Early Warning System e-bulletin - October 2021 | CPAG

Early Warning System e-bulletin - October 2021

Date: 
11 November 2021
Issue: 
October 2021

The Early Warning System collects evidence from advisers about how welfare reform is affecting their clients. We use this data for campaigns, in discussions with DWP, and to produce advice resources.

In the last few weeks, we have heard a lot about students.

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

Call for evidence in October:

Universal credit has now been cut by £20 a week. We need to hear from advisers about the impact this is having on their clients.

Tell us what’s happening in your cases by completing an online form or emailing the Early Warning System.

The more we know, the more we can do.

Claiming UC as a student with an illness or disability

Students are not generally eligible to claim UC, but there are several exceptions. These include certain students with children, and students who have limited capability for work (and also get PIP, DLA, or attendance allowance).

The problem for these students is that they need to have been found to have LCW ‘on or before the date of claim to universal credit’ (Universal Credit (Exceptions to the Requirement not to be receiving Education) (Amendment) Regulations 2020). So a student who makes a new UC claim won’t be offered a work capability assessment. This means claims are often rejected outright. Several cases like this have been notified to the Early Warning System since the rules came into force.

To try to get around this issue, CPAG suggests that students who need UC first make a claim for new-style ESA. They won’t usually be eligible for that benefit, but the claim should still trigger a work capability assessment, to see whether they are eligible for national insurance credits. If they are found to have LCW, they can then claim UC.

Unfortunately, we have heard from a couple of advisers who had tried this approach unsuccessfully. In one recent case, an 18-year-old full-time college student with disabilities made the relevant nsESA claim, but was wrongly told that no WCA would be carried out because he hadn’t made enough national insurance contributions.

CPAG has produced a number of resources for advisers dealing with these kinds of cases, including a set of pre-action letter templates. CPAG's Judicial Review Project is on hand to offer guidance about using the templates.

Student finance and benefits

This is a thorny area, and unfortunately we hear about students who simply have no idea what their rights to benefits will be after receiving a grant, bursary or student loan. On the Early Warning System, we have seen advisers having particular trouble when courses combine periods of study with periods in work. For UC, most of the rules can be found in the Universal Credit Regulations 2013, in regulations 68-71, but some sections are open to interpretation.

One specific case we received this quarter was about the Welsh Government Learning Grant. It is not entirely clear from the regulations whether this should be treated as income for UC purposes. We would be interested to hear from advisers with similar cases.

Parents' benefits

In the last few months, we have heard about parents who weren’t sure how their own benefit awards were going to be affected when children started studying. In particular, parents wanted to know whether their children would still count as living at home if they stayed there in the holidays but lived at a different address during term-time.

On the one hand, if a student was still officially at home, parents might not face the bedroom tax for an empty room. On the other hand, those same parents might have to deal with a non-dependant deduction from their benefits.

Unfortunately, there is no simple definition for where a student lives, and because it is largely down to DWP’s judgment, it can be difficult to win an appeal on this issue. DWP should be considering factors such as how much time the student spends at the different addresses, where they pay rent or other bills, which one they use as their postal address, and where they have their own room, furniture and belongings.

If you think the wrong decision has been made in one of your cases, please contact CPAG's advice line.

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 will be deeply felt by all UC claimants. To make persuasive arguments to government, we need specific examples of the effects it is having.
  2. Getting paid twice in one UC assessment period – Has your client experienced this and had problems with UC as a result? Or have you seen this issue being resolved automatically by DWP's systems?
  3. Universal credit and mental health – Do you have an example of a client whose mental health has made it difficult for them to cope with UC (claiming, meeting their conditions, or managing the journal)?

Submit a case online or email the Early Warning System​ to tell us what you're seeing and how we can help.

Do you need CPAG's advice?

Advice by telephone

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

Advice by email

[email protected]

UC London Advice

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

[email protected]

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