28th July, 2022
In an earlier bulletin (January 21), I answered one of the most common questions I’m asked – can DWP award UC before the date of the tenant’s actual claim?
The answer is – YES – but, only in limited and prescribed situations.
I explained, using an actual case, how Ms X (57) had transferred from one PRS tenancy to another, but, in a different local authority area. When moving, she claimed Housing Benefit (LHA) as she had been doing at her previous address. The new Council dithered, determining her claim for nearly 6 weeks, only to advise her she no longer had any eligibility to HB and needed to claim Universal Credit. She did so, and was awarded UC from the date of her claim. A request for a backdate to the date of the move was subsequently refused. Following this, a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) was submitted, seeking a “backdate” of the UC award for a 1-month period. The MR proved successful and resulted in her receiving the 1-month HCE award, the maximum permitted.
In a more recent decision of the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) the complainant, another Miss X, wrote a letter to her local council, in May 2021, stating – “I would like to apply for housing benefit and Council Tax Support due to my savings dropping to less than £16,000. I am currently in receipt of ESA and PIP” and included extracts from her bank savings account.
Miss X waited until 8th September 2021 before pursuing her request. She assumed, the Council might have accrued a backlog of claims, due to COVID measures. The Council finally responded by explaining she needed to apply for Universal Credit and CT Support. One of its benefit advisors was appointed to assist her, and secured a backdated payment of CT Support to the date of her original letter (May).
Her application for UC was however only awarded from the date of claim, as DWP didn’t accept her circumstances merited even the 1-month backdate.
On receipt of this, Miss X pursued the matter further with the LGO. After further exchanges between LGO and Council, Miss X was encouraged to submit a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) which was rejected. Undeterred, Miss X reverted to the LGO and subsequently the Council agreed, because of its failure to take appropriate action, she had suffered a loss unnecessarily, and should be fully compensated for the 4 months “housing costs element” DWP would otherwise have paid her.
The LGO’s decision is important, as it addresses an issue which has proved extremely troublesome in many cases, UK wide. Councils often take months to respond to claims, never mind letters. This case creates the opportunity for Welfare Rights and Money Advice staff, potentially revisiting client cases, where prior attempts to secure, even partial recompense from DWP failed, due to the limitations explained in my bulletin. Equally, the LGO’s decision would apply to any new cases, where, either a similar letter intimating an intent to claim is sent or an application for HB is made, and it takes the Council weeks/months to confirm Universal Credit needs to be claimed.
Although the LGO doesn’t operate in Scotland (Home | SPSO) such a desision should prove very persuasive.
If anyone needs further explanation of how this decision could assist, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07733 080 389.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd