IN THIS ISSUE:
The Scottish Government has announced that the first payments under its Best Start Grant, to replace the Sure Start Maternity Grant, will be made by Christmas 2018. The pregnancy and baby payment will be introduced first, with the early learning grant and school age grant to follow by summer 2019.
The main differences from the Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) are:
- a grant of £600 for a new baby (compared to £500 SSMG) if no other dependent child under 16 in the household (not counting siblings from the same multiple births or where a dependent child/young person has a baby);
- a grant of £300 if there is another child under 16 in the household (compared to no SSMG payable);
- can be claimed from 24 weeks pregnant (compared to 29 weeks SSMG);
- there is no requirement for a health professional to sign the form;
- a six month window to apply (this is also to be introduced for SSMG – see below)
- housing benefit and any tax credits are added to the list of qualifying benefits;
- under 18s and dependent 18/19 year olds can qualify regardless of income;
- a supplement of £300 is payable for a multiple pregnancy.
It will not be possible to receive both a BSG and a SSMG for the same child. In cases where there is an overlap of eligibility, it may be advisable to wait to apply for a Best Start Grant instead of a Sure Start Maternity Grant, as this is worth £100 more. However, the exact date of implementation of the BSG has not yet been finalised.
The draft regulations have been laid before the Scottish Parliament and are due to come into force the day after they are passed. For background, see the Scottish Government response to issues raised in the consultation.
Meanwhile, the UK government has extended the time within which a Sure Start Maternity Grant can be claimed from three months to six months. The change comes into force on 18 October 2018, so this means that someone who had a baby on 18 April 2018 or later and missed the original deadline for claiming, could be eligible if they make the claim on or after 18 October but within six months of the birth. See Q&A for an example. View the amendments.
This section summarises recent decisions of the Upper Tribunal; these set a binding precedent on HMRC or DWP decision-makers and First–tier Tribunals in similar cases.
Date of claim for tax credits
This case concerned backdating for a person awarded refugee status, but also has wider implications, especially with the roll-out of universal credit. The claimant claimed asylum in the UK on 24 July 2014 and was granted refugee status on 25 November 2016. He telephoned HMRC’s tax credit office on 1 December 2016. If that telephone call was accepted as a claim for tax credits, then he was entitled to have his tax credit award backdated to the date he claimed asylum. However, the completed claim form was received on 9 February 2017, and only backdated one month, as the further backdating provisions only apply if tax credits are claimed within one month of being notified of refugee status. The Judge found that the argument that the telephone call on 1 December amounted to an oral claim for tax credits was doomed to fail for two reasons:
the First-tier Tribunal has no jurisdiction over HMRC’s decision whether to accept a claim which is not made in writing on the approved form;
the telephone call was a request for a claim form, not a defective claim that was then regularised, and could not have amounted to a claim in itself.
He considered ZM v HMRC  UKUT 547 (AAC) which found that there was a right of appeal against a claim being rejected for failure to comply with the National Insurance number requirement, but that other issues are a matter of discretion for HMRC and only challenged by judicial review. However, he does not mention CI v HMRC  UKUT 158 (AAC) which found that this distinction was problematic, and in which it was held that:
“In my judgment, a “claim” must make it clear that a claim is being made (Novitskaya v LB of Brent at paragraphs 27 and 28). If it is not made on the correct form or does not contain the required information, it is still a claim, but it may be rejected by HMRC. If it is rejected that is a decision on the claim which falls within section 14(1) and is therefore a decision which carries a right of appeal by virtue of section 38(1)(a) of that Act, although no doubt in many cases the defects may be such that an appeal would have no prospect of success and would be struck out. (para 22)
So, if a claimant rings the Tax Credits Helpline and says words to the effect of “I hereby make a claim for tax credits”, then it is clear that a claim is being made and a decision not to accept a telephone claim is appealable. But a simple request for claim form cannot amount to a claim.
Note: With the rollout of universal credit, HMRC has pledged that telephone claims will be accepted if made within three weeks of the full service date (see our January 2018 ebulletin).
Read the decision in full: MK V HMRC (TC):  UKUT 238 (AAC)
Q: My clients are a couple who had their first baby on 15 June this year. They have been getting universal credit (UC) since then, and applied for the Sure Start Maternity Grant on 20 August. However, their UC assessment period ends on the 17th of each month. For the assessment period that ended on 17 September, their income was too high to receive any UC. Their income is going down in the current assessment period, but it is more than three months since their baby was born. Is it too late to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant, or will they be able to claim a Best Start Grant?
A: The rules for the Sure Start Maternity Grant currently state that the application must be made within three months of the date of birth, and that a qualifying benefit must have been awarded in respect of the date of claim. So under the current rules, it is too late to make a new claim.
But the rules are changing from 18 October 2018 so that claims can be made within six months of the birth. So they have from 18 October until 15 December (6 months after birth) to make a claim, and as long as UC is awarded for the assessment period in which the date of claim falls, then a SSMG will be payable.
But it might also be worth waiting to see if the Best Start Grant is introduced before 15 December, as an extra £100 would be payable.