried out and that awards would automatically be extended. However, the Early Warning System is receiving cases highlighting claimants’ PIP is stopping at the end of their award if a renewal form has already been issued. It is particularly worrying that the claimants had returned their renewal forms but the award is being ended because an assessment has not yet been carried out.
Client's PIP stopped on 31st March at the end of his award because an assessment had not been carried out, despite having returned his PIP renewal in January. DWP advised the assessment is with the medical provider, who will either carry out a phone or paper assessment, but in the meantime, the client's PIP has stopped, stating that the extension of awards pending assessment does not apply to short-term awards awarded on a tribunal decision. The client has lost his PIP and the severe disability premium (SDP) in his employment and support allowance (ESA) as a result, with the stress exacerbating his mental health problems.
It took the adviser an hour to get through to PIP on the phone who then wouldn't accept implicit consent until a manager was involved in the call. #442 (16/4/20)
Client receives carers’ allowance (CA) for looking after his partner. Partner's PIP is due to run out on 29/4/20 and client has received a letter advising CA will stop at the same time. Client understood that the PIP award should be extended pending assessment and assumed that CA would be too.
Client called CA and was advised to call PIP, who said call the Independent Assessment Service. They said the case had been returned to PIP for a decision and to call them.
Client called PIP back only to find their office was now closed.
Client still does not know that PIP and/or CA will be extended for sure having spent six hours on the phone. #481 (18/4/20)
In new PIP applications we have an example of someone waiting ten months for their assessment.
Client claimed PIP ten months ago and has just been notified that he will receive a telephone assessment. #465 (17/4/20)
Carers of people who are shielding
We have received a number of cases about people who have stopped work, often in areas that would be considered to have a high risk of infection, because they care for someone who has been advised to shield. Their work is still there and often employers are telling them that they still need to come into work, so they are not being furloughed. They do not meet the requirements for statutory sick pay (SSP) or ESA and in some cases will not meet the requirements for CA either, this limiting their benefit entitlement to universal credit (UC).
Lone parent received a letter advising that her disabled daughter should be shielded, but employer has told client that she has to come into work #393 (14/4/20)
Nurse in a private nursing home is not working at the moment to shield her husband who is 73 and being treated for cancer. Her employer is paying her SSP - although it seems that she does not meet the conditions. She is £2000 a month worse off. She could ask to be furloughed, but this could be refused as the work is still there. #452 (17/4/20)
Agency care worker has stopped working because he lives with his dad who is 85 and has COPD. Whilst SSP has been updated to include people who are shielding, it does not extend to people who are unable to work because they are shielding someone else. #440 (16/4/20)
Uncertainty around tax credit entitlement
HMRC have currently been advising people who have reported that their hours have reduced or stopped temporarily due to Covid 19, that they can remain on tax credits for an eight week period and await further guidance. Until this guidance is produced it is not clear whether claimants will continue to receive tax credits, if they will stop, leading a number of people to claim UC.
Client has had to stop working to shield her disabled daughter. HMRC will continue to treat her as working for at least 8 weeks - but there is no guidance about what will happen after that and client's tax credits will not change to reflect the drop in income in the meantime. #435 (16/4/20)
Some people have claimed UC prematurely:
Couple with 3 children were receiving child tax credits, but after their self-employed work dried up due to Covid 19 they claimed UC. They were told at the Jobcentre that they would receive another payment of tax credits, but they didn’t and they have not received any UC yet either, so they withdrew their claim for UC, only to find that they cannot now return to tax credits. They had to request a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund. #413 (15/4/20)
Queries about links between Covid 19 support and social security
We are continuing to receive queries about the links between Self Employment Income Support (SEISS) and the Job Retention Scheme and social security. Common questions include:
- Will a claim for benefits jeopardise an application for SEISS or furlough pay?
- How will SEISS or furlough pay be treated in relation to benefits?
You will find information about the links in Ask CPAG
We have received further examples of people who are either stranded in the UK or abroad, due the ban on unnecessary travel. They either have no entitlement to benefits, or their benefit entitlement is going to expire because they will exceed the period allowed for temporary absence.
EU national couple with a young child went home for a holiday and have been unable to return to Scotland due to Covid 19. They tried to claim UC but it was refused because they are not present in the UK. #361 (9/4/20)
Client who lives in the Middle East came home to Scotland to visit family and is now stuck here, but is unlikely to be able to claim any benefits as she not habitually resident in the UK. #437 (16/4/20)
Client went to Europe at the end of February to visit family and is now stuck there. The temporary absence rules remain unchanged so her income support and housing benefit will end after four weeks, her council tax reduction after one month, and child benefit and child tax credit after 8 weeks. #441 (16/4/20)
We have continued to receive queries about students who normally supplement their student income with work and whether or not they will be entitled to claim UC during Covid 19. The rules have not changed, so unless a student is disabled or has children, they will not be entitled to UC. However additional money has been made available to universities and colleges to supplement their discretionary funds which can be paid to students.
Keeping our eye on
These are either cases that we have only received one, or a small number, of that we want to monitor in case they are indicative of a wider issue. Please let us know if you are coming across similar issues?
Are parents and carers being asked to continue to pay for childcare to keep their place?
Client was getting the UC childcare element but has been furloughed so now has her child at home. Childminders were instructed to close from 1st April. Childminder has asked the client to continue paying half the normal fee to keep the childcare place. UC will not reimburse the client for childcare that is not being provided. #427 (15/4/20)
Remote assessments and tribunals
With some assessments and tribunals scheduled to take place by phone this will likely have an impact on claimants who normally receive support or representation from an adviser.
Client has just been notified that he will receive a telephone PIP assessment. He lives alone, suffers anxiety and depression, gets easily agitated without support and cannot face the prospect of a telephone assessment without his adviser present, which cannot happen at present. #465 (17/4/20)
Tribunal postponement was refused and is scheduled to take place by phone, but adviser cannot get the papers from her office and has no mobile reception at home. #362 (9/4/20)
You will find links to all of CPAG’s welfare rights and policy information on Covid 19 here:
If you have any queries about these findings, or the Early Warning System please contact
Email: [email protected]
You can submit anonymous case studies online