11th January, 2023
I hope you enjoyed the festive break and are looking forward to a prosperous New Year.
Just before we broke, I highlighted a case, referred by Cunninghame HA, which involved a tenant whose non-dependant mother died, causing DWP to create an overpayment, despite the tenant reporting timeously, the death via her online account journal.
I’m delighted to say, the case was quickly resolved, in the tenant’s favour, by a DWP Practice Manager, instigating manual amendments to the award, to overcome, what it now concedes are IT configuration errors. Whilst the department has committed to fully remedy the problems, so its IT system automatically adjusts awards correctly, the scheduled amendments might take months or longer to implement. For example, another anomaly I highlighted, concerning the online APA application, which wrongly applied a £2500 ceiling maximum to the monthy rent charge, took fully two years to remedy.
So, it could be some time, before claimants in similar circumstances i.e., who experience a death of a partner, child, mother, father, adult son/daughter, or non-relative, ordinarily resident in their household, or simply try to report a change in circumstances, are finally able to do so without experiencing benefit loss or unwarranted overpayment demands.
If you examined my earlier post, which covered the topic in greater detail, you’ll have realised there are two important issues to keep in mind.
Firstly, in the event of a household member’s death, the normal rule of applying the change from the 1st day of the “Benefit Assessment Period” (BAP) in which it occurs, is substituted by the “exception rule” called the Bereavement run-on, which provides for payments to continue for 3 monthly BAPs before the award is adjusted, to reflect the new situation.
Secondly, when reporting the change, make sure your tenant or surviving spouse/partner, records the change, using one of the dedicated “change of circumstance” links, which you’ll easily find on the online account.
There are many other changes that need to be reported, from time to time e.g., birth of a child, move address, revised rental charge. Again, I would recommend your tenant reporting any of these via the dedicated link, rather than just creating a post in their journal, even though that should suffice.
DWP have made it perfectly clear they want claimants to use the link, as this should allow the change to be applied to the award, where appropriate, without the need for manual intervention. Whilst I understand and have sympathy for DWP’s stance, it doesn’t alter the fact, Regulation 38 of the (Claims & Payment) Regulations 2013 deals with – “Evidence & information in connection with an award.” Sections (4) & (5) make perfectly clear that changes should be made, in writing or by phone, so email, letter, text or call are all perfectly legitimate.
In the event, you come across any case(s) of tenants losing out, because of this unwarranted insistence or disadvantageous alteration, remember this can be easily and successfully challenged, using the Mandatory Reconsideration or “Revision” processes. If you employ specialist benefit advisors e.g., Welfare Rights, Financial Inclusion etc., they should be able to assist.
If you need further information or clarification, on what is an important issue as far as UC administration is concerned, please do not hesitate to get in touch, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07733 080 389.
UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd