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 predominantly includes case studies from the weeks 18th to 29th May. The case studies are collated from cases dealt with through our second tier advice service and submissions from frontline workers, including welfare rights advisors, housing officers and support workers.
New this week
We have received cases of lone parents being unable to work because they have no childcare. They have been told they cannot be furloughed, or their furlough pay has stopped, because their work is available and that they will have to take unpaid leave.
A lone parent with two children had been furloughed but has now been told that she is expected back at work at the beginning of June. When she explained that she does not have any childcare, she was told that she will have to take unpaid leave. #751 (7/5/20)
A lone parent who works for a charity has been told that she cannot be furloughed because her post is government funded and that she will have to take unpaid leave instead. #1011 (27/05/20)
A lone parent with two children normally works 16 hours a week but has been unable to work since late March as her relatives who normally provide childcare are all NHS workers. Employer is clear that the shifts are there if she can work and has not dismissed her, but has said that they can't furlough her in the circumstances. #941 (21/05/20)
Accidental migration to universal credit
We continue to receive case studies about tax credit claimants who, following a drop in their hours or income, claim universal credit. Tax credits entitlement then stops but some people find they are worse off, but cannot re-claim tax credits.
A couple with three children were receiving tax credits but applied for UC and to the SEISS when Dad had a loss of income due to COVID 19. One of the children is disabled and Mum is their carer. They are worse off on UC than they were on tax credits #869 (18/5/20)
Parents of two disabled children were receiving tax credits but claimed UC when his self-employed income dropped without realising, or being warned, that they would lose their tax credits. The claim for UC was refused because he has just received £4.5K SEISS. #1064 (1/6/20)
Having previously highlighted people being affected by the benefit cap during the COVID 19 pandemic we have received another case.
A couple with four children are subject to the benefit cap. They receive £1200 UC after £1188 is deducted for the cap and £178 for their UC advance. Their rent is £1000 a month. Client lost his job when lockdown began. They do not meet the criteria for the grace period because his earnings were too low. His wife was due to start a job but this has been postponed due to COVID19. #1023 (28/5/20)
We have a received a further case of someone accruing rent arrears in a new tenancy that they have not been able to move into. However, another case highlights that a landlord has agreed not to charge rent until the client is able to move in. We would hope other landlords would consider whether they could do the same.
Tenant signed a tenancy agreement to do an internal transfer within a housing association on 23rd March so has been unable to move into her new tenancy and is accruing rent arrears. Her only option would be to apply for a DHP, which are often not granted for homes that are not yet occupied. #877 (18/5/20)
A homeowner currently receives UC. Her home is due to be compulsorily purchased for £26K and then demolished, but the sale has been delayed due to COVID19. Client has been offered a council tenancy which she will sign up to this week but the local authority have agreed not to charge rent until the sale is concluded. #1057 (31/5/20)
It can be difficult for EU nationals to establish a right to reside that will entitle them to means-tested benefits if they are not working. This usually impacts on lone parents, carers and people who are ill or disabled themselves, but COVID 19 has led to some EU nationals losing or not being able to find work. We continue to receive case studies of EU nationals who are not receiving any benefits during the COVID 19 pandemic.
An EU national has been in the UK for ten years. She was a student for the first five years, worked for three years then returned to studying. She applied for UC but it was refused on the basis that she does not have a right to reside. #990 (26/5/20)
A lone parent's EU national's UC has just been stopped as she failed the genuine prospect of work test. When she attended a habitual residence test interview in January she was advised that she would not be required to look for work as the parent of a one year old. This is true in relation to conditionality, but not in relation to retaining a right to reside. It would not be possible for her to look for work just now due to COVID19 #900 (19/5/20)
Students who do not have disabilities or dependants are not usually entitled to UC. They often supplement their student income with casual type work. The nature of this work means that they are not being furloughed so have no replacement income. As we are at the end of the academic year, many will not receive any further student income until September.
Student was working but had to stop in December 2019 due to ill-health and was awarded statutory sick pay. He is now going to claim new-style ESA, but this will not cover his rent. He already received his last student loan payment and won’t get his next payment until his course starts again in September. He is not entitled to UC as he is a student. #870 (18/05/20)
Full time student with no health problems or dependants received his last SAAS payment at the beginning of May and will not receive another until September. He normally works in a shop over the summer but it is closed due to COVID 19. He applied to UC but was refused because he is a student. He has no income and no means of paying his rent. #904 (19/05/20)
Keeping our eye on
We have have received out first report of telephone tribunals and would be keen to hear of others’ experiences.
Adviser asked for 4 PIP appeals to be postponed but they were all re-listed as telephone hearings. Only one was successful and that was awarded on the submission and the medical evidence. Adviser feels that the appeals were unfair as the panel could not see the clients so have no indication of their pain levels etc. One appellant requested a postponement again as her 6 year old was present but this was refused and the 6 year old did interrupt. #985 (26/5/20)
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
You can submit anonymous case studies online