Benefits Service

The Assert Benefits Service can help you with all aspects of the application and appeals process for income and non-income related benefits in the UK. This can include help to complete benefit application or review forms, help to arrange or attend a face- to- face assessment for PIP, ESA or Universal Credit, as well as someone to support and represent you at an appeal tribunal. To access the Assert Benefits Service, you must first be a registered member with Assert. There may be times in which the benefits service does not have capacity to accept new cases, so it is always advisable to contact Assert in advance if you are planning to apply for a benefit for the first time and would like our support with this. 

Recent feedback on our benefits service has included: 

“I feel more confident about future benefits applications because I know that there are good advocates out there who can support me in the process.” 

“They are already doing all they can and it’s so much. Thank you so much for changing my life and making such a difference.” 

The Assert Benefits Service is funded by the Henry Smith Foundation. 

Our new Eligibility Guide to Benefits can be downloaded here:

Benefits Update April 2020 

The Assert Benefits Service is now open to new referrals with our Benefits Caseworker Alex. Please get in contact via email with any benefits related questions or if you need support: benefits@assertbh.org.uk 

April 2020 has seen the ‘Benefits Freeze’ end for Universal Credit, and payments have increased by 1.7%. There has also been an additional increase to help people during the coronavirus crisis. This is around £1,000 a year or £80 a month. This increase will be in place for a year from April 6th 2020. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also created some more temporary changes within the DWP: 

BENEFIT OVERPAYMENT RECOVERY SUSPENDED 

· Some claimants will see a temporary increase in their benefits payments because the DWP have suspended the recovery of benefits overpayments for three months from the first week of April. 

· Deductions for the recovery of Universal Credit and legacy benefit overpayments, social fund loans and tax credit debts are being paused. 

· The DWP say that most deductions will be suspended automatically. 

· Recovery of overpayments by private sector debt collection agencies have also been suspended. 

· However, the DWP is continuing to recover advance payments of Universal Credit. 

ALL BENEFITS FACE-TO-FACE ASSESSMENTS, REVIEWS AND REASSESSMENTS HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED. 

They have been suspended for a period of 3 months, from 24th March 2020 until 24th June 2020. The suspension covers all benefits and does not depend on you having been diagnosed with Covid-19 or having to self-isolate. It includes: 

· Personal Independence Payment (PIP) 

· Universal Credit (UC) 

· Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) 

· Disability Living Allowance (DLA) 

· Attendance Allowance (AA) 

· Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) 

If you have already had an assessment for PIP, the decision-making process will continue. If you disagree with a decision you receive you should still submit a request for a mandatory reconsideration. If you have an upcoming appointment for an assessment, the assessment provider should contact you to explain whether a paper or telephone assessment will take place. Where awards of a current benefit is due to expire, the DWP will be extending end-dates. This means your award will continue at its current rate for this period. You can continue to make new claims for all benefits. If you receive letters regarding your benefits it is still important that you stick to any time-frames you are given to respond. 

If your benefit application goes through to the appeal stage, tribunal judges have been given the power to sit alone and to make decisions about PIP, ESA, UC and DLA appeals just on the papers during this time. 

· Under the new powers, a tribunal judge can make a provisional decision just on the paperwork where they believe a successful outcome for the claimant is highly likely. 

· Once a provisional decision is made, both you and the DWP will be asked if you agree with that decision. 

· If you both do, it will become a final decision. 

· If either you or the DWP are not happy, you can still request that the case goes to a full hearing. Don’t feel pressured in to accepting a decision if you think it’s wrong or you are entitled to more. 

· If a full hearing is required, wherever possible it will be done ‘remotely’. This may mean by video link or telephone conferencing. 

Benefits Update Spring 2019 

Universal Credit Update 

The gradual rollout of Universal Credit has now been pushed back several times by the DWP. In December 2019 the ‘full service’ rollout of UC was completed, meaning all new claims and claims due to changes of circumstances for the 6 ‘legacy’ benefits were no longer possible. The next stage of Universal Credit rollout will be ‘managed migration’, where claimants will start moving to the new Universal Credit system even when their circumstances haven’t changed, and this is due to begin with a 10,000 claimant ‘test project’ in July 2019. Managed Migration for the rest of the country will not begin until this pilot project has been completed and assessed, and at present there is no confirmation for how participants in the test project will be chosen. 

Severe Disability Premium and UC 

Claimants who receive the Severe Disability Premium on top of their Income Support (or who received this in the last month and whose circumstances have not changed) are no longer able to move to Universal Credit, except through ‘managed migration’. This is because of new Transitional Protection regulations which mean that people moved over to Universal Credit by ‘managed migration’ will not be worse off when they are transferred. If these claimants are entitled to less under Universal Credit than under the old ‘legacy’ benefits, they will receive a ‘transitional amount’ to top up their Universal Credit to the same amount under Managed Migration, although this will be time limited. 

Universal Credit Two-child Limit 

From 1st February 2019, families with more than two children who make new claims for Universal Credit are no longer able to claim Child Tax Credit instead. The two child limit will apply to those families as well as to families who have been awarded Universal Credit after April 2017 and who have two or fewer children but then have a third or subsequent child. 

Pension Credit Child allowances 

From 1 February people of Pension Credit age who are responsible for a dependent child or children can receive help in the form of dependent allowances paid within their Pension Credit award. This is because you are no longer able to make a new claim for Tax Credits (Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit) if you are Pension Credit age. 

Universal Credit Work Allowance Increases – April 2019 

In April the work allowance for Universal Credit will increase by £1,000 per year, meaning that people in work who have children or have limited capability for work (or their partner has limited capability for work) will benefit by up to £630 per year. If you are a worker who has no children or you or your partner have not been assessed as having limited capability for work you will still not receive help in the form of work allowances. 

National Minimum Wage Increase – April 2019 

The National Living Wage will increase by 4.9% from £7.83per hour to £8.21 per hour in April 2019. The National Minimum Wage increases from £7.38 per hour to £7.70 per hour for people aged 21 to 24, and from £5.90 per hour to £6.15 per hour for people aged 18 to 20. There is more information about the National Minimum Wage on the Gov.uk website. 

Benefits Update December 2018 

In the 2018 budget which was released on 29th of October, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond revealed a number of planned changes that will affect many of our members, which have been detailed below: 

* From April 2019, the personal allowance for income tax will increase from £11,850 to £12,500. 

* The work allowance for Universal Credit claimants (who have limited capability for work or work related activity, as well as for claimants with one or more dependent children) will increase by £1,000 per year from April 2019 (which is an increase of around £83.33 pcm). 

* As part of the Budget, an additional £1 billion was pledged over the next five years to support the transition of existing benefit claimants to Universal Credit, which means around 1.1 million people will get an extra one-off non-recoverable payment from their existing Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, or income-related employment and support allowance worth an average of £200 to cover them for an initial two-week period at the start of their claim. 

* The roll out of ‘managed migration’ has been pushed back and is now scheduled to take place between July 2019 and March 2023. 

Severe Disability Premium and Universal Credit: 

There is currently no transitional protection or provisions in place for claimants who qualify for Severe Disability Premium to protect their current benefit rates if they must make a claim for Universal Credit, which can happen due to a change in circumstances like moving to a full service Universal Credit area. Some groups of claimants may be better off on Universal Credit 

but others will receive substantially lower amounts after naturally migrating – such as people on employment and support allowance who also qualify for the severe disability premium, or some families receiving additional amounts for a disabled child. However, the government has proposed (in draft managed migration regulations) that from 16 January 2019: 

* people who receive the severe disability premium (or for those who meet the conditions for getting it and have received it in the last month) who would have naturally migrated to universal credit will stay on their legacy benefits until they are migrated to universal credit through the managed migration process; and 

* people who were previously entitled to a severe disability premium and have claimed Universal Credit before the coming into force of the restriction on claims described above will be entitled to a flat rate ‘transitional severe disability premium amount’ ranging between £80 and £360 for each assessment period since the move to Universal Credit, which will be converted into a transitional element after a date determined by the Secretary of State. 

Tip: If you have lost out after naturally migrating to Universal Credit, you can currently only challenge the decision by taking individual legal action, for example as has happened with the successful challenge in the case of R (TP and AR) v SSWP and the pending case of R (TD, AD and IM) v SSWP. 

Benefits Update October 2018 

Employment and Support Allowance Update 

The Department for Work and Pensions are expected to pay £970 million in arrears to claimants in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance who were mistakenly awarded Contributory ESA rather than Income-related ESA when their claim was transferred from the ‘old-style’ Incapacity Benefit. It is thought that this review will affect over 180,000 benefit claimants and covers the period of 2011-2014. The Department for Work and Pensions have established a specialist team to review all ESA claims that may have been affected and aim to have this completed by 2020. 

Personal Independence Payment and ‘Psychological Distress’ Update 

Personal Independence Payment is a non-income related benefit designed to help people with the additional costs of having a health condition or disability and it is broken down into two components: Daily Living and Mobility. 

From the 16th March 2017, the Government amended the PIP regulations, meaning that people who were unable to plan or follow journeys independently on the grounds of psychological distress were no longer entitled to the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP, and could only score a maximum of 10 points. 

In December 2017 a tribunal ruling in RF v SSWP and Others declared that this policy was “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions, and that this breached of Articles 1, 8 and 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights as it treated people with mental health conditions less favourably than claimants with physical health conditions. 

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey confirmed that the government would not appeal against the outcome and that the DWP would review ‘all affected cases’, although in reviewing these cases the Government have applied the ‘anti-test case rule’ meaning that arrears under the review are being limited to 28 November 2016, the date of the test case decision. 

The Department for Work and Pensions have begun to review and process all Personal Independence Payment claims, and some Assert members have begun to receive letters from the Department about their Mobility component award. 

If you claimed or made an application for PIP on or after 28 November 2016 and you receive the standard or no mobility component the DWP will automatically review your claim and contact you in writing. You do not need to do anything or contact the Department and you will not be required to attend a face-to-face assessment, but you may be contacted by phone or post if they need further information about your claim. 

If you already receive the enhanced mobility component of PIP, nothing will change as you are already claiming the highest component 

If you don’t receive the mobility component or if there is no change to your award, you can still ask the Department for Work and Pensions to review your claim or you can make a new claim. You should be aware, however, that your PIP could go up or down based on the new assessment, so it is recommended you seek advice before starting this process.