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 week 20th – 24th April. 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
Access to claim forms
Since the beginning of the pandemic we have received numerous queries from advisers who are concerned about how they can best support clients with detailed claim forms while they cannot see them in person. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) forms are sent directly to claimants. Advisers are requesting that DWP make PIP claims available online so they can complete forms for claimants while speaking to them on the phone.
A couple of cases this week have highlighted the urgency of claiming PIP for people approaching pension age, when they will cease to be eligible to claim PIP and would have to claim attendance allowance. They may not be entitled to attendance allowance or may be entitled to a lower amount as it does not include mobility component.
Adviser is trying to get a paper PIP form for a client who is about to reach pension age next week. Client has had a severe stroke and is unable to speak or write. He is currently in a care home but it is hoped he will be able move to his own accommodation in future. DWP sent a form to client's old address but can't tell adviser where this is and no one else seems to know. #495 (21/4/20)
Housing costs when you can’t move
We have accumulated the following case studies highlighting people getting into housing debt because they have been unable to move during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Client in a care home signed a new tenancy agreement on 20th February but needed a Scottish Welfare Fund community care grant before he could move in. This was not granted until 20th March by which time he was unable to move due to COVID-19. Housing benefit (HB) have said that they will not pay the rent because he has not yet moved in. #517 (21/04/20)
Client was given notice to vacate Service Family Accommodation because her marriage has broken down. She was not able to vacate at the end of the notice period due to COVID-19. She is now being charged 'damage for trespass' charges by the army (mesne profits) but UC are refusing to pay housing costs because she does not have permission to occupy. Adviser reports this is a common issue in service families, which is being exacerbated by COVID-19. #449 (17/4/20)
Client signed up to a new tenancy (in the same local authority) but can't move in as delivery companies are not operating. She will have an overlapping liability of rent for an indeterminate amount of time. She may not be granted a two homes payment of HB and if she is that would only be for a maximum of four weeks and there is no guarantee that she would get a discretionary housing payment. #46 (19/3/20)
Claiming universal credit (UC) prematurely
We are continuing to receive cases of people who are making a claim for UC when they could have remained on the benefits that UC is replacing. In the majority of cases it will not be possible to return to the old benefits.
A self-employed lone parent started a UC claim but did not complete it as she realised she would not be entitled as she has more than £16K in savings. However her tax credits have now stopped and HMRC are refusing to put them back into payment. Tax credits should only have stopped once the UC claim was submitted which it was not. #527 (23/04/20)
People with no recourse to public funds
We have received further cases about people who have no recourse to public funds who are not guaranteed access to any financial support during the pandemic.
A lone parent with no recourse to public funds had been working at the university where she was studying, but currently has no income. There are some options open to her but none of them are guaranteed, e.g. she can ask: if she can be furloughed, or if she has made sufficient NI contributions to claim contributory JSA or for discretionary funds from the university. #551 (23/4/20)
UC and capital
A number of cases highlight issues for people who may be cash poor but asset rich, particularly people who own property and rent it out, but who would be unable to sell in the current circumstances.
It appears that client will not be eligible for SEISS as she only set herself up as self-employed in October last year. She doesn’t think she will be entitled to UC either as she owns a house with around £100K equity in it, although it is rented out until September. Client currently lives in a caravan on her father's land. #508 (21/4/20)
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, or if they will stop, leading a number of people to claim UC.
Client has been laid off but not furloughed. If he is expecting to return to the same employer then he can continue to receive working tax credit for 8 weeks and await further guidance after that. If he is not expecting to return, then there is a 4 week run on before WTC will stop. #534 (23/04/20)
Queries about links between COVID 19 support and social security
We are continuing to receive queries about the links between the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the Job Retention Scheme and social security. Common questions include:
- Self-employed client planning to claim UC while he is waiting for SEISS payments. How will the SEISS payments be treated when they are received? #514 (21/4/20)
· How many hours furloughed worker should say she is working on her UC claim? #528 (23/4/20)
- How are furloughed earnings treated for UC purposes? #531 (23/4/20)
You will find answers to these questions and more in Ask CPAG
We have obtained more case studies 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.
A full time student will have no income over the summer holidays. He cannot work due to COVID 19 and is not eligible to claim UC. He can request help from his college or university's discretionary funds, or request a Scottish Welfare Fund crisis grant, but if he is living with his parents, Scottish Welfare Fund may, consider that they can support him. #505 (21/4/20)
Keeping our eye on
We have continued to receive examples of people who are either stranded in the UK or abroad, due to the ban on unnecessary travel. A DWP contact advised that claimants who travelled abroad before 17th March should be able to make a new claim for UC and that existing claimants should not have benefits stopped if they exceed the temporary absence period for their relevant benefit.
We have only received this information verbally and so we would be interested to hear if this is happening in practise. You can submit anonymous case studies online.
Client is stuck abroad due to COVID-19 and wondering if her income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) will stop? #525 (23/4/20)
We do not know if the relaxation round temporary absence rules will also extend to family members.
An EU national had been working in the UK for 3 years but lost his job due to COVID-19. He will retain worker status which will allow him to claim UC. He may also be entitled to contributory JSA. His wife and daughter went home for a visit and are now stuck there. They could not normally be included in the new claim while they are not in the UK. #557 (26/4/20)
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