New rules about temporary absence from Great Britain were introduced from 28 July 2016 for housing benefit (HB) and pension credit (PC). Simon Osborne describes the main points.
What has changed?
The HB rules contain detailed provision about when a person is regarded as ‘occupying a dwelling as [her/his] home’ in cases of temporary absence from the home. The PC rules provide that a claimant can remain entitled during a temporary absence from Great Britain. These provisions have been amended to create the new rules.1
In essence, the new rules create a more restricted entitlement in cases of temporary absence from Great Britain. The basic new provision is for continued entitlement in all such cases only for up to four weeks (formerly this was up to 13 weeks). A longer period can apply in particular cases.
In HB, the reference to absence from Great Britain is new – so, for example, temporary absence in Northern Ireland is now subject to the new rules. It should also be remembered that the HB rules are capable of application not only to the claimant, but also to a partner, child or young person, and so could be engaged in questions about, for example, the size criteria.
What are the new rules for housing benefit?
The new rules2 allow entitlement to continue for up to four weeks while absent from Great Britain, whatever the reason, provided the absence is unlikely to exceed four weeks. The four weeks can be extended to entitlement for up to eight weeks in cases regarding the death of a partner, child or young person or close relative, where the local authority considers it un reasonable to expect a return to Great Britain within four weeks.
Entitlement can continue for up to 26 weeks where the claimant is away from the home because of fear of violence, or where the claimant, partner or dependent child is receiving medical treatment or is convalescing; or where the claimant is away as a member of the armed forces posted overseas, a mariner or a continental shelf worker. The absence must be unlikely to exceed 26 weeks.
The 13/52-week periods of temporary absence within Great Britain that may apply continue to run even while entitled during temporary absence outside Great Britain.
What are the new rules for pension credit?
The new rules3 allow entitlement to continue for up to four weeks while absent from Great Britain, whatever the reason, provided the absence is not expected to exceed four weeks. That can be extended to entitlement for up to eight weeks in cases regarding the death of a partner, child or young person or close relative, where the DWP considers it unreasonable to expect a return to Great Britain within four weeks.
Entitlement can continue for up to 26 weeks where absence is solely in connection with the claimant, partner, child or young person normally living with the claimant receiving medical treatment or undergoing convalescence. The absence must not be expected to exceed 26 weeks.
When do the new rules take effect?
From 28 July 2016. Transitional rules4 provide that in most cases (not for armed forces posted overseas, mariners or continental shelf workers) they will not apply to a person who was temporarily absent from Great Britain on 28 July until the day s/he returns to Great Britain – ie, so such a person continues to come under the more generous pre-28 July rules until her/his return.
Please be aware that welfare rights law and guidance change frequently. Older Bulletin articles may be out of date. Use keywords or the search function to find more recent material on this topic.
- 1. The Housing Benefit and State Pension Credit (Temporary Absence) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 No.624 (the ‘Amendment Regulations’)
- 2. Reg 7 Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 No.213 and reg 7 Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006 No.214, as amended
- 3. Reg 3 State Pension Credit Regulations 2002 No.1792, as amended
- 4. Reg 5 of the Amendment Regulations