CPAG looking for more test cases.

CPAG is considering a challenge to the lower standard allowance within universal credit which is provided to parents aged under 25 as compared with those aged 25 and over.

Under the legacy benefit system, although there was a lower personal allowance for under 25 year olds, that did not apply to any claimant who was a parent (except lone parents aged under 18).

If you have a client who is

  • a universal credit claimant is a parent aged under 25 and
  • is living in England or Wales and
  • is subject to the lower standard allowance (whether single or in a couple and whether working or not) and
  • wants to challenge the lower rate of benefit they are receiving, please complete CPAG’s test case referral form.
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NAWRA would like to hear from you if you have had issues with Universal Credit and non-dependant deductions.

Last week, CPAG met with senior civil servants at the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss the concerns about universal credit which you have been raising on the Early Warning System. The officials were surprised to hear that claimants are still facing problems with housing costs contribution for non-dependents. Most importantly, they have undertaken to look at how they could fix these problems if we can send them some real life examples. This where we need your help: we need your case studies of clients affected by errors in paying the housing costs contribution.

On the Early Warning System  and at their Universal Credit Housing Costs seminar   in March you told us about the DWP telling clients that only the claimant can be exempted from housing costs contribution. They’ve also heard the opposite: that only the non-dependent’s circumstances are taken into account in determining whether an exemption applies. They have heard about housing costs contributions applied in respect of the wrong non-dependent or the wrong number of non-dependents and housing costs contribution applied in relation to children, partners and short-term visitors.

Advisers have told CPAG about exempted claimants suddenly finding housing costs contribution applied to their award without any explanation.

Other advisers have said that their clients are struggling because the amount of housing cost contribution has risen now they have migrated to UC and claimants who were exempted under legacy benefits are now subject to the deduction.

This is a genuine opportunity for advisers to tell senior civil servants how administrative errors and UC rules are affecting clients and to persuade the ministers to take action.

If your clients have been affected by errors in the administration of housing costs contribution, either now or in the past, please let CPAG know. They’d like to hear about clients who have lost out under the new housing costs rules when they migrated to UC. Equally, if you don’t have a specific client in mind, they’d be pleased to hear your general impressions: has your service seen a rise in enquiries about housing costs contributions or have you had to raise the issue at liaison meetings with the DWP?

You can contact CPAG on their easy-to-use case reporting form , by emailing ews@cpag.org.uk or by calling Dan Norris on 020 7812 5226. Tell CPAG what you think they need to know. They’re not looking for personal details: They need issues not names.

Join CPAG in taking this opportunity to improve the administration of housing costs contribution for UC claimants. Please do forward this request to your friends and colleagues.

CPAG Welfare Rights Conference 2018 and some ideas for our October 2018 meeting in Trafford.

Welfare Rights Conference 2018

Universally discredited – How can we make the failing universal credit work for families?

In Manchester on Thursday the 13th of September 2018.

Book now

Despite a growing avalanche of evidence that universal credit (UC) is causing hardship and pushing thousands of children and their families further into poverty, the roll out of UC continues.

The National Audit Office found that one in every five claimants do not receive their full payment on time and the DWP’s own research highlights that just over half of claimants are able to register their claim online without assistance.

With ‘managed’ migration due to start in July 2019, the administrative and systemic problems with UC will only be magnified.

This conference will give delegates the opportunity to discuss the latest developments and hear from political leaders, policy makers and experts in the field on how best to support and advise UC claimants in such a hostile and challenging environment.

For more details on the planned workshops and programme, together with instructions on how to book your place, please see below.

Workshops

Delegates will have the opportunity to attend two workshops from the four listed below.

Claiming UC: now and under managed migration – “the one in five” failure rate 

Martin Williams, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG

DWP Figures show 20% of people who attempt to claim UC are refused due to failing to attend or book an interview or for other administrative reasons. With the proposed regulations on “Managed Migration” requiring claimants of legacy benefits to submit claims for UC when notified to do so, rather than a process of automatically transferring them to the new benefit, this is particularly worrying.

In this workshop we will look at:

  • The UC claims process and how DWP handling of this issue arguably differs from what is in the regulations.
  • Challenging decisions “closing” claims.
  • The proposed managed migration rules on claiming and foreseeable problems claimants are likely to encounter when instructed to claim UC.
  • Possibilities for strategic litigation in this area.
Right to reside and habitual residence tests for UC
Rebecca Walker, Author and Trainer at CPAG
Many EEA nationals are being refused universal credit on the basis that they are not accepted as being habitually resident or having a qualifying right to reside – even when they were previously receiving legacy benefits.
This workshop will consider some of the current issues including:
  • The way the residence tests operate for UC
  • Issues for claimants previously receiving legacy benefits
  • Particular groups experiencing difficulties such as EEA nationals not considered to be working enough and those seeking to claim on the basis of a derivative right to reside
Tactics for dealing with UC sanctions
Dan Norris, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG
Sanctions are a significant problem for the increasing number of universal credit claimants. Focussing on work related requirement sanctions, this workshop will give advisers the skills to support clients who have been sanctioned or are in danger of being sanctioned.
  • How the UC sanctions regime has increased pressure on claimants
  • How to agree work related requirements to reduce the threat of sanctions
  • Which temporary suspension of work related requirements can help your client
  • Reducing the duration of sanctions
  • Challenging sanctions
UC and disability
Simon Osborne, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG, and Steph Pike, Acting Head of Advice and Rights at CPAG
This workshop looks at some of the main rules, problems and solutions regarding UC for people with disabilities. It aims to cover recent developments and also to allow participants to share experience and views.
Topics covered include:
  • The WCA and transfers from ESA to UC
  • UC and severe disability  – the latest
  • Problems and solutions in practice (work, study and others)
Programme
09.15 – 10.00 Arrival, registration, coffee and exhibition stand viewing
10:00 – 11.15 Host welcome and keynote speakers (tbc)
11.15 – 11.30 Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands
11.30 – 12.45 Workshops – morning session
12.45 – 13.30 Lunch and viewing of exhibition stands
13.30 – 14.45 Workshops – afternoon session
14.45 – 15.00 Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands
15.00 – 16.00 Panel discussion and Q&A
As a precursor to all of the above, attendees may wish to read CPAGs summary of the 8 main UC issues identified by their Early Warning System. Some, but not all, of these issues may be relevant to bring into the room for our October 2018 meeting in Trafford. Either way they’ll provide some focus to initial thoughts.
Confirmed Speakers

Manchester

Kate Green MP, Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston
Graham Witham , Director of Greater Manchester Poverty Action
Dr Lisa Scullion, Reader in Social Policy, University of Salford

Venue
Our Manchester venue is the University of Manchester Innovation Centre, Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton Street, Manchester, M13 9NT
Our London venue is Herbert Smith Freehills, Exchange House, Primrose Street, London, EC2A 2EG
Exhibition Space

There will be an exhibition space hosting exhibitors showcasing their work, products and services. If you are interested in exhibiting, please email Sebastien at sclark@cpag.org.uk.

Booking a place

Delegate tickets, which include a choice of four expert workshops, teas, coffees, buffet lunch and conference materials, start from £150.00 for voluntary organisations and £195 for statutory and lawyers.

To book your place(s) please complete the online booking form here.

Please note that bookings cannot be processed until you have selected your workshops, and workshops will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Details of the next NAWRA meeting in Nottingham are now available.

NAWRA’s quarterly conferences are held around the UK and include keynote speakers, workshops and a range of networking and professional development opportunities.

Here are details of the next NAWRA meeting:

Date: Friday the 1st of June 2018
Time: 10am – 4pm (registration from 9.30am)Nottingham Trent University
Location: Nottingham Law School, Chaucer Building, Goldsmith Street, Nottingham NG1 5LP

The meeting is kindly hosted by Nottingham Law School Legal Advice Centre and Advice Nottingham. Our guest speakers will be Dr Tom Vickers of Nottingham Trent University, Tessa Gregory (Leigh Day Solicitors) and Elizabeth Davey (Equality and Human Rights Commission). There will be workshops on PIP case law, financial resilience and CPAG’s new Upper Tribunal Assistance Project.

Download the full agenda along with information about travel, accommodation and our social evening.

NAWRA meetings are free for members to attend. There is no need to book a place. Please let me know you have any access requirements.

CPAG challenge to the two child limit succeeds but only in part.

CPAG have issued a statement today which reads as follows:

On 18 August 2017, CPAG issued a claim for judicial review in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) to challenge the two child limit, introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. Permission was granted on 17 October 2017 and the case was heard across two days on 6 and 7 February 2018.

Judgment was given on 20 April 2018 allowing the challenge in part.  The Court accepted CPAG’s arguments that the ordering restriction on the kinship care exception was perverse and therefore unlawful.  The wider challenge to the policy as a whole was dismissed.  CPAG is looking to appeal this aspect of the case. Read the judgment.

The case is brought on behalf of two lone mothers, who each already had more than one child born before 6 April 2017 and gave birth to an ‘additional’ child after that date, as well as a household who would be exempt from the policy but for the fact that the child being looked after under a child arrangement order was taken in as the family’s second child before the couple went on to have a natural child of their own (the family’s third child).

Grounds of challenge are:

(i) Direct breach of Article 8 (right to private and family life) and Article 12 (right to marry and found a family) given that the policy is intended to influence intimate behaviour and bring about smaller families;

(ii) Discrimination of children with multiple siblings in respect of Article 8 and Article 1, Protocol 1 given that a child with no siblings or only one sibling has their subsistence needs met through the social security system, while a child with 2 or more siblings does not; and

(iii) The ordering or sequencing requirement to qualify for an exception is unlawful for the same reasons given in (ii) above, as well as being irrational.

In the two claimant households headed up by lone parents, one is on income support, the other on WTC. Neither of the lone mothers intended to get pregnant with the ‘additional child’, indeed one of them was on the pill at the time, but equally for moral reasons neither of them was prepared to consider terminating the pregnancy.  In the third claimant household, the father works full-time while the mother is currently on maternity leave from her part-time job.

Background

On 6 April 2017, new rules came into force limiting the child element of child tax credit (CTC) and universal credit (UC) awards to two children. In CTC, this limit only applies to a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017; in UC the limit applies from 6 April 2017 (irrespective of when the child was born) though transitional protection currently applies to third or subsequent children born before 6 April 2017. There are a limited number of exceptions to this 2 child limit meaning that it does not apply to a third or subsequent child in the following circumstances: multiple births, adoption from local authority care, kinship care and children likely to have been conceived as a result of rape or a coercive or controlling relationship.

CPAG considers that the 2 child limit unlawfully discriminates against a number of different groups including, but not limited to, children with multiple siblings, large families and those with a religious or moral objection to the use of birth control. Further, the principal policy justification for the limit is logically flawed. In its impact assessment, DWP referred to the 2 child limit as ‘ensur[ing] that the benefits system is fair to those who pay for it, as well as those who benefit from it, ensuring those on benefits face the same financial choices around the number of children they can afford as those supporting themselves through work.’ However, 70% of those claiming tax credits are already working severely undermining such a fairness objective.

It is estimated that more than 250 000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, representing a 10% increase in child poverty. A similar number of children already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty. Given such a severe impact on child poverty, the policy is in breach of the UK’s obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. In these circumstances, the discriminatory treatment cannot be justified.

Simplification of the benefits system – GMWRAGs Christmas surrender.

GMWRAG has recently posted twice about the DWP and new freephone numbers for Universal Credit. You can find these tremendously exciting posts both here and here. Additional to these we now have new JobcentrePlus freephone numbers as follows:

Telephone: 0800 169 0310
Textphone: 0800 169 0314
Welsh language: 0800 328 1744
Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm

All of this information is coming out in what we believe to be quaintly knows as “dribs and drabs” or has been discovered more by accident than design on social media. One is left with the impression DWP marketing have signed off for Christmas and possibly forever. We’re struggling to keep up. One can only imagine what a UC claimant must feel about all of this! Simple, easy to find and transparent? Er, no.

We are doing our best to agree that things are indeed getting better. Proof positive can be found in the strangest places. 5 years ago the CPAG Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits handbook had 1,784 pages. This year we’re up to 1,800. Clearly the pace of change is finally changing! Simplification is afoot!

Much of 2017 has been characterised by the cognitive dissonance between what DWP do and what they say they do. Thus we have a whole pile of freephone numbers to make life cheaper and easier for claimants but nothing resembling an easy way of finding them.

GMWRAG is a huge fan of W1A, the BBC series in which the BBC comedically dismantles itself.

GMWRAG would therefore like to gift you all of the freephone numbers either in or linked to from this post and end 2017 with an entirely appropriate quote from W1A. It appears this was the year in which DWP identified “… what we do best and found more ways of doing less of it better”. Neil Couling clearly fits into this picture somewhere.

Are we rambling? Yes, we are. Okay, we’ll stop now 🙂

GMWRAG would like to wish all our members an excellent Christmas 2017 (“it’s been worse than good and it’s about to get worse than bad”) and an excellent 2018 (“Let’s nail the jelly to the hothouse wall!”).

GMWRAG isn’t tracking the general election but…

GMWRAG has exhausted itself electing a new GM (Greater Manchester NOT genetically modified!) Mayor and has little enthusiasm for closely tracking the forthcoming General Election. However, we’re happy to point our members to a few resources which will help you do so if you wish. It is already very noticeable that this is not going to be an election in which welfare reform and poverty are at the top of anyone’s list.

The BBC have helpfully produced an election tracker, which you can find at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39844115 or by clicking the magic words in this sentence. “Welfare” comes in at 11th on the number of things they’re tracking although you could argue that “Pensions” coming in at 5th has some significance! Lots of tabloids are tracking little more than who the pundits think will win but you could invest some of your diminishing faith in pollsters following the excess of statistics at Electoral Calculus.

Of more interest our friends at Rightsnet have identified at least three suggestions for manifestos. GMWRAG thinks it’s worthwhile digesting all three but may wonder out loud whatever happened to campaigning to change things rather than asking for tweaks to the status quo? Can Universal Credit ever be made to work, or make work pay (as opposed to merely function in the former case!)? No mention of the mess which is the Benefit Cap or even DHPs!

– Citizens Advice: Citizens Advice has 5 big asks for the next government
– CPAG: Election 2017 manifesto
– The Law Society: Law Society unveils election manifesto for Brexit Britain

CPAG legal challenge – do you have a client affected by the two child limit to tax credits/ universal credit?

Do you have any clients who will be affected by the recent legislative changes to Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit due to come into effect 6 April 2017?

The Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 introduced fundamental changes to Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit, limiting child tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a household. These changes, commonly known as the 2 child rule, will come into force from the 6th of April 2017 together with certain exceptions and transitional arrangements set out in recently published regulations.

The Child Poverty Action Group is looking into the possible routes of legal challenge to the 2 child rule and would like your help in locating potential claimants who would be affected by this rule and who would be willing to be part of a CPAG legal challenge.

CPAG is looking in general for:

  • Any family already claiming benefits with two children and looking to have more in the near future

But also the following particular types of households which may be unfairly affected by the rule (though this is not an exhaustive list of examples):

  • Two lone parent household units already with two children each considering forming a single ‘blended family’ arrangement because the adults have become a couple;
  • An individual or couple caring for one or two ‘kinship’ children but contemplating having children of their own;
  • A family which, when the children were born, did not require state support but now has a need to because of an unexpected change in circumstances (e.g. loss of a job); and
  • A parent who is religiously or philosophically opposed to birth control.

If you can help, please complete the attached test case referral form (save it to your computer first) and email it to testcases@cpag.org.uk

CPAG-Test-case-referral-form

 

CPAG looking for test cases to challenge the Benefit Cap.

CPAG is looking for test cases to challenge the benefit cap. If you are an adviser and have clients currently affected by the cap or who are likely to be affected when the cap is reduced in November 2016, CPAG would like to hear from you. Please complete the referral form here (save it to your computer first). Alternatively, email Testcases@cpag.org.uk

The form can also be downloaded from GMWRAG here.

There’s more information about the benefit cap on CPAG’s website but it’s also worth having a read of

Sophie Earnshaws blog on the impact of the reduced cap.

The New Statesman on 5 reasons why the cap is wrong.

The Guardian on the caps lack of compatibility with the UN convention on the rights of the child.

Benefit Tales on the rise of in work poverty.