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 4th to 16th 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
Seriously/terminally ill people not receiving additional amounts in their UC
DWP announced that all face-to-face assessments for disability benefits, including work capability assessments for ESA and UC would be suspended for three months commencing 17th March. A work capability assessment is used to establish whether someone has limited capability for work and work-related activity. There are circumstances when a claimant can be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity without the requirement for an assessment, for example if they are terminally or receiving chemotherapy.
We have received reports of cases where the DWP is not treating people as having limited capability for work-related activity when it is clear that they should and is therefore not paying them the extra money they are entitled to.
Client reported in her UC journal that she has advanced cancer and is embarking on chemotherapy. DWP should then make a determination about limited capability for work related activity on the basis that she is receiving chemotherapy, without having to carry out an assessment, but they have said they will not do anything with this information until COVID19 is over. Receiving the additional amount in her UC is a matter of urgency as she is terminally ill, but has chosen not to know her own prognosis. Adviser had to obtain a DS1500 (a form confirming her terminal illness) in order to get the additional amount added onto her UC.
In response to asking for determinations to be made about capability for work, one adviser reports that they were told the department that deals with capability for work has been put on hold, another that they keep being told that the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments are closed.
Accidental migration to universal credit
We are continuing to receive case studies about people who were receiving tax credits who, following a drop in their hours or income, have made a claim for universal credit, only to find that they are worse off, or not entitled to UC at all, but who are then unable to return to tax credits.
Lone parent widow who was receiving child tax credits started self-employment in January this year but had to stop due to COVID 19. She contacted Jobcentre Plus who advised her to claim UC, however due to receiving widowed parent’s allowance and her husband's pension, her income is too high. She is not entitled to UC, but submitting the claim also stopped her tax credits award. #783 (15/5/20)
Client was getting the disability element in WTC. He stopped work due to COVID 19 and tried to claim news style ESA. His claim was refused on the basis that he had not made sufficient NI contributions and he was advised to claim UC instead. He could have remained on tax credits but claimed UC and is now £150 worse off per month, with no route to return to tax credits. #678 (04/05/20)
Personal independence payments (PIP)
On 23rd March the DWP announced that there would be no new reviews or reassessments carried out at present. Giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, on 23rd April, DWP Minister Justin Tomlinson said, ‘What we have done, for those that would be due for a reassessment in the next three months, we’ve automatically extended their benefit by six months. If their condition has deteriorated, and they feel they would be entitled to more money, they can still request a reassessment…’
However we have received one case where reassessment has been requested, but not carried out.
Client's PIP review end date has been extended for 6 months due COVID 19, but he is really keen for it to progress as his condition has deteriorated considerably and he is expecting an increase in entitlement. This was made clear when the PIP review form was returned in September 2019 and a complaint has already been submitted about the delay in an assessment being carried out. DWP Minister's statement on 23rd April noted that where people requested a review that is could be carried out by phone or on the papers, but the assessors say they have returned his case to the DWP for the time being and the PIP helpline stated that neither planned nor unplanned reviews are being carried out at present. #708 (05/05/20)
Keeping our eye on
16 and 17 year olds with no benefit entitlement
We have received a couple of cases of 16 or 17 year olds who are still living at home with their parents, who are not in education but have not been able to start work or training due to COVID19. Their parents are no longer entitled to child benefit or tax credits for them, but the young people are not entitled to any benefits in their own right, putting a strain on the household’s income.
A lone parent's 17 year old daughter was due to start an apprenticeship in March but this was put on hold due to COVID 19. The daughter is no longer a qualifying young person for child benefit and, in addition, is not a dependent child for the purposes of UC, but neither does she fall into a category of 17 year olds who can claim UC themselves. Mum has been furloughed and will be entitled to a small amount of UC, but no additional amounts in respect of her daughter. #826 (14/05/20)
Client has her 17 year old son living with her. She gets CA with income support (IS). He left school last year in 2019, CB & CTC have since stopped. He was meant to be starting a job but it didn't materialise. #845 (15/05/20)
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