Early Warning System e-bulletin - February 2022

Date: 
23 March 2022
Issue: 
February 2022

The Early Warning System collects evidence from advisers about how changes to the benefits system are affecting their clients. We use this data for campaigns, in discussions with Government, and to produce advice resources.

This month, we have heard a lot about moves to universal credit.

CPAG met with the DWP at the start of February to discuss this topic, and we shared your case studies.

Many involved:

Read more about what advisers are saying and what CPAG is doing below.

Meanwhile, the Government has lost a legal case over its failure to offer more kinds of transitional protection for people moving to UC. The case was about disability premium, enhanced disability premium, and the lower disabled child element of Child Tax Credit. This could spell major changes, but not yet: the Government has indicated that it’s appealing.

Call for evidence in February: we want to hear more about benefit deductions. Tell us about your cases by completing an online form or emailing the Early Warning System. The more we know, the more we can do.
 

Keeping the LCW/RA element

The rules

If your client claimed universal credit (UC) on a day when s/he:

  • was still getting employment and support allowance (ESA), either income-related or old-style contributions-based, and
  • had been found to have limited capability for work, or limited capability for work-related activity (LCW/RA),

then s/he will be treated as having the same LCW/RA from the very start of the UC claim.

This is thanks to regulation 19 of the UC (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014. There’s an exception for certain students.

If this applies to your client with LCWRA, s/he should be paid a LCWRA element from the very start of the UC claim. The same applies to a LCW element, if a long-running ESA award still included one of those.

If your client's award of ESA was for credits only, s/he should be covered too, under regulation 21.

What goes wrong

The rules are quite simple, but unfortunately, we have heard about several cases in which they weren’t applied correctly by the DWP. In at least one case, there was simply no attempt to include a LCWRA element in the new UC award. In others, the DWP wrongly applied a three-month 'relevant period' when it should have paid a LCWRA element immediately. Do double-check your client’s new award.

Caught out

It’s important that your client was getting ESA on the day s/he claimed UC. If s/he made the UC claim after ESA ended, then LCW/RA won’t be automatically carried over.

We have heard about several mixed-age couples who missed out on an automatic LCW/RA element because they didn’t claim UC until after the older partner reached state pension age (that is, they didn’t claim UC until after ESA had ended).

Re-assessed

Please also be aware that none of this stops your client from having a new work capability assessment, which might happen soon after s/he claims UC.

CPAG has produced a number of resources for advisers dealing with missing or delayed LCW/RA elements, including two judicial review pre-action letter templates (JR35 and JR49). Our Judicial Review Project is on hand to help you adapt and use these templates.
 

Getting the transitional SDP element

The rules

Anyone moving to UC who:

  • has the severe disability premium (SDP) included in an ESA, jobseeker’s allowance or income support award, at any time in the month before claiming UC, and
  • meets the conditions for an SDP up to and including the date they claim UC, and
  • is not moving in with a partner who already gets UC

should get a transitional SDP element in their UC award from day one.

These rules, which apply to UC moves from 27th January 2021, are set out in schedule 2 of the UC (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2014. Schedule 2 also explains how much the element should be.

What goes wrong

It can be difficult for advisers to see how to make the most of the rules, let alone unadvised claimants.

We heard this month about one individual on ESA who claimed UC just before being discharged from hospital. She was going to live alone in a new property. Because of the timing of her UC claim, she didn’t satisfy the conditions to get an SDP in her ESA, and so didn’t get any transitional protection. Had she waited until after being discharged to claim UC, she could have qualified for an SDP in her new home, and would (or should) have then got transitional protection.

Unfortunately, we hear about lots of cases like this one.

We also hear often from advisers supporting confused couples. Can they avoid losing out when they move in together? Or, if they’re already receiving legacy benefits as a couple but now need to claim UC, how do they navigate the carer element, transitional SDP element and LCW/RA element to maximise their income? If you’re in doubt, please contact CPAG's advice services.

Losing it

Even when a transitional SDP element is included at the start of your client’s new UC award, that does not mean that s/he will get to keep it forever.

Instead, the element will be ‘eroded’ over time, as other elements are added to the UC award or their rates increase. In this recent CPAG article there’s a list of scenarios in which erosion might happen.

Be aware: any of your clients who are moved on to UC by ‘managed migration’ should be considered for an alternative, non-SDP-related, type of transitional protection. Managed migration is due to start in earnest in spring 2022.

CPAG is attending a series of DWP meetings about managed migration in the coming months and this won’t be the last time we mention it in the EWS e-Bulletin.

AskCPAG.org.uk has a number of tools and resources on the move to UC. You can also refer to Part 2 of CPAG's Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook, which is all about universal credit.

If you think a mistake has been made in one of your cases, please contact CPAG's advice services.
 

Do you have something to tell us?

Hearing about your cases has a profound impact on our work. If you have a case which shows how changes in social security affect you or your clients, please let us know.

Some of the topics we are looking out for include:

  1. The £20 cut – We know it is being deeply felt by all UC claimants, as the costs of living rise. To make persuasive arguments to Government, we need specific examples of the effects it is having.
  2. Earnings and other benefit income on UC – Has your client had to challenge Real Time Information about their earnings? Or has their income from other benefits caused issues on UC?
  3. PIP online – Has your client been sent a digital version of the PIP2 form to complete? Or have they been asked to make their PIP claim online, from start to finish, as part of the Apply for PIP pilot?

Submit a case online or email the Early Warning System​ to tell us more.
 

Do you need CPAG's advice?

Advice by telephone

020 7812 5231 Monday to Friday, 10am-12 and 2pm-4pm

Universal credit advice by email outside London

[email protected]

Universal credit advice by email in London

020 7812 5221 Wednesday, 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm

[email protected]

Advice for professionals working with domestic abuse survivors

07983 946608 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.

[email protected]

AskCPAG

What childcare really costs on universal credit

Tools for identifying relevant support or drafting mandatory reconsideration requests