'Think' Policy Newsletter April 2021

The Advice NI Policy & Information team is delighted to publish this April 2021 edition of our policy eNewsletter ‘THINK’.


We have all the latest legislative updates, statutory rules, announcements and briefings.

We have also monitored both the NI Assembly and Parliamentary questions and included AQs and PQs on a range of issues including: appeals, advice funding, Post Office Card Accounts, PIP appeal outcomes and the Universal Credit £20 uplift. And we now have official confirmation of the end date for the process of moving legacy benefit claimants to Universal Credit.

The Policy & Information Team are currently reviewing the work of 20/21 and preparing for a big exciting year ahead in 21/22. Loads achieved in 20/21 including: assisting with the Advice NI emergency response to Covid-19; 12 Weekly Covid-19 Updates for the Independent Advice Network; 9 Monthly Policy ‘THINK’ eNewsletters; 7 Social Policy Briefing Papers; 7 Policy & Information Issue Based Policy Fora; 50+ consultation responses and social policy contributions.

Please do email the Team if you would like to find out more about our work or would like to discuss or priorities for the year ahead.

Please email us at policy@adviceni.net to discuss any policy matters, content, feedback or comments. We'd be happy to share ideas on areas to focus on, content suggestions and other ways of getting involved.

If you want to get 'THINK' delivered straight to your inbox, sign up with this link.

Best regards,

The Advice NI Policy & Information Team



Latest News

Advice NI Covid-19 Community Helpline

The Advice NI and Independent Advice Network contribution to the Covid-19 emergency response has been a testament to the efforts of all staff across the Network:

  • Over 45,000 calls answered on the Covid-19 Community Helpline;
  • Over 20,000 texts and emails answered by Covid-19 Community Helpline staff;
  • Local support and assistance provided including in relation to Covid-19 information, food, emergency fuel, emotional support, support re local employment issues, access to medicine, housing, social security benefits, debt and money advice.

The year ahead will no doubt be equally challenging, with issues on the horizon including:

  • Increased job loss: (The number of people on the NI claimant count was 58,400 in December 2020, almost double the number recorded in March 2020);
  • Furlough ending at end of September 2021 (98,499 on furlough in NI at December 2020) with likely increased need for employment rights advice and increase in Universal Credit applications (114,000 households on Universal Credit at August 2020);
  • Future migration of benefit claimants on to Universal Credit & Planned cuts to the UC £20 per week ‘Covid19 increase’;
  • Social security benefit appeals (5,958 PIP appeals pending);
  • Delays in issuing National Insurance numbers. For many people this means that they are working on emergency tax codes and for those already experiencing 80% furlough payments this is a further hardship;
  • The advice sector is already warning of a debt crisis in NI – Advice NI and its members dealt with over half a million enquiries in 2019/20. During 2020, our debt service dealt with over £28m of debt in more than 7,500 agreements and anticipates that this will only become worse;
  • The impact of Brexit, the implementation of the NI protocol and the EU Settlement Scheme; services for Black & Minority Ethnic communities and people from abroad;
  • Dealing with the knock-on implications of the pandemic in terms of the personal, social, (mental) health and economic consequences of such an unprecedented event. For example, this may include any Government policy decisions in terms of balancing the public finances which could impact negatively on individuals and households;
  • The independent advice sector has stepped up and worked flat out to protect people during Covid19, with many staff deployed to deliver bespoke emergency Covid-19 responses, whilst maintaining existing services. Many staff are feeling exhausted, stressed and overwhelmed. The work and workers of the sector need to be valued, supported and sustained as we emerge from Covid-19;

Professor Evason, Chair of the Welfare Reform Mitigations Working Group, has provided the following statement to Advice NI:

“I was shocked to see the proposed Department for Communities budget allocation which included no allocation for the independent advice sector to support welfare change. It is clear that some elements of the original welfare reform mitigations package have for the most part worked through in tandem with the implementation of welfare reform, for example DLA to PIP reassessment. However other elements remain essential and indispensable, for example bedroom tax & benefit cap mitigation and the additional independent advice services.

Moreover, there is scope to strengthen the current mitigations by closing loopholes and adding new mitigations most obviously in relation to the so-called 2 child cap. I look forward to seeing the necessary legislation passed on these provisions.

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, there is also the need to anticipate and provide for the impact of so-called ‘long Covid’, with over 100,000 people testing positive for Covid-19 in NI it is as yet unclear what the longer term needs of some of these people may be. The advice sector will be able to play a key role in supporting these people, as well as monitoring how well our social security system fits this new need. Plus, as furlough ends and unemployment rises, the need for help with Universal Credit could increase at a rate not seen before and we need to be prepared.

We are going into uncharted waters and should be shoring up our defences not dismantling them.”

Professor Eileen Evason

Minister for Communities with further update in NI Assembly

Independent Advice Sector: Appeals

T6. Miss Woods asked the Minister for Communities, given that she will be aware of the impact that budget cuts in the independent advice sector will have on people who are vulnerable, in poverty or who have mental health issues, to outline whether her Department has conducted an impact assessment on the number of appeals that are awaiting a hearing. (AQT 1176/17-22)

Ms Hargey: There are no cuts to the advice sector. I have already made it clear that that budget will be protected in the incoming financial year. My Department carried out a full equality impact assessment pertaining to that budget. Obviously, one reason for the timescale for appeals is the pandemic. Business essentially had to stop overnight, and that has had an adverse impact on appeals. The Department is working with the appeals service to look at what we can do about the impact that the situation is having on people. Assessments have been done on the timescales and impacts, and we are trying to develop a programme that will look at those again. We will be working with the appeals service, which just after Christmas, following the announcement on the regulations, suspended all appeals until the start of April, as was its right. I do not have a say over that.

We are therefore engaging proactively with the appeals service, which wants to reduce the number of appeals as soon as possible. We will bring that forward in the time ahead. We have already started listening and are giving opportunities for telephone and online appeals, but we know that the majority of people like face-to-face contact. The restrictions that are in place limit what we can do. We are looking at a programme to try to bring down the waiting list as quickly as possible, when it is safe to do so.
Miss Woods: That is fine, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker. I thank the Minister for her answer. How much funding has been allocated and ring-fenced in this year's budget for tribunal representation?

Ms Hargey: I do not have the exact figure in front of me, but the budget will be the same as what it was in the previous financial year. We are still agreeing the final budget, and I am signing it off, but there will be no change from what there was previously.

NI Social Security legislation

Telephone and video added as channels for undertaking medical assessments for ESA, UC, PIP and industrial injuries

New regulations have been issued in relation to the channels used to undertake medical assessments for determining ESA, UC, PIP and industrial injuries disablement benefit (IIDB).

In force from 25 March 2021, the Social Security (Claims and Payments, Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit) (Telephone and Video Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.64/2021) make amendments that enable medical examinations and consultations to be conducted by telephone or video (in addition to existing channels) as part of the process for determining entitlement to ESA, universal credit, PIP and IIDB.

Statutory Pay amendments

New legislation has been issued in Northern Ireland that makes amendments to regulations setting out how a week's pay is to be calculated for the purposes of calculating statutory payments for workers who are furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
In force from 31 March 2021, the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Coronavirus, Calculation of a Week’s Pay) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.53/2021) make amendments to SR.No.178/2020 in consequence of the extension of the CJRS scheme to 30 April 2021.


Sure Start Maternity Grant

Sure Start Maternity Grant is now available to refugee women with ‘pre-flight’ children.

Effect of Upper Tribunal decision SK & LL v SSWP [2020] UKUT 145 (AAC):

Where a claimant (who satisfies all other qualifying criteria) has an existing member of the family under the age of 16 they will still be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant in the circumstances where they have been granted:

  1. Refugee status or
  2. Humanitarian protection

as long as the other child (or children) under the age of 16 was their responsibility before their flight to the UK. If the claimant is an asylum seeker they are not entitled to Sure Start Maternity Grant as they have no recourse to public funds.


The Executive Office to pay for Troubles pension scheme

The Department of Finance will make the necessary funding available to ensure eligible victims and survivors receive compensation.

Ministerial statement on the Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme | The Executive Office (executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk)

BBC - Stormont's Executive Office to pay for Troubles Pension Scheme

Legislation for Troubles Pension

The Troubles Pension is disregarded from the main income-related benefits:


Also from recovery schemes:


The Victims' Payments Regulations 2020:


Regulations 26 and 27 show that in most cases these pensions will be disregarded. There are also (brief) memos confirming this from a decision-making perspective:


DfC Statutory Rules

The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2021

S.R. 2021 No. 82

This Order, one of a series of statutory rules relating to the annual uprating of social security benefits, provides for the rates of certain social security benefits, pensions and allowances from April 2021.

Coming into operation: On various dates from 1st April 2021

The Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021

S.R. 2021 No. 83

These Regulations contain only provisions in consequence of the Social  Security Benefits Up-rating Order (Northern Ireland) 2021 (“the Up-rating  Order”) and are one of a series of statutory rules relating to the annual uprating of social security benefits and pensions.

Coming into operation: 12th April 2021

The Pneumoconiosis, Etc., (Workers’ Compensation) (Payment of Claims) (Conditions and Amounts) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021

SR 2021 No. 55 - Coming into operation: 1st  April 2021

The Mesothelioma Lump Sum Payments  Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021

S.R. 2021 No.59 - Coming into operation: 1st April 2021

Finance Minister Murphy announces Budget to rebuild economy and support children and young people

Conor Murphy stated that the Executive has agreed funding of £24.9 million for the 'Benefit Delivery Response' as part of its final agreement on the 2021/2022 Budget. He stated:

'Almost £25 million will support the Benefit Delivery Response providing financial assistance to the most vulnerable in society. This is on top of the £42.8 million to continue welfare mitigations. ….£20 million for the Jobstart programme ... will create job opportunities for those aged 16 to 24 at risk of long-term unemployment’


Jobstart Scheme Launched

The JobStart scheme is designed to create opportunities for 16-24 year olds by providing positions with employers for a period of six months, increasing to nine months for those who meet additional criteria. Scheme closes 31 March 2022.

  • An Opportunity Guarantee strand has been added to The Work Experience Programme (WEP) featuring 13 week placements with the guarantee of an interview for a job or an apprenticeship on completion.
  • An Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) can award up to £1,500 in a year to eligible customers facing monetary barriers to entering, progressing towards or progressing within work.
  • Work Ready Employability Services (WRES) will deliver up to six short training courses addressing core employability skills.


National Minimum Wage and Living Wage rates

There are different levels of National Minimum Wage (NMW), depending on your age and whether you are an apprentice.  Currently, if you're aged 25 and over, you'll get the National Living Wage (NLW). From 1 April 2021, you’ll get NLW if you’re aged 23 and over. The minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK should get depends on their age and if they're an apprentice. Find out what the rates are and where to get help if you think you are being paid below the minimum wage rate:


Increase of limits applying in 2021/2022 to certain awards of employment tribunals and other sums payable under employment legislation

New regulations have been issued that provide for increases of the limits that apply in 2021/2022 to certain awards of employment tribunals and other payments under employment legislation in Northern Ireland. In force from 6 April 2021, the Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.73/2021) provides for increases, as set out in the Schedule to the Order.


Rate bills for 2021-22 will begin issuing at the end of May

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said: “Rate bills are normally issued at the start of April.  Last year, as part of my package of rates measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on households and businesses, I delayed the issuing of rate bills until the beginning of June.

Anyone who paid by Direct Debit will have paid their last instalment in March.  I have decided to delay the issuing of this year’s bills to June to give ratepayers a two-month break in payment instalments.”

Monthly Direct Debit and instalment payment plans will be automatically updated to reflect monthly payments from June 2021 to March 2022.  The deadline to qualify for the discount for early payment will be 9 July 2021.


Northern Ireland Poverty Bulletin 2019-20

The Northern Ireland poverty bulletin 2019/20 was released on 25 March 2021. This covers the period pre COVID-19. The proposed date of next publication will be Spring 2022.


Low Income Households Report

The Households Below Average Income (HBAI) report presents information on living standards in the United Kingdom year on year from financial year ending (FYE) 1995 to FYE 2020. It provides estimates on the number and percentage of people living in low-income households based on disposable income.


NICTS Modernisation Vision Statement

The Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunal Service, operated by the Department of Justice, released a document setting out a vision for a modern, innovative, collaborative and responsive 21st Century courts and tribunals system. The Vision Statement commits the NICTS modernisation programme to:

  • the redesign and optimisation of service delivery models to provide more effective services;
  • the improvement of access to justice through the further adoption of digital and other online service delivery channels;
  • the delivery of a reconfigured and modernised physical courts and tribunals estate to support new ways of working;
  • the achievement of sustainable financial operating environment for courts and tribunals services, the justice system and the wider public sector; and
  • support for staff, judiciary and key stakeholders working in a changing environment.


Extension of UC uplift and suspension of minimum income floor

In force from 6 April 2021, the Universal Credit (Extension of Coronavirus Measures) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.67/2021) -

  • extend the temporary uplift of £86.67 per month (equivalent to £20 per week) to the UC standard allowance where an assessment period ends on or after 6 April 2021 and before 6 October 2021;
  • ensure that the temporary uplift is disregarded for the purposes of calculating transitional protection awarded to a claimant either as part of managed migration or as a result of being a former severe disability premium recipient; and
  • extend the relaxation of the MIF requirements for those who are self-employed from 30 April 2021 to 31 July 2021.


Coronavirus (Covid-19) and rate bills

Due to coronavirus, rate bills were issued in June 2020 instead of April 2020, when people usually get their rates bills. This was to help avoid placing financial pressure on ratepayers. The domestic regional rate has also been frozen for 2020-21. Most Land and Property Services (LPS) services and phone helplines are available.
Customer Information Centres will remain closed until further notice. You can email rating@lpsni.gov.uk (for queries about your rate bill), valuation@lpsni.gov.uk (for property valuation queries) or CustomerInformation.LandRegistration@finance-ni.gov.uk (for land registry queries).


Victim Support NI to offer free, independent, legal advice to victims of sexual offences

Victim Support NI has launched a new scheme to support victims of sexual offences – Sexual Offences Legal Advisors (SOLAs). SOLAs are funded by the Department of Justice NI. The publicly funded service will see SOLAs based within the Hubs at Belfast and Foyle, providing free, independent legal advice to victims of serious sexual offences.

SOLAs will provide advice in relation to the disclosure of evidence including medical records, counselling records and personal digital information, such as mobile phone records. They will also provide specific legal advice in relation to the disclosure of previous sexual history and ensure that their clients’ interests and wishes are communicated.


Information Leaflet

International Transgender Day of Visibility 2021 (31 March 2021)

Focus: The Identity Trust exists to provide support to transgender and intersex people and their families. Our members have been delivering targeted support, education and awareness training since the early nineties. Since 2011 we have been lobbying government locally, nationally and across Europe to achieve equal rights in healthcare, education, employment, housing and the judiciary in every aspect of life.

One of our key objectives is to increase social inclusion and reduce social isolation and to provide services to develop self-esteem of individuals empowering them to be a valued member of society. It is our ambition to build capacity within our membership ensuring our sustainability and enabling our strategic aim of expanding the diversity and range of services we provide.


Spring Budget 2021: Social security, gender and Covid-19

The Women’s Budget Group produced this policy briefing. It states:

‘Gendered issues in the social security system long pre-date the pandemic; and cuts and policy changes since 2010 have increased children’s, women’s and in-work poverty.
In particular, the introduction of UC, and other measures including the two-child limit, benefit cap and benefit freeze have gendered impacts. Lone parents, survivors of domestic abuse, disabled and BAME women have been particularly disadvantaged.’

Download the report here.

NISRA Labour Force Survey

The latest NI seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (the proportion of economically active people aged 16+ who were unemployed) for the period December-February 2021 was estimated from the Labour Force Survey at 3.7%. The annual change was statistically significant. Put into the context of the UK, NI had the second lowest unemployment rate, the lowest employment rate and the highest economic inactivity rate of all the UK regions.

The pace of collective redundancy proposals has slowed in 2021, with 170 proposed in the three months January – March 2021. This follows record levels in June and July, and historically high levels through to December. Provisional HMRC data for February shows 106,500 employments (jobs meeting the scheme eligibility criteria) were receiving support under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme at 28 February. January and February daily furlough counts averaged 115,000 and were below levels of approximately 139,000 recorded at the start of July 2020 (the first month for which daily counts are available).


NIHE Insight Report

Report features:

  • an overview of some of the main findings from the 2019 survey of private landlords
  • An update on the plans for the next Northern Ireland House Condition Survey
  • Some of the key insights from a very topical report on the Cost of carbon savings in Northern Ireland's housing stock


NI Bill of Rights Survey

The survey was carried out between November 2020 and February 2021, and achieved a total of 2,346 responses from a wide range of groups and individuals.

  • Disability, age, religion, cultural background and ethnic group emerged as the top five areas viewed as needing further protection.
  • 80% thought that a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland was important or very important, and only 6% thought it was not important at all.




NI Assembly Updates

Advice Sector Funding

AQW 15853/17-22 Miss Rachel Woods (GPNI - North Down)    

To ask the Minister for Communities, pursuant to AQW 14912/17-22, whether the £1.82 million she announced in March 2020 for the independent advice sector has been spent this financial year; and on what was it spent.

This financial year my Department allocated additional monies of just over £1.8 million to the Independent Advice Sector, specifically to assist people with benefit changes as part of welfare mitigations, supporting and protecting in the region of 50 front line jobs. This funding was distributed through Councils for front line advice and legal support; and to delivery partners for the provision of additional advice services including help with appeals and Tribunal representations.

Anti-Poverty Strategy

AQO 1714/17-22 Mr Matthew O'Toole (SDLP - South Belfast)

To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the Anti-Poverty Strategy.

The Anti-Poverty Strategy is being developed using a co-design approach with involvement from stakeholders at all stages of the process. In October 2020, an Expert Advisory Panel was appointed and tasked with producing recommendations on the key themes, priorities and headline actions that the strategies should address.
The Expert Advisory Panel recommendations have been submitted to the Department. They will help inform the work of the Anti-Poverty Co-design Group and Cross-departmental Group in developing the Strategy. The Co-design Group is composed of representatives from 27 voluntary and community sector organisations. The Cross-departmental Working Group is comprised of officials

In the course of the development of the Anti-Poverty Strategy, the Department will continue to engage with, and listen to, the views and ideas of those impacted by poverty and their representative organisations, and will work collaboratively across departments to address their needs. There will be a public consultation in the latter half of this year.
Subject to Executive approval, it is planned that an Anti-Poverty Strategy will be published in December 2021.

Post Office Accounts

AQW 15978/17-22 Mrs Rosemary Barton (UUP - Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

To ask the Minister for Communities what support she will provide to those in receipt of pensions and benefits that use Post Office card accounts, which will be closing this year, and don’t have a bank account.

As some customers may have difficulty with changing their method of payment and need assistance in choosing an account that is right for their circumstances, the following support services are available:

  • A free telephone advice service (0800 085 7133) offers all POca users the opportunity to ask questions and seek support in choosing an account that meets their needs.
  • DfC’s ‘Make the Call Wraparound’ service which can be accessed at 0800 232 1271 or makethecall@dfcni.gov.uk, can assist customers when considering change of payment method.
  • Free independent advice is available through Advice NI (0808 802 0020 or  www.adviceni.net/money-talks  and Money Advice Service on (0800 138 7777 or www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk).
  • For those customers who are unable to access or manage a mainstream account, my Department will continue to offer a payment exception service.


AQW 16366/17-22 Mr Mark Durkan (SDLP - Foyle)          

To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the work of her officials with the Department of Work and Pensions to establish a replacement Payment Exception Service for the Post Office Card Account when the contract expires in November 2021.

The Post Office card account (POca) contract, which is due to end in November 2021, will be replaced with a new Payment Exception Service.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on behalf of the Department for Communities (DfC) is issuing letters to POca users to provide advance notice of this change, encouraging them to switch payment into a mainstream account, ahead of the POca contract ending. Work is ongoing on the procurement of this new Payment Exception Service and it is due to go live in August 2021. For those customers who are unable to access or manage a mainstream account my Department will ensure that they are migrated to this new Payment Exception Service, thus guaranteeing payment continuity.

Benefit Fraud

AQW 16023/17-22 Mr Alex Easton (DUP - North Down)

To ask the Minister for Communities to detail the cost of benefit fraud to her Department in each of the last three years.

The Department’s Annual Report & Accounts includes information on the estimated levels of fraud and error in social security benefits. The table below sets out the most up to date information available from the published reports.

Estimated levels of loss due to Benefit Fraud:
2017 - 0.9%
2018 - 0.9%
2019 - 1.0%

Work Opportunities for the Disabled

AQW 15959/17-22 Mr Gerry Carroll (PBPA - West Belfast)         

To ask the Minister for Communities what measures she is taking to support disabled people who wish to get back to work.

The Condition Management Programme is a work-focused, rehabilitation programme, aimed at improving the employability of both unemployed people and those who are struggling to remain in work or who have recently gone off work sick due to a health condition or disability. The programme helps clients manage their own condition and firmly re-focus them on their potential to enter and remain in work.

My department currently provides match funding to 14 disability projects in the European Social Fund Programme 2014 -2020. The objective of European Social Fund in relation to people with disabilities is enhance social inclusion by reducing unemployment by helping them progress towards, move into and sustain employment.

There are a number of other schemes currently in place which will assist eligible people, inclusive of those with disabilities, to move into employment including Workable (NI), Access to Work (NI), the Adviser Discretion Fund, Travel to Interview Scheme and the Work Experience Programme. Work Coaches in the Jobs and Benefit offices continue to work with customers who wish to start or return to work through regular engagement. They provide support tailored to the individual and ensure the customer is made aware of specific training opportunities and provisions within their area. While there is currently no face to face interviews happening in the offices, support is still being offered via telephone.

Universal Credit

AQW 16086/17-22 Miss Rachel Woods (GPNI - North Down)    

To ask the Minister for Communities for her assessment of the impact of the reduction of £20 per week, or £80 per Assessment period from Universal Credit claimants from 1 October 2021 as outlined in the Chancellor's Budget.

This uplift has provided critical financial support for the increased number of people now claiming Universal Credit and people need to know that they can continue to rely on such support. While the uplift has been extended to the end of September 2021, I want to see it retained permanently and I will continue to urge Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions to do so.
AQW 15635/17-22 Mr Patsy McGlone (SDLP - Mid Ulster)          

To ask the Minister for Communities whether the £500 COVID-19 special recognition payment to Health and Social Care workers will be determined as income for claimants of Universal Credit and other means-tested benefits.

I am fully supportive of the payment of COVID-19 related support grants to workers in recognition of the difficulties they have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. I am committed to assisting my Ministerial colleagues and encourage early engagement with me and my Department when a COVID-19 support grant is proposed. This enables my officials to consider whether the proposed support grant can be disregarded under current benefit legislation and if not, work to see if a solution is possible, so that the support grant does not have a negative impact on a person’s benefit.
AQW 16784/17-22 Mr John O'Dowd (SF - Upper Bann)  

To ask the Minister for Communities to detail the financial support working women in receipt of (i) Universal Credit; and (ii) Tax Credits and Universal Credit are entitled to in relation to maternity allowance.

A person who is in receipt of both Universal Credit and Maternity Allowance will have their full Maternity Allowance taken into consideration when calculating their Universal Credit entitlement. This means for each £1 received from Maternity Allowance, the Universal Credit payment is reduced by £1. Anyone on a low income or out of work can get support by applying for Universal Credit. Claims can be made online and a step by step guide on how to make a claim is available on the Department’s website at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/communities/dfc-universal-credit-step-by-step-guide.pdf

People making a claim to Universal Credit can also apply for a non-repayable grant from the Universal Credit Contingency Fund through the Discretionary Support Scheme. Anyone wishing to apply for a Universal Credit Contingency Fund grant can do so by completing an online form which can be found at: www.nidirect.gov.uk/publications/discretionary-support-form.

Further immediate financial support is also available for anyone struggling financially while waiting for their first payment of Universal Credit by applying through their online account for a repayable advance payment of up to 100% of their estimated entitlement. In addition, and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from 6 April 2020, the Universal Credit standard allowance increased for everyone by £86.67 a month for one year. This has been extended to October 2021.

A person considering making a claim for benefit can access the ‘entitled to’ benefit calculator to get an estimate of how much Universal Credit they may be entitled to https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/benefits-adviser

Anyone currently in receipt of Tax Credits should read the information on www.gov.uk/working-tax-credit/further-information before making a claim to Universal Credit. As Tax Credits is administered by HMRC, I am unable to provide detail in relation to any potential financial support for a person in receipt of Tax Credits and Maternity Allowance.

PIP Appeals

AQW 15691/17-22 Mr Alex Easton (DUP - North Down)

To ask the Minister for Communities how many of the 118 video personal independence payment appeals were successful for the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020.

During the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020 there were a total of 1,406 hearings across all benefit types of which 638 were classed as paper hearings and 768 were classed as oral hearings (242 face to face, 408 telephone and 118 video).

My Department currently only holds information on the number of successful appeals broken down by oral or paper hearing. During the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020, of the 768 oral hearings 590 were in respect of Personal Independence Payment appeals of which 212 were successful and 90 were unsuccessful with the remaining 288 accounted for as adjourned or withdrawn.
AQW 15692/17-22 Mr Alex Easton (DUP - North Down)

To ask the Minister for Communities how many of the 638 paper personal independence payment appeals were successful for the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020.

There were a total of 638 paper hearings for the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020, of which 577 were in respect of Personal Independence Payment appeals. Of the 577 Personal Independence Payment appeals, 235 were successful, 169 were unsuccessful and 173 were either adjourned or withdrawn.

AQW 15690/17-22 Mr Alex Easton (DUP - North Down)

To ask the Minister for Communities how many of the 408 telephone personal independence payment appeals were successful for the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020.

During the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020 there were a total of 1,406 hearings across all benefit types of which 638 were classed as paper hearings and 768 were classed as oral hearings (242 face to face, 408 telephone and 118 video).

My Department currently only holds information on the number of successful appeals broken down by oral or paper hearing. During the period July 2020 to 31 December 2020, of the 768 oral hearings 590 were in respect of Personal Independence Payment appeals of which 212 were successful and 90 were unsuccessful with the remaining 288 accounted for as adjourned or withdrawn.



Parliamentary Questions

Universal Credit

Karen Buck Labour UIN 185272

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to Universal Credit Programme Board minutes, Paper 1, deposited in the Library on 15 April 2021, what the evidential basis is for her assessment of the merits of people going immediately onto universal credit and fewer people needing Transitional Protection as a result of the end date for managed migration being moved to the end of 2023 from March 2023.

Will Quince Conservative; Answered 26 April 2021

The Universal Credit Programme Board papers deposited in the Library relate to meetings held between October 2018 and March 2019.
In Spring 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department refocused considerable resource to ensuring that all those who needed support during this time could access it, and be paid in full and on time. Since that time, the volume of people on the Universal Credit has doubled to 6 million, which means that our planning for those requiring Transitional Protection has evolved accordingly. We currently anticipate that the process of moving legacy benefit claimants to Universal Credit will be completed by the end of 2024.

Universal Credit offers many advantages over the legacy benefit system: from improved support and access to Work Coaches to improved incentives to increase earnings through the taper rate and Work Allowance. As a consequence, it is reasonable to assume that there will be claimants who do not wish to wait to be moved, or experience a change in their circumstances, which prompts them to claim Universal Credit, and we are looking at how we can support those claimants.

UC £20 Uplift

Charlotte Nichols Labour  UIN 165689

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make it her policy to provide a £20 per week uplift to legacy benefits in line with the £20 per week uplift provided to universal credit.

Will Quince Conservative; Answered 16 March 2021

There are no plans to extend the temporary Universal Credit uplift to legacy benefits, and Parliament has voted to bring an end to legacy benefits in Great Britain. Natural migration to Universal Credit (UC) is required when a person needs to claim new support because of a change of circumstances.

Claimants on legacy benefits can voluntarily make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off. Claimants considering making a claim should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying, as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their UC claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK. They can also get help through the government funded Help to Claim scheme as well as the Citizens Advice Bureau and Citizens Advice Scotland.

UC & Maternity Allowance

Navendu Mishra Labour UIN 174981

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will (a) increase the rate of maternity allowance or (b) exclude maternity allowance as unearned income when claiming universal credit.

Guy Opperman, Conservative

The Government has no plans to review the rate of Maternity Allowance. Maternity Allowance is intended to enable eligible pregnant women and new mothers, who cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay, such as the low paid and the self-employed to prepare for, and recover from birth and to bond with their child. We believe that the rate of Maternity Allowance available allows most mothers to do this.

There are no plans to change the way that Maternity Allowance is treated in Universal Credit. Universal Credit is a means tested system of support, and where an individual claims Universal Credit, their award is adjusted to take account of any other financial support that the claimant is already receiving – including earnings, other income and benefits. Maternity Allowance is a benefit paid by the State which is unearned income. Unearned income that is available to help meet daily living costs is taken fully into account in determining the amount of Universal Credit that an individual is entitled to. As such, in determining the entitlement to Universal Credit, Maternity Allowance is deducted pound for pound from the total value of the award. This principle applies to other benefits.

Redundancy: Older People

Yvette Cooper Labour UIN 175713

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to support people aged 60 and over who have been made redundant and who are ineligible to claim universal credit and have not yet reached the state pension age.

Mims Davies, Conservative:

The Department recognises that work is the best route to prosperity. Claimants who are not eligible for Universal Credit may be eligible for contributory benefits, which are not means tested. Claimants in receipt of contributory benefits can access our wider Jobcentre offer, including tailored support from a dedicated Work Coach.
Furthermore, the Rapid Response Service (RRS) supports eligible people regardless of age who are serving their notice period, whether from compulsory redundancy or other workforce measures such as an early release scheme. The RRS offer is flexible and includes a range of options that can be pulled together into an appropriate support package. Those who do not find alternative employment before losing their job can access the same support as those under notice of redundancy for a period of 13 weeks, irrespective of whether they make a claim for benefit or not.

Mid-life MOTs, which offer support from the National Careers Service, Public Health England and Money and Pensions Service are freely available to anyone considering a change in career.

People who are not in receipt of any benefits can still access support on-line. Find a Job is the Government’s official job matching service for those looking for work, employers looking to recruit and recruitment agencies who recruit on their behalf. In addition, the DWP launched the JobHelp website, which provides useful guidance and tools for jobseekers including hints and tips, job search advice, information about recruiting sectors and signposts to job vacancies to help people successfully find work.

Irish Nationals and NINOs

Marsha De Cordova, Labour UIN 164620

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether there is an alternative arrangement in place for Irish nationals to obtain National Insurance numbers while face-to-face interviews are paused.

Guy Opperman, Conservative; Answered 16 March 2021

It is still possible to take up employment without a NINo. Irish nationals can evidence their right to work in the UK by providing their passport or National Identity card and right to work checks carried out by all employers do not include the provision of a NINo.
Marsha De Cordova, Labour UIN 164619

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when the digital service for issuing National Insurance numbers will be able to be used by Irish nationals.

Guy Opperman, Conservative; Answered 16 March 2021

The digital service to apply for National Insurance numbers (NINos) requires a manual identity check, either by DWP or another Government Department. The service is currently available to applicants who have already been through an identity verification process by another Government Department, primarily the Home Office or the UK Passport Agency.

Residents of the Common Travel Area, such as Irish Nationals, are not required to seek permission to live and work in the UK, and therefore do not have their identity verified by another Government Department. This means that DWP need to confirm their identity at a face to face interview, prior to allocating a NINo.
This service is currently suspended, due to Covid19 restrictions. It will be made available when DWP face to face services resume, in line with the easing of Covid19 restrictions.

It is still possible to take up employment without a NINo. Irish nationals can evidence their right to work:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-work-checks-employers-guide in the UK by providing their passport or National Identity card and right to work checks carried out by all employers do not include the provision of a NINo.