Following on from the report of the Work and Pensions Committee which concluded that bereavement support was “opaque and outdated” the DWP have launched a consultation on reforms to the social fund funeral expenses payments scheme with the aim of making it clearer who is eligible for a payment and easier for people to claim.
‘We understand what a distressing and difficult time it can be losing a loved one and we want to make the process of claiming a Funeral Payment as simple as possible..’
The proposals include –
allowing recipients of payments to receive additional contributions towards the cost of a funeral from charities, friends and relatives without deducting these from the value of the funeral payment award;
introducing an exception for people living in care who receive income-assessed financial support from their local authority towards all or part of their care fees (and therefore not receiving a qualifying benefit), and not assigning them the responsible person status;
extending the application period from 3 to 6 months;
a shorter application form for claims for children’s funerals;
amending regulations to clarify that funeral payments will pay for the necessary costs of a burial with or without exclusive rights of burial;
allowing applicants and funeral directors to be able to submit evidence electronically to support a claim for funeral payments; and
including medical examiner fees under a proposed unified system of scrutiny of all deaths, if adopted in the future, as a necessary cost as currently covered for cremation medical fees.
The consultation period runs until the 21st of August 2017. You know what to do.
It’s very easy for welfare rights advisers to forget that, despite death by a thousand cuts, there are still organisations out there who will do home-visits and will still do form filling. Amongst them of course remains DWP. We have uploaded a list of contacts for DWP visiting services across the North West and Wales as well as the referral form they ask people to complete.
Please note that the referral form is for organisations only and, for that reason, we have chosen to password protect both the referral form and the associated document which gives advisers a nice list of email, phone and fax contacts across the North West of England and Wales. Most GMWRAG members will know our password routine but if you need us to spell it out then please DM @GMWRAGtweets on that Twitter thing or email the usual suspects within GMWRAG for details.
We are strangely reassured (or something) that in the age of driverless cars and the internet of things DWP still have fax machines.
Those of you who have had your interest piqued by the strategic casework approach we describe in our new section may want to consider that outsourcing form completion back to the organisation who issue most of them so you can focus on challenging erroneous decisions via complaints, letters before action and judicial review has many advantages.
Download a referral form for a DWP home-visit from here.
GMWRAG is keen to emphasise that, when completing a referral for a home-visit, there is an unprecedented opportunity to detail whether there are any “risk factors” and whether there are any “accessibility requirements”.
Whilst DWP are undoubtedly only thinking of risk and access for their visiting officers this space can be used to spell out the risk of visitors for clients e.g. people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and sensory impairments, and, the accessibility needs of the claimant e.g. a large print form and so on.
A number of GMWRAG members have brought it to our attention that there has been a nosedive in the number of awards of Severe Disability Premium (SDP) since the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This has apparently been confirmed via a Freedom of Information request and appears to be related to the removal of SDP from Universal Credit (UC) and a policy intent to not check for SDP entitlement UC takes hold.
It’s worth remembering that checking for entitlement to means-tested benefits in specific scenarios remains an obligation regardless of policy intentions and future changes. See, CE277/2014 for but one example.
The above would also explain why a number of members have reported having to repeatedly send in IS 10s or their equivalent as forms mysteriously drop into some kind of abyss. If GMWRAG members can cast this drop off in any different light please let us know but we thought we’d flag it up after several members highlighted numerous issues fully explained by a policy change e.g. SDP forms going missing; SDP forms taking an age to be processed unless constantly chased; SDP being refused incorrectly or refusing to issue forms in the first place.
There are numerous issues around this starting whether the devolution of such monies does anything other than create a postcode lottery. We could easily take an “I’m alright Jack” approach to this but at present we’re still in the middle of a consultation period for the Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which this now seems to over-ride with no real clues as to how the money is to be spent beyond procuring and delivering “localised versions” of the Work and Health programme. No reference to barriers to work like a fragmented public transport system; affordable child care; the deteriorating service being delivered by Access To Work and so on.
GMWRAG has noted that Carer’s UK has welcomed the increase in the earnings limit for carer’s allowance, albeit that this is pitifully small. No-one else is shouting from the roof tops? You will of course note the number of benefit rates which remain frozen although it’s good to know that, presumably with his irony meter switched off, IDS is on our side on this! For an alternative perspective on what these cuts mean (and for many people they are undoubtedly further cuts) there are plenty of real world accounts out there like this.
This has, to say the least, rumbled on for a good few years, but we are now at the stage when another attempt to resolve it has been suggested. So, the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Work and Pensions have now published a new consultation on the detail of the future funding model for supported housing from April 2019. This will obviously be hugely significant for a number of our members.
Queries and responses can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can write to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Supported Housing Programme, Fry Building, 3rd Floor, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
The review will consider how effectively further evidence is being used to assist the correct claim decision and the speed and effectiveness of information-gathering as well as building on recommendations from the first review.
The Terms of Reference for this review are to provide the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with an independent report evaluating the progress made on the PIP claims process as a result of the longer term recommendations made in the first independent review of the PIP assessment, in particular looking at:
the use of IT and speed and effectiveness of the information gathering process during the assessment, looking at data sharing within the Department and across government, including the way we share information gained from the PIP assessment with other organisations to improve health and care services; and
how effectively further evidence is being used to assist the correct claim decision, exploring the balance between how much and the type of evidence we source and what we ask the claimant to provide;
build on the recommendations and lessons learnt from the first review using, where relevant, findings from the evaluation and Full PIP Rollout data.
A call for evidence will be published later, seeking evidence from individuals and organisations to inform the review, in the near future. The second review will be laid before Parliament by April 2017.
In light of recent unevidenced attempts to reform PIP for no reason other than some civil servants being somewhat surprised that, when you award points for the use of aids and appliances some people might actually qualify solely by that route, we think all GMWRAG members should be concerned about this latest development. PIP reform has not gone away and there isn’t much to salami slice so any suggested reforms may well be fairly radical. Be ready to respond when GMWRAG lets you know the call for evidence is open.