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 27th April to 1st 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 received two case studies highlighting that families who are subject to the benefit cap are not receiving the increased amount of universal credit (UC) intended to help claimants during the COVID 19 pandemic.
A lone parent with four children moved from income support (IS) to UC when she started a part time job in February. The benefit cap is not applied if you earn more than £542.80 a month. This client's monthly earnings are £426.96 so the cap is applied and her UC is reduced by £220 a month and £95 to repay her UC advance. She will not benefit from the increase in the standard allowance because of the cap. #561 (27/04/21)
A lone parent with four children is subject to the benefit cap. Her latest UC statement shows that even more money has been deducted than usual due to the increase in child benefit and the UC standard allowance, meaning she does not benefit from these increases. #621 (29/4/20)
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.
EU national applied for settled status having lived in the UK for 10 years but processing applications has been delayed due to COVID 19. He applied to UC but it was refused as he does not have a right to reside other than as a jobseeker. He started work at the beginning of March but lost his job a week later due to COVID 19. #649 (30/04/20)
An EU national couple had been working in the UK for three years but stopped working in December following a bereavement. They have been living off their savings but cannot now return to work as planned due to COVID 19. If they have made sufficient NI contributions, they may be able to claim contributory jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), but it is unlikely that they would be able to establish a right to reside that would entitle them to UC. #664 (01/05/20)
We previously reported we had received a number of case studies about students who normally supplement their student income with earnings, but are unable to work at present due to COVID 19 and who would not, according to regulations, be entitled to universal credit. However, we received this report:
Student adviser has received a few requests from students asking for their applications to the Discretionary Fund to be withdrawn as they have been awarded UC. Adviser is concerned that they may have been awarded UC incorrectly as they do not have any disabilities or children that would entitle them to UC as a student. #607 (28/4/20)
The worry is if UC has been awarded in error, these students may be required to repay any UC they have been overpaid, even it is DWP’s error.
Personal independence payments (PIP)
In the last few weeks, we have received queries from more than fifteen advisers who are concerned about how clients will manage without face-to-face support with claims and assessments, particularly in relation to PIP. This week’s queries include:
Adviser had had queries from clients who are deaf and or blind who want to make a new claim for PIP but cannot do this without help and support. Having the ability to claim these online would assist advisers to provide this support during social distancing. #616 (28/4/20)
Client with a hearing impairment has been offered a telephone assessment for PIP. She requires assistance from a support worker. It is not clear whether this would be possible via conference call and either way, the client will struggle to participate due to her hearing impairment. #660 (01/05/20)
We have continued to receive examples of people who are either stranded in the UK or abroad, due to the ban on unnecessary travel. In last week’s briefing we reported a DWP contact had verbally 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 permitted temporary absence period for their relevant benefit.
However, this week we received this case study:
Polish national who has been living and working in the UK for seven years went home for a short visit at the beginning of March but got stuck there after Poland closed their borders. He applied for UC online but received a decision on 28th April stating that he is not entitled because he is abroad. He does not qualify for assistance in Poland because he is paying tax in the UK. #619 (28/4/20)
Delay moving due to COVID 19
In last week’s report we noted that delays in being able to move were causing some people to accrue housing debt. We received further corroboration this week:
Adviser received an email from their local authority to say that tenants who have been unable to move due to COVID 19 restrictions will not be paid housing benefit on two homes for more than four weeks. Affected tenants have been advised to request discretionary housing payments #577 (27/4/20)
One case study this week highlighted that delays moving are not just impacting on HB and UC housing costs but on other benefits too.
Client's discharge from respite care has been delayed due to COVID 19. Because she will be in respite care for more than 28 days her PIP will stop, as will her partner's carer’s allowance (CA). Carers can continue to receive CA during COVID 19 even if they are not providing 35 hours care, but this does not apply where the cared for person's PIP stops. #636 (30/4/20)
Keeping our eye on
With an increase in people being bereaved at the moment, we will be monitoring the impact of bereavement on access to social security. One case study this week highlighted that bereavement can be a catalyst for a new claim for UC.
Client's wife died suddenly. They were claiming IS as a couple and he was receiving CA. CA will continue for eight weeks. IS will only continue if he was the claimant. If his wife was the claimant IS will stop immediately and he will have to make a new claim for UC. In this scenario it is not clear if he will be eligible to claim a funeral support payment before he is awarded UC after a 5 week wait. If he is the IS claimant, there is an 8 week run on and he can claim a funeral support payment immediately, but once he has claimed, he may wish to claim UC early to benefit from the increased standard allowance. #634 (30/4/20)
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
You can submit anonymous case studies online