'THINK' POLICY NEWSLETTER - June 2021

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

As usual, we have all the latest legislative updates, statutory rules, announcements and briefings.

Great news regarding Minister Hargey’s plans to extend the terminal illness provision in social security benefits. However NIPSO finds systemic maladministration on the part of the Department & Capita, putting PIP claimants at systemic disadvantage. We have also monitored both the NI Assembly and Parliamentary questions and included AQs and PQs on a range of issues including: welfare mitigations, Universal Credit, national insurance number applications, funding, Post Office Card Accounts and the anti poverty strategy.

The Policy & Information Team are currently seeking to engage with the anti poverty strategy work that is ongoing. We are aware of the excellent report of the Anti-Poverty Strategy Expert Advisory Panel and the ongoing work of the Anti-Poverty Strategy Co-Design Group. Advice NI has established an internal anti poverty strategy steering group aimed at ensuring that the voice of members is reflected into deliberations and is working on a detailed Briefing Paper aimed at influencing the strategy in relation to independent advice provision.

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

NIPSO PIP Report: Systemic maladministration on the Part of the Department & Capita, Putting PIP Claimants at Systemic Disadvantage


The NIPSO investigation found that the Department for Communities and Capita failed to properly obtain and use all relevant medical information to help them assess claims for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit. This led to the rejection of many claims, meaning applicants had to continually challenge the decision, often all the way to Appeal, before the correct decision was made. The repeated nature of the failures led the Ombudsman to conclude that it constituted ‘systemic maladministration’.

https://nipso.org.uk/nipso/our-findings/pip-and-the-value-of-further-evidence/


 

BBC On Your Behalf: The Benefits Controversy


'For me the most damning aspect is the finding that PIP claimants put at "systemic disadvantage". So in other words the odds are stacked against sick and disabled people from the outset'
Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI

On Your Behalf - The Benefits Controversy - BBC Sounds

 

Second Independent Review of the PIP Assessment Process in Northern Ireland - Report and Response


The Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 states that the Department for Communities (DfC) must lay before the Northern Ireland Assembly, two Independent Reviews on the operation of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Assessments. 

The first Independent Review was published in June 2018. The Department for Communities commissioned Marie Cavanagh to undertake the Second Independent Review of how the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment is working in Northern Ireland. 

The review and response from DfC can be found here.

 

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has outlined her plans to extend the terminal illness provision in social security benefits


Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has outlined her plans to extend the terminal illness provision in social security benefits.

Advising Assembly members of her decision Minister Hargey said

“My priority is to reform the current rules to improve the support we provide to terminally ill people.

“I will extend the current six months criterion to twelve months and will bring forward legislation within this current Assembly mandate to do this.

“The changes I will make will apply to all of the five social security benefits to which the special rules apply.


https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/node/52431

 

Communities Minister Hargey Commissions Discretionary Support Review


Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has announced the appointment of an expert panel to review the Discretionary Support (DS) scheme which provides financial support to individuals in crisis situations.

The Independent Review panel will be chaired by Professor Grainne McKeever, a professor of Law and Social Justice at the University of Ulster. Professor McKeever will be joined by a range of academics, grassroots community leaders and advice workers, including Dr Ciara Fitzpatrick, also of University of Ulster; Gerry McConville of the Falls Community Council; Jonny Currie of the Trussell Trust, Ursula O’Hare of Law Centre NI and Kevin Higgins of Advice NI.

The Discretionary Support scheme is currently delivered under the provisions of the Discretionary Support Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016. The policy intent for Discretionary Support….aims to address customer needs in an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation where there is significant risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of the claimant and / or their family. Awards can be made as either an interest-free loan or a non-repayable grant.

The DS scheme has been operational from November 2016 and currently has an annual allocated budget of £16 million. In 2019/20 a total of £12.8 million was paid as part of 51,820 awards (£6 million as loans and £9.2 million as grants.

https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/node/51958

 

Changes to Housing Benefit legislation


Changes have been made to Housing Benefit legislation which will ensure that care leavers and young people who were previously homeless and are claiming Universal Credit are exempted from the Shared Accommodation Rate of the Local Housing Allowance.

The Shared Accommodation Rate is paid to single claimants, under the age of 35 years, in the private rented sector.  However, it does not apply to anyone under 35 living in supported housing in the private rented sector.
With this change in legislation some claimants under the age of 35 years and living alone may now receive more than the Shared Accommodation Rate.  It is important anyone who falls into one or more of the following categories advises us as soon as possible to ensure that they receive the correct Housing Element amount in their UC payment.

This will apply to anyone:
  • Aged 18 to 24 years and identified as a care leaver.
  • An ex-offender who poses a risk of serious harm to the public.
  • Formerly homeless, aged 16 to 34 years and receiving support to resettle back into the community.
  • Aged under 35 and receiving any of the following:
  1. Attendance Allowance (which includes Armed Forces Independence payment and Constant Attendance Allowance, paid as part of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or War Disablement Pension)
  2. DLA care component at the middle or higher rate
  3. PIP daily living component (either rate).
Universal Credit claimants can make contact via their Journal or by contacting the Universal Credit Service Centre on 0800 012 1331.

Further information is available online here.

 

Communties Minister to Reform Gambling Laws


Following a public consultation, the Minister has proposed a two phased approach in order to progress changes in the current Assembly mandate.

Minister Hargey said: “….It is clear from our consultation that people are content for some of the existing legal constraints on gambling to be relaxed.  But they also believe that government, the gambling industry and others need to do much more to prevent, control and combat problem gambling.’

The first phase will be legislation to deliver tangible changes in around 17 key areas mainly around premises based gambling including improving protection for children and young people, as well as some relaxations around hours of operation. The legislation will be introduced in the Assembly in the next few weeks.

Phase two will require a much longer timescale and will include a completely new regulatory framework which will regulate online gambling, including gaming machines. The Minister also recently announced that she is changing legislation to enable local voluntary groups and clubs to raise vital funds by selling tickets online.

http://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/hargey-reform-gambling-laws

https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/consultations/consultation-regulation-gambling-northern-ireland

 

Deeds of Arrangement Legislation


A Deed of Arrangement is a written legal agreement; made between a person or organization that owes money, and the people or organizations that they owe money to. New legislation has been issued that revokes obsolete regulations relating to 'deeds of arrangement'. In force from 30 June 2021, the Insolvency (Amendment) (2016 Act) (Consequential Amendments and Revocation) Order (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.140/2021) revokes the Deeds of Arrangement Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 and makes related changes to other subordinate legislation. Explanatory note states:

'There have been no deeds of arrangement in Northern Ireland since the [Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989] came into operation on 1 October 1991, the procedure having been entirely superseded by individual voluntary arrangements ... As a consequence of the repeal of provision in primary legislation for deeds of arrangement, the Deeds of Arrangement Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 require to be revoked and consequential amendments are required to various other pieces of subordinate legislation which refer to deeds of arrangement.'

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2021/140/made

 

Teaming up to Tackle Food Poverty in North Belfast


Ulster University’s Culinary Arts students, Social Justice Hub and the Law Clinic have partnered with the North Belfast Advice Partnership, which runs the North Belfast Food Bank and Lower North Belfast Family Support Hub, to tackle food poverty.

Together they have co-created the Breakfast Club @ Home to ensure children in North Belfast are returning to the classroom fully fuelled and ready to learn, after Covid-19 restrictions saw them learning at home. Since the first lockdown in March 2020 the Food Bank has delivered 15,000 food parcels, 22,500 hot meals and 550 school lunches during Summer 2020, compared to the 15-20 families it supported per week pre-pandemic.

https://www.ulster.ac.uk/news/2021/june/teaming-up-to-tackle-food-poverty-in-north-belfast

 

Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey – Young People Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)

Statistics on young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) were published today by the Northern Ireland Statistics & Research Agency.

Young people who were NEET:
  1. There were an estimated 21,000 young people aged 16-24 years in N.I. who were NEET, Jan to March 2021. This was equivalent to 10.4% of all those aged 16-24 years.
  2. Of the 21,000 people aged 16 to 24 years who were NEET in January to March 2021, 11,000 were men and 10,000 were women.
The associated NEETs tables are available on GOV.UK here.

 

Child Poverty Annual Report 2020/21


This report is the Executive’s Child Poverty Annual Report 2020-21 – a report to the Assembly as required by Article 12(7) of the Life Chances Act 2010.

The legislation requires an Annual Report, which describes the measures taken by the Northern Ireland departments in accordance with the Northern Ireland strategy, and describes the effects of those measures that contribute to the purpose of ensuring as far as possible that children in Northern Ireland do not experience socio-economic disadvantage. Tackling disadvantage is also an objective reflected in the New Decade New Approach Agreement.

https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/child-poverty-annual-report-202021

Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy, Advice NI comment:

“There is a somewhat confusing picture as set out by the latest official information on poverty in NI, with there being a clear argument for the Executive and the Department for Communities to introduce consistency in terms of the timeliness of reporting poverty statistics and the presentation of poverty statistics.

The most recent statistics, published on 9th June 2021, are contained in the Executive’s Child Poverty Annual Report 2020-21. They are taken from the NI Poverty Bulletin 2018/19 (published May 2020).

However, the Poverty Bulletin: Northern Ireland 2019/20, published on 25th March 2021, presents annual estimates of the percentage and number of people, children, working age adults and pensioners living in low income households in Northern Ireland (NI) for the financial year April 2019 to March 2020.”


 

Communities and Covid Report

‘Communities and Covid - From community response to long term recovery’ is the latest in a series of publications which record the perspectives of community organisations and examine the longer term recovery of communities:

https://www.socialchangeinitiative.com/communities-and-covid-from-community-response-to-long-term-recovery

 

New Regulations Have Been Issued in Relation to Rent Increases for Statutory and Protected Tenancies in Northern Ireland


The purpose of the Order is to allow for increases in rents of statutory and protected tenancies in those properties that meet the housing fitness standard. Rents entered on the register between 2nd April 2007 and 18th July 2021 will be entitled to be increased by 1.5 percent.

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr/2021/166/made

 

Improvements to the Affordable Warmth Eligibility Criteria

The Affordable Warmth Scheme is the Executive’s main Scheme to target and assist low income owner-occupiers and householders who rent their home from a private landlord who are most at risk of fuel poverty. The Scheme offers a range of energy efficiency improvement measures including loft, cavity and solid wall insulation, new and replacement heating systems and replacement windows where appropriate.  It is a targeted scheme where local councils actively identify the most vulnerable households who can then benefit from improvements.
The Department has laid a Statutory Rule in the Assembly today, meaning the changes should be effective from 1 July 2021. Communities Minister Hargey announced changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme eligibility criteria:
  • Increasing the income threshold from £20,000 to £23,000 and;
  • Dis-applying of certain benefits from the calculation of income; namely Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Carer’s Allowance and Attendance Allowance.
https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/minister-hargey-announces-improvements-affordable-warmth-eligibility-criteria

 

NI Electricity (NIE): New Vulnerable Customer Strategy


“Providing a good service for everyone does not always mean providing the same service for everyone. Each year we invest around £0.5 million on support services specifically for more vulnerable customers.

There are over 20 tailored ways that we offer help and support to vulnerable customers.”

https://www.nienetworks.co.uk/vulnerablecustomers

 

National Living Wage


These rates are for the National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) and the National Minimum Wage (for those of at least school leaving age).

April 2021
23 and over      21 to 22             18 to 20             Under 18           Apprentice
£8.91                   £8.36                   £6.56                 £4.62                 £4.30

You must be at least:
  • school leaving age to get the National Minimum Wage
  • aged 23 to get the National Living Wage - the minimum wage will still apply for workers aged 22 and under
https://www.gov.uk/national-minimum-wage-rates

 

Update: Changes to Payments to Post Office Card Accounts


If your benefits are currently paid to a Post Office card account, you must arrange for your payments to be transferred to your bank, building society or suitable credit union account as the Post Office card account service is closing. If you are claiming Universal Credit you can update your bank details using your Universal Credit online account, or you can phone the Universal Credit Service Centre:   0800 012 1331.

If you are claiming other benefits, to arrange for your benefit payments to be made to another account you should contact the Department for Work and Pensions to arrange for the payments to be transferred. Post Office card account transfers:

Telephone: 0800 085 7133
Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4pm

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/how-benefits-and-pensions-are-paid

 

Specialist Support

EUSS


As of the end of May 2021, there had been 5.6 million applications to the scheme from approximately 5.3 million people. The difference between these two numbers is due to repeat applications, some of which represent people moving from pre-settled to settled status.
As of 31 May 2021, there had been 2,754,100 grants of settled status and 2,276,200 of pre-settled status. Considering the level of overlap between these groups (people moving from pre-settled to settled) it is likely that around 4,882,000 people have received either status through the scheme.

Refusal has been relatively uncommon. So far, around 94,000 applications have been refused, 72,000 withdrawn, and 75,000 classed as invalid (around 241,000 in total). Proportionally, there have been more unsuccessful applications decided each month as the scheme has gone on. Nearly half of all status grants have gone to nationals of Poland, Romania, or Italy. This consistent with our estimates of the size of these populations in the UK. This Insight explains what is known about applications to the scheme and grants of status, as the scheme draws to its official close. Click here to read more.
 ,

NI Assembly Questions

Welfare Mitigation Bill

AQW 18859/17-22 Miss Rachel Woods (GPNI - North Down)

To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the introduction of the Welfare Mitigation Bill.

A draft Bill to provide for the extension of the Social Sector Size Criteria welfare mitigation scheme has been shared with Executive colleagues. Pending approval, my Department will continue to make payments under the sole authority of the relevant Budget Act. This will ensure that eligible people are not disadvantaged.

 

Mitigations

AQW 19863/17-22 Mr Mark Durkan (SDLP - Foyle)

To ask the Minister for Communities when she will bring forward legislation to close the loopholes in welfare mitigations, including the bedroom tax and benefit cap. 

I have written to the Executive seeking agreement for the introduction of a draft Bill to extend the Social Size Criteria (the “Bedroom Tax”) mitigation scheme. Once the draft Bill has been agreed for introduction, I will bring forward the regulations to extend the remaining welfare mitigation schemes and to close the loopholes.

 

Universal Credit

AQW 19099/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong (APNI - Strangford)

To ask the Minister for Communities what action she is taking to ensure two monthly salary payments in a single Universal Credit assessment period is recognised and does not penalise claimants; and when this system will be automated in Northern Ireland.

Following an enhancement to the Universal Credit legislation in November 2020, people who now receive two calendar monthly salary payments within one Universal Credit assessment period can request that one wage is allocated to another UC assessment period.

These new procedures ensure that people receive a more consistent award, benefit from any applicable work allowance and minimise any potential impact on childcare costs.

AQW 19100/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong (APNI - Strangford)

To ask the Minister for Communities what action she is taking to ensure people in receipt of Universal Credit are not faced with repercussion impacts when the £20 Covid uplift is awarded; and what action is being taken to provide that people in receipt of Pension Credit will avail of similar financial support.

My Department is not aware of unintended consequences due to the Universal Credit £20 uplift. However, anyone with benefit entitlement that was close to the Benefit Cap level may not receive an increase in payments. This will apply if they are either not eligible for, or were already receiving, a Benefit Cap Welfare Mitigation payment. I intend to bring forward legislation to amend the eligibility criteria for Benefit Cap Welfare Mitigation Payments at the earliest opportunity.
 

Anti-Poverty Strategy

AQW 18742/17-22 Mr Gerry Carroll (PBPA - West Belfast)

To ask the Minister for Communities whether she has considered introducing legislation that makes it unlawful to deny people goods and services due to their socio-economic status.

Consideration of introducing legislation that makes it unlawful to deny people goods and services due to their socio-economic status is one of a range of recommendations contained in the report of the Anti-Poverty Strategy Expert Advisory Panel, which was published on 5 March 2021. The report can be found here.

AQW 18540/17-22 Mr Gerry Carroll (PBPA - West Belfast)

To ask the Minister for Communities whether she has considered implementing an anti-poverty Act.

Consideration of an Anti-Poverty Act is one of a range of recommendations contained in the report of the Anti-Poverty Strategy Expert Advisory Panel, which was published on 5 March 2021. The report can be found here.
 

Fuel Poverty

AQW 18519/17-22 Ms Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP - Foyle)

To ask the Minister for Communities when her Department’s new fuel poverty strategy will be published.

The Department for Economy has recently launched a consultation on options for a new Energy Strategy and my Department will soon issue a Call for Evidence for a Housing Supply Strategy. Responses to these will help inform future development of a Fuel Poverty Strategy.
 

AQW 18520/17-22 Ms Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP - Foyle)

To ask the Minister for Communities, given the UK government’s commitments to eradicate the use of fossil fuels as part of its preparations to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference, whether she will review the Affordable Warmth Scheme, including its subsidies, that supports the continued use of fossil fuels.

A new Fuel Poverty Strategy and associated actions will need to be developed which align with the Energy and Green Growth strategies, including how energy efficiency measures will be delivered in the future.
 

National Insurance Number

AQW 19106/17-22 Ms Jemma Dolan (SF - Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

To ask the Minister for Communities how people make an appointment to obtain a national insurance number. 

People can contact the National Insurance Number Helpline on 028 71 855407 or 028 71 855406. The Helpline is open from 9.00am-4.00pm Monday to Friday and an appointment will be arranged at the earliest opportunity.

 

High St Voucher Scheme & Benefits

AQW 19101/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong (APNI - Strangford)

To ask the Minister for Communities what actions she is taking to ensure all Departments that procure or grant funds to the Community and Voluntary sector include Full Cost Recovery to ensure that all charities can operate in a sustainable manner and are treated the same as commercial suppliers.

I recognise the legitimacy of organisations in the Voluntary and Community sector seeking fair funding, with Full Cost Recovery contributing to the sustainability of organisations in the sector. Treasury Guidance on Full Cost Recovery has been made available across government departments and the Voluntary and Community Sector. I am aware however of ongoing challenges and inconsistencies in the application of the principles of Full Cost Recovery. As we move into recovery and renewal, I am committed to working across the Executive to ensure a shared understanding and consistent application of these principles across government. The Joint Forum, which includes representatives from government departments and the Voluntary and Community Sector, continues to engage to progress key issues for the sector, including Full Cost Recovery.

I intend to respond formally to the Manifesto for Change put forward by NICVA recently, to indicate how I can advocate across government for the change that the Sector needs.

 

Homelessness

AQO 2144/17-22 Dr Caoimhe Archibald (SF - East Londonderry)

To ask the Minister for Communities to outline the measures she is taking to address homelessness.

The Department funds the Housing Executive which has statutory responsibility for responding to Homelessness. Core homelessness funding enables the Housing Executive to support a range of voluntary sector organisations. These services support the prevention of homelessness, or where prevention is not possible, provision of the appropriate support to deliver suitable solutions. This also funds the strategic priorities in the Homelessness Strategy 2017-22.

The Homelessness Strategy outlines how Housing Executive staff will provide person centred services which are tailored to meet the needs of individual customers. Staff will also support customers to achieve sustainable housing solutions and address homelessness when it cannot be prevented. Staff in the Housing Solutions and Support Teams will work with their customers and pull upon the necessary support from other agencies to support clients. This support can include floating support to prevent homelessness or temporary accommodation in cases where emergency accommodation is required.

Following the recent allocation of an additional £9.1m of Covid-19 specific funding for 2021/22 the Housing Executive will continue to deliver actions outlined in the Covid-19 Reset Plan which was published in November 2020….The Department has specific responsibility for the delivery of the Inter–Departmental Homelessness Action Plan which complements the Homelessness Strategy 2017-22. The Action Plan focuses on addressing gaps in non-accommodation services.

I can confirm that the ‘Everyone in’ approach continues to be adopted including for those with no recourse to public funds. The Memorandum of Understanding between my Department, Department of Health and Housing Executive has been extended to 30 June. The ‘Everyone In’ approach seeks to ensure that any individual is offered appropriate support and accommodation if required.

 

Free School Meals

AQW 20214/17-22 Ms Claire Sugden (IND - East Londonderry)

To ask the Minister for Communities (i) for her assessment of the application process for free school meals being moved online; and (ii) to detail any issues that have arisen in light of digital poverty levels.

(i)The Education Authority (EA) is responsible for the administration of applications for Free School Meals and Uniform Grants and from 7 June 2021 the application process for the academic year 2021/22 has moved online. In keeping with the EA's digital first policy the aim is to streamline and shorten the process and make it easier for parents to apply and is to be welcomed. Where the EA has introduced online services for parents uptake is consistently above 98%.

Paper application forms continue to be available for applicants who do not have digital access. To assist parents in completing their application, the EA is operating a helpdesk Monday - Friday 9.00am to 4.30pm (tel: 02890 418044 or email: mealsanduniform@eani.org.uk).

(ii) My predecessor had invested significantly in education technology to help those pupils in need access the necessary IT equipment to assist with their remote learning as a response to the pandemic. To support schools’ delivery of remote learning, funding has been provided to the Education Authority (EA) to continue to improve the services available through C2k, including upgrades to software, the addition of a number of learning applications and upgrading schools’ bandwidth, in particularly low bandwidth areas.

As a system, we are significantly better prepared and equipped to deliver remote learning than we were previously and the stated improvements have enabled us to meet the technology challenges faced.,

Parliamentary Questions

Benefit Cap & Domestic Abuse Survivors

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour UIN 2406

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether she has made an assessment of the potential effect of the benefit cap on a domestic abuse survivor’s decision to leave their abuser.

Mims Davies, Conservative:

DWP is committed to supporting all our claimants, including the most vulnerable in society. This includes those who are, or have been, victims of domestic abuse.The benefit cap and the two-child limit policies help to restore fairness between those receiving working age benefits and taxpayers in employment. However, important mitigations are in place to support the most vulnerable.

We provide a tailored service that recognises those with complex needs and ensures provision of appropriate support. This might include pausing job search requirements, initiating alternative payment arrangements or deferring repayments. In addition, claimants that are temporarily absent from home due to fear of violence can receive the housing element of Universal Credit, and/or Housing Benefit, for both the home that has been left and any new home for up to a year. Housing support for specified accommodation, including refuges, is excluded from the benefit cap calculation as is any Housing Benefit paid to a Universal Credit claimant.

Departmental training and awareness is now better than it ever has been, allowing Jobcentre staff to proactively identify, support and signpost victims of abuse.

Discretionary Housing Payments are available for households that need additional financial support to meet housing costs. While the allocation of this funding is at Local Authority discretion, we have strengthened the associated Guidance Manual to ensure that individuals or families fleeing domestic abuse are considered a priority group for DHP support.

 

Internal Process Reviews & Benefit Claimant Deaths

Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Labour UIN 6423

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many reviews the Government has undertaken after people claiming benefits have died or come to serious harm; and of those reviews how many have (a) concluded and (b) commenced following a Prevention of Future Death report.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative:

Internal Process Reviews form a core part of the Department’s overall approach to investigating the circumstances of a case where potential issues have been identified. We have made significant improvements to Internal Process Reviews, which including forming the Internal Process Review Group, chaired by the Customer Experience Director in 2020, to established to increase oversight of IPRs at a more senior level.

We are improving the tracking and monitoring of improvements from all IPRs to ensure IPR reports are now being drafted to new consistent standards, raising the visibility of IPRs across the Department.

DWP have undertaken 4 Peer Reviews and 139 Internal Process Reviews involving either a customer death or serious harm from the operational year 2015-16 to date. The Department replaced Peer Reviews with Internal Process Reviews in 2015. Due to the Department’s document retention policies, we do not hold a complete record of cases prior to 2015-16. The Department has commenced and concluded 2 Internal Process Reviews following receipt of a Prevention of Future Death Report.


 

UC Joint Claims [LCWRA]

Mary Kelly Foy, Labour  UIN 7943

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment she has made of the equity of her policy on two persons who qualify for the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element of Universal Credit make a joint claim, one of them loses the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element; and if she will make a statement.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative:

It is right that where there has been a change in circumstances, such as a couple forming, benefit entitlement is reassessed to reflect the altered financial status of the household. In Universal Credit, while both members of a couple may be assessed as having limited capability for work and work-related activity, only one limited capability for work and work-related activity element can be awarded. In income-related ESA, whilst a couple’s rate of personal allowance can be paid, only the claimant is assessed and if found to have limited capability for work and work-related activity, awarded the equivalent Support Group component. There is no couple rate of the Support Group component.

The limited capability for work and work-related activity element is designed to reflect the extra costs of longer durations on benefit. Income from benefits such as Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance, which are provided to meet additional costs relating to disability for individuals rather than households, is not taken into account.