'THINK' POLICY NEWSLETTER - May 2021
The Advice NI Policy & Information team is delighted to publish this May 2021 edition of our policy eNewsletter ‘THINK’.
An important development for families is the amendment to existing Universal Credit regulations, which pave the way for upfront childcare costs. Advice NI raised the issue of UC childcare costs in its response to the Programme for Government consultation in April 2021.
The June edition also looks at: The June ‘21 deadline for EUSS applications; the Housing Executive’s ‘Covid Reset plan’ and an important step towards tackling period poverty in Northern Ireland.
Please email us at email@example.com to discuss any policy matters, content, feedback or comments.
The Advice NI Policy & Information Team
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey Requests Amendments to UC Regulations, Regarding Upfront Childcare Costs
The Minister’s proposals will see the introduction of a non-repayable grant of up to £1500 paid in advance to a registered childcare provider. Minister Hargey said:
“Many people do not have the resources to pay upfront childcare costs which most childcare providers require. For women, lone parents and low income families especially, this can act as a major barrier to employment. In order to address this, I will be making help available through a non-repayable grant of up to £1,500.”
The amendments to the current regulations will allow childcare payments made by the Department to be used in the calculation of the person’s childcare costs element. The payment of the UC childcare element following the payment of any grant will ensure that recipients will have sufficient resources to pay for the second and subsequent months of childcare in advance and then claim it in arrears from UC.
In October, the Universal Credit (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2016 will be amended to allow childcare payments made by the Department for Communities through the Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) to be used in the calculation of the person’s childcare costs element.
The ADF is a grant fund available to help remove barriers to employment that prevent people moving towards and into employment. From 12th April 2021, people can avail of a non-repayable grant up to £1,500 in a 12 month period. Previously this limit was set at £300. In addition to childcare costs, the ADF will provide funding to remove barriers to employment such as the cost of short training courses, re-training in an expanding sector, travel costs and support for those who are self-employed.
Statutory Payments for Furloughed Workers: Amendments
New legislation 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 30 April 2021, the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Coronavirus, Calculation of a Week’s Pay) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.112/2021) make amendments to SR.No.178/2020 in consequence of the extension of the CJRS scheme to 30 September 2021.
New Statutory Rule Enables Wider Age Group to Avoid Shared-accommodation Rate of LHA
In force from 31 May 2021, the Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Care Leavers and Homeless) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021(SR.No.118/2021) extend the ages for which the two existing exemptions from the SAR can apply by:
- extending the care leavers exemption so that it applies up to the age of 25 instead of 22; and
- extending the homeless hostel exemption by reducing the lower age limit of 25 to 16.
Minister Hargey Outlines Plan to Improve Protections in Private Rented Sector
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey intends to ask the Executive to bring legislation to the Assembly to implement some of the proposals published today in the response to the consultation; she stated:
“I want to improve the private rented sector and will do this by ensuring that people and families who live in this sector have a safe and secure home. My officials are working on drafting a Bill to deliver much need improvements. This will include a longer notice to quit period….Rented homes should have safe electrics, and tenants should be safe from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Homes should be warm and energy efficient.”
The Departmental response to the Consultation on the Role and Regulation of the Private Rented Sector  is available on the DfC website:
Homelessness Action Plan Fully Funded
A £9million investment by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey will fully fund the Housing Executive’s Covid Reset Plan on homelessness this year. The Covid Reset Plan ‘The Way Home - Homelessness Response to Covid-19' aims to build on the collaborative response which has been so effective to date during the pandemic to end homelessness together. It brings the total budget for homelessness for 2021/22 to £46m. Minister Hargey said:
“The £9m for the Reset Plan, will enable the Housing Executive to continue to deliver the public health response and ensure that every effort is taken to engage with individuals on the street to offer them somewhere safe to stay. It will also ensure emergency accommodation is offered to all. The Department will be working proactively, with others across government, to prioritise action to improve our response to homelessness, to focus on prevention rather than management….I am determined to deliver more social housing and was pleased to report recently that we exceeded the social housing targets for last year by 30%, with 2,408 new homes started in 20/21. I will also be investing £162m in the new build programme this year – an increase of £26m. I have also set out a programme of reform for the private rented sector to give tenants more security of tenure.”
Research Briefing on Food Poverty: Households & Food Banks
Over the last year, household food insecurity increased, food bank usage reached its highest levels, and campaign groups highlighted the importance of free school meals for families in the UK. This paper provides statistics on food poverty in the UK, including food banks and free school meals.
Terminal Illness and Bereavement During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Northern Ireland
Click here to read the report on palliative care and bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic in NI. Based on joint research with @PatientClient, @MCPCRCCardiff & @BristolUni and explores the perspectives of local bereaved people.
Minister Announces Period Poverty Pilot Project for NI’s Higher Education Institutions
A one-year pilot project starts in September with Northern Ireland’s higher education institutions to tackle the issue of period poverty. The pilot involves period products being provided free of charge during the academic year for students attending Ulster University, QUB, Stranmillis University College and St Marys’ University College.
President of Appeal Tribunal Report on Standards of Decision Making by the Department 2017/18
In his foreword to the newly published Report on Standards of Decision Making by the Department for Communities in 2017/2018, the President of Appeal Tribunals John Duffy highlights that the 'overall levels of incorrectness' in initial decisions increased to 3.3 per cent in the year (up from 1.3 per cent), with the most common reasons for incorrectness that the decision appealed against was based on a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the evidence available and/or that relevant evidence was disregarded, both of which were recorded as 28.6 per cent of the overall reasons. He also noted:
' ….the Department really must consider what further steps can be taken prior to hearing in order to source additional medical information from or on behalf of appellants. It may be that as a matter of standard practice in all cases a report should be obtained at an early (pre-decision) stage from a general practitioner.’
Regarding focused extracts from GP reports, he stated:
‘I repeat my previous requests that departmental presenting officers should recommence the practice of viewing those documents prior to hearing. I remain unconvinced by the Department’s arguments for failing to authorise presenting officers to view those documents. The practice will enable the Department to obtain feedback from presenting officers in relation to their decisions and I have no doubt that it will facilitate concessions in deserving cases, thus avoiding the trauma experienced by appellants in having to provide unnecessary oral evidence. It is most regrettable that the Department continues to repeat its long expressed opposition to this…. Our ultimate goal must be to do the best we can for claimants and to reduce any unnecessary upset and trauma for them. This is also related to the longstanding request that the Department should secure the attendance of Presenting Officers at hearings on a much more frequent basis.’
Equality NI on Racial Equality - a need for ongoing action
Darren McKinstry, Director of Public Policy & Strategic Engagement, looks at the issue of race equality in NI:
Focus: What Does Transgender Mean to You?
For 21 years, Transgender Day of Remembrance has honoured those who have died as a consequence of their gender identity, many of them brutally murdered. This year, the statistics indicate that throughout the world, 350 people died for this reason during the last 12 month period. The youngest was fifteen years of age.
Clearly, this is almost one person a day killed for no other reason than that someone else takes exception to their manner of realising their true gender identity. If the statistics tell us that 350 people died for this reason, it is fair to consider the possibility that the real figure is likely to be much higher. When we use the term transgender, we at Focus: The Identity Trust, are identifying those individuals we support who go through a process of transition by which they make a permanent change in their gender identity. This change may be accompanied by pharmaceutical and/or surgical interventions but it is important to understand that transition is neither dependent upon nor necessarily determined by such procedures.
Within the United Kingdom, the law provides that someone over the age of eighteen who has had the relevant medical diagnosis and who makes such a transition on a permanent basis may apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. This enables the individual concerned to be provided with a new birth certificate affirming the true gender identity, which should not thereafter be questioned.
It is time to be clear. Clear that prejudice against transgender individuals is completely unjustifiable. Clear that each of us is entitled to live free from fear of unprovoked attack for any reason, including on the basis of our gender identity. Clear that when we use the term ‘transgender’ we know precisely what we mean.
Committee Publishes Government Response to Report on Coronavirus and the Gendered Economic Impact
The report found that the economic impact of coronavirus has affected men and women differently. This is because of existing gendered economic inequalities, the over-representation of women in certain types of work and the actions the Government has taken. The Government has welcomed a range of the Committee's recommendations set out in the report and is considering others, including amending current flexible working regulations.
The Home Office plan to write to existing benefit claimants here who are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme but have not yet applied, to ensure that no one loses entitlement to benefits and other services. A copy is attached below:
EU Settlement Scheme
You should apply to the scheme by 30 June 2021
Our records show that you are currently getting one or more benefits from the Department for Communities (DFC) and/or Housing Benefit from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), and that you are a European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss national. The United Kingdom (UK) has left the European Union (EU), so to carry on living in the UK after 30 June 2021, you and your family members need to have a UK immigration status. You are receiving this letter as a reminder that you need to apply for a UK immigration status by 30 June 2021 if you have not already done so.
What This Means For You
You need to apply for an immigration status to carry on being eligible for benefits, access free healthcare, and to have the right to work in the UK after June 2021. If you and your family have already applied for a status you do not need to do anything. You will continue receiving your benefits while your application is being decided and as long as you continue to meet the entitlement conditions.
You and your family need a status even if you have already been issued with a permanent residence document by the Home Office, or have been living in the UK for a long time. If your family members are non-EEA nationals, they may also be eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme and should also apply.
If you are a British national you do not need to apply for a status and can ignore this letter. If you are an Irish citizen, you do not need to apply, but can if you want to. Your family members should apply if they are not British or Irish citizens. People with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK do not need to apply. If you are unsure if you have indefinite leave to enter or remain (for example, you came to the UK before 1 January 1973 and have lived here since), then you should still consider applying for a status, as status under the EU Settlement Scheme may increase the length of time you can spend outside the UK without impacting on your immigration status.
Applying for Children
If you have children under 21 who are not British or Irish citizens, each child will need to have their own status. You can apply for your child or they can apply for themselves. If you are applying at the same time as your child, you should make your application first. You can then apply for your child and ‘link’ their application to yours. This means that if your own application is successful, your child will get the same status as you, unless they qualify for settled status in their own right. For more information about applying for children click here.
How to Apply for an Immigration Status Under the EU Settlement Scheme
To get a status you and your family need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. You can apply straight away. It is free to apply to the scheme. If your application is successful, you will get settled or pre-settled status. The status you get may depend on how long you have been living in the UK when you apply. For more information and to apply to the scheme click here. You can apply to the scheme now by clicking here.
The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. It is free to apply. Information about the scheme is available in 26 EU languages. Visit: www.gov.uk/government/collections/eu-settlement-scheme-translated-information-materials. We have many different ways we can communicate with you. If you would like this letter in a different format please contact DFC. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021.
What Happens Next
The Home Office will use the information you provide to consider your EU Settlement Scheme application. If you have not applied under the scheme by 30 June 2021, the Home Office may contact you. To find out how the Home Office will process your personal data click here. You do not need to contact DFC or NIHE when you apply or get a status. If DFC or NIHE need details about your status they will contact you.
If you have any questions about the EU Settlement Scheme there is a range of support available from the Home Office, including a helpline to guide you through the application process. To contact the helpline, call: 0300 123 7379. You can also ask a question using the online enquiry form. Visit: eu-settled-status-enquiries.service.gov.uk/start. A list of organisations that are able to provide further support is also available at: www.gov.uk/help-eu-settlement-scheme.
For more information: https://www.adviceni.net/eu-settlement-scheme
NI Assembly Questions
AQO 1856/17-22 Mr Pat Catney (SDLP - Lagan Valley)
To ask the Minister for Communities what steps are being taken to reduce the number of people waiting over 12 months for the outcome of a benefits appeal.
The Appeals Service has developed a number of hearing type options:
- Oral face to face hearing (when it is safe to do so)
- Oral video link hearing
- Oral telephone hearing
- A paper hearing – determination
It is recognised that just over 60% of appellants have opted to wait for an oral hearing, The Appeals Service continues to refresh the options with this category in light of the ongoing response to tackling COVID-19 as a remote hearing can be accommodated much quicker.
A number of out-centre venues have been set up as COVID secure, where a number of additional measures have been put in place. The Appeals Service continues to seek additional venues to assess for suitability. The Appeals Service, in conjunction with colleagues from Courts and Tribunals Service has identified further accommodation to hear benefit appeals.
AQW 17219/17-22 Mr Jim Allister (TUV - North Antrim)
To ask the Minister for Communities what plans there are to bring the process for reviewing Personal Independence Payments into line with the rest of the UK where regular reviews have been scrapped.
The review process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has not been scrapped however two important changes have been introduced as detailed below:
- From August 2018 anyone who has a progressive condition and entitled to the maximum rate of PIP will be awarded it for an ongoing period, with a light touch review in 10 years.
- From May 2019 anyone over State Pension Age, regardless of the rate of PIP they are entitled to, will be awarded it for an ongoing period, with a light touch review in 10 years.
These particular changes remove the need for unnecessary assessments for people with severe and/or progressive conditions and for those over State Pension Age. My Department announced these changes at the time they were introduced. The most recent published statistical information shows that 151,530 people are in receipt of PIP and 38,220 of them (25%) have been awarded PIP for an ongoing period.
AQW 18090/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong
(APNI - Strangford) To ask the Minister for Communities how many people have been awaiting a personal independence appeal hearing for (i) 4 to 12 weeks; (ii) 12 to 26 weeks; (iii) 26 to 38 weeks; (iv) 38 to 52 weeks; and (v) 52 weeks or more.
The number of people awaiting a personal independence appeal hearing in each of the categories requested is set out in the table below.
Week Range PIP Appeals
4 to 12 Weeks 472
13 to 26 Weeks 755
27 to 38 Weeks 449
39 to 51 Weeks 177
52 Weeks or More 4079
Grand Total 5932
AQW 17231/17-22 Ms Karen Mullan (SF - Foyle)
To ask the Minister for Communities for her assessment of the recommendations made by the Audit Office in their recently published report on the management and delivery of the Personal Independence Payment contract.
I welcome the Audit Office report on the management and delivery of the Personal Independence Payment contract. Whilst it concluded that the Department has generally managed the contract in line with good practice, the recommendations made may contribute to further improvements and my officials are currently carefully considering the recommendations.
Citywide Tribunal Service Funding
AQO 1989/17-22 Mr William Humphrey (DUP - North Belfast)
To ask the Minister for Communities whether she will match the funding provided by Belfast City Council to the Belfast Citywide Tribunal Service.
I have agreed my Department's final budget allocations, and, as I committed to previously, I have protected the budget for those vital services. There is no reduction in the budget for advice services, including for appeals and tribunal representation. As the Department allocates funding for those services through local government, Belfast City Council is responsible for deciding how it allocates funding for the appeals services, including the Belfast citywide tribunal service. I am investing £6·4 million this year in a wide range of advice, appeals and debt services. There are no additional moneys over and above that amount that could be used to match any increase in funding by Belfast City Council at this time.
Further information can be found here.
Fraud & Error Reporting
AQW 17232/17-22 Ms Karen Mullan (SF - Foyle)
To ask the Minister for Communities whether she will consider separating the figures for fraud and for error in social security when recording and reporting.
To provide a statically valid estimate on the levels of fraud and error within social security benefits the Department monitors a random sampling of benefit cases. In cases where an error is detected the value of the error is recorded into one of three categories, customer fraud, customer error or official error.
The outcomes from this monitoring are used to inform the fraud and error figures which are reported in the Department's Annual Report & Accounts and these are broken down into the levels of error attributable to customer fraud, customer error or official error.
The Annual Report & Accounts for the year ending 31 March 2020 was laid in the Assembly on 4 November 2020.
AQO 1999/17-22 Mr Daniel McCrossan (SDLP - West Tyrone)
To ask the Minister for Communities whether she has given further consideration to increasing Carer's Allowance.
I recognise and respect the vital role that carers play. The rate of Carer’s Allowance was increased to £67.60 a week from April 2021 as part of the annual benefits up-rating exercise. Carers on low incomes can access additional financial support from my Department through income-related benefits and their associated carer premiums and additions. In addition, those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance may, depending on their circumstances, also be eligible to access a range of other emergency financial support that my Department is providing during the COVID-19 crisis including Discretionary Support.
In terms of providing longer term additional financial support for unpaid carers here, it is anticipated that this will be considered as part of the upcoming welfare mitigations review.
AQO 1994/17-22 Miss Rachel Woods (GPNI - North Down)
To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the process of moving legacy benefit claimants to Universal Credit.
People who remain in receipt of legacy benefits and credits will be moved to universal credit in the next phase of the roll-out known as "Move to UC". Prior to COVID-19, my Department notified stakeholders here that the planned commencement date for Move to UC would not be before January 2021, with an estimated completion date of September 2024. Planning for Move to UC was temporarily paused to allow my Department to focus all available resources on responding to the COVID pandemic, and, as the Member will know, the number of people who need universal credit here has more than doubled since then. We had to respond to make sure that people were paid. A date for the commencement of Move to UC here has not been confirmed. I have asked my officials for an assessment of the optimal timing for the Move to UC process to recommence here and will bring forward proposals for doing so at the earliest possible opportunity. Stakeholders will be updated when plans are more certain.
Miss Woods: I thank the Minister for her answer. The Minister will be aware that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions recently announced that the process for moving legacy benefit claimants on to universal credit would be completed by 2024. Can the Minister confirm whether that is the timeline that her Department will work to in the coming months? Will she engage further with the independent advice sector to enable it to support claimants who will need help transferring to or not to universal credit in the coming years?
Ms Hargey: As I said, there was a pause in the move, and that may disrupt the timetable and that final date….I have asked for an assessment of recommencing the process and of how long that will then take. That will be for ministerial approval going forward. Once I have that assessment, I will decide when it is likely that we can commence that work. Of course, that will be done by engaging stakeholders and looking at the implications. This will be a huge change for thousands and thousands of people, and having independent advice for people as they are transitioning will be key in making sure that the capacity is there. We will do that by engaging with the sector, and, after that, I will make my decision and notify the House.
Ms Anderson: Minister, can you give an assurance to my constituents in Derry and others across the North that those who are being transferred from legacy benefits to universal credit will have a transitional protection? What would that transitional protection be?
Ms Hargey: We are looking at transitional protections for people who are moving over. Some people will be financially better off with a move to universal credit. We want to work with those people in the time ahead and look at the implications as part of that transitional period. We are looking at that as part of the transitional assessment that I have asked officials to look at. Once I have that assessment, I will update the House.
Support for the Deaf
AQO 1855/17-22 Ms Linda Dillon (SF - Mid Ulster)
To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the interventions she is making to address the increased social isolation experienced by the deaf community during the pandemic.
My Department has worked with the Deaf community during the pandemic to ensure that the support we provide meets their needs – this includes an investment of £660,000 for a range of British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language initiatives. Examples include:
- Financial assistance to Deaf organisations, interpreters and tutors to transition their services online and help sustain vital work such as Family Sign Language courses.
- Grassroots initiatives providing mental health counselling for Deaf people, a support group run by and for Deaf women, a daily news Vlog run by Deaf BSL/ISL users, a remote Deaf befriending volunteer service for BSL and ISL residents in care homes and support to complete Census forms online.
- Devices such as iPads and laptops made available..
- The co-funding of a COVID Health and Social Care Remote Interpreting Service and extended Video Relay Services enabling Deaf people to contact social security and Housing Executive services.
Finally, an Access and Inclusion Programme was established to improve accessibility at arts, cultural and recreation venues for people with disabilities, including deafness, with an additional £140,000 to support projects specifically aimed at people with hearing impairments.
AQW 14662/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong (APNI - Strangford)
To ask the Minister for Communities what actions her Department is taking to ensure that people eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme have the opportunity to apply.
My officials are working with DWP and others with a view to issuing letters to existing benefit claimants who are eligible for the Scheme but have not yet applied. This will remind people of the requirement to submit an application to the Scheme before the 30th June 2021 deadline and help ensure they can continue to receive benefits to which they are currently entitled. The letter will direct people to further information about how to apply for the Scheme.
In addition, Advice NI, the Department’s delivery partner and eleven member organisations are delivering support to EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members to assist them in applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Boiler Replacement Scheme
AQO 1854/17-22 Mr Alan Chambers (UUP - North Down)
To ask the Minister for Communities why the Boiler Replacement Scheme for Housing Executive tenants has been delayed until 2022.
The Boiler Replacement Scheme referred to by the Member is a scheme for homeowners and is not available to Housing Executive tenants.
The Scheme was introduced in September 2012 and assists privately owned households with an annual income of less than forty thousand pounds (£40,000) to replace old and inefficient boilers that are more than 15 years old. The Scheme has been successful in encouraging more than thirty-eight thousand (38,000) households to replace older inefficient boilers with new boilers.
The Scheme has not been delayed. Now the Executive has considered the Budget paper I will make funding available to continue the Boiler Replacement Scheme for homeowners into 2021/22 as it continues to support improvements to energy efficiency particularly for vulnerable households.
AQW 17026/17-22 Mr Jim Wells (DUP - South Down)
To ask the Minister for Communities what plans she has to ban the use of credit cards for the placing of bets in Northern Ireland.
This issue is one of a number of proposals which I am considering following the consultation last year on the future regulation of gambling. I hope to be in a position to announce my way forward soon. Land based bookmakers here voluntarily introduced a ban on the use of credit cards to gamble within their premises. Online gambling operators who wish to advertise their products here, are regulated by the Gambling Commission, and a ban on the use of credit cards to gamble online is a condition of their licence.
AQO 2000/17-22 Mr Colm Gildernew (SF - Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
To ask the Minister for Communities for an update on the measures her Department is taking to increase social housing provision.
Housing stress levels here are totally unacceptable. Our housing system is in need of transformative change. I have set out the direction of how we will achieve this through the biggest shake up of our housing system in over 50 years. A radical housing transformation plan was outlined toward the end of last year and the Department and key stakeholders are currently progressing this. This includes working on initiatives to ring-fence funding for housing in areas of acute need, increase land supply, and the acquisition/refurbishment of existing properties, to enable the delivery of more social housing.
I can confirm that 2,403 new social homes were started in 2020/21 – almost 30% more than the target for the year (1,850 units). During the same period, 1,318 social homes were completed (against a target of 1,200). Each one of those houses represents a home for those who are on our social housing waiting list, many of whom will have been waiting for some time.
I have recently approved the new 3 year Social Housing Development Programme 2021/22 – 2023/24 which will shortly be published to the Housing Executive website. This will give the necessary assurances required by Housing Associations to enable them to progress schemes through design and planning stages.
I am committed to ensuring more social homes are built and allocated where they are needed and I am pleased to have delivered on a ‘New Decade New Approach’ commitment to enhance the level of investment in new social housing, with £162m being made available for 2021/22 – an increase of £26m from 2020/21.
Peter Grant, Scottish National Party UIN 1111
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what progress her Department has made on ensuring that monthly salaries are automatically reallocated within assessment periods for universal credit, where a claimant gets two monthly salary payments in a single assessment period following the decision made by the Court of Appeal in June 2020 in the case of Johnson, Woods, Barrett and Stewart v. the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Will Quince, Conservative:
The legislation we introduced on 16th November 2020 provides a remedy to the Court of Appeal Judgment in the case of Johnson and others and allows us to reallocate monthly earnings to another assessment period. This means that claimants affected by this issue will have one salary payment taken into account in each assessment period rather than two.
To meet the Court of Appeal Judgment as soon as was practicable we introduced a solution based on a streamlined dispute process currently in place. This has enabled those who are affected to benefit under this regulation and claimants simply need to tell their work coach either in one of their regular discussions or via their journal if they think they are affected.
We expect to automate identification of affected claimants in mid-summer 2021. This will allow us to correct awards proactively before they are paid, without the need for the claimant to raise the issue.
Helen Hayes, Labour UIN 815
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment she has made of the progress of the managed migration pilot for universal credit.
Will Quince, Conservative:
The Pilot remains suspended as the Department continues to focus on delivering its part of the Government’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 allow the Department to pilot moving claimants to Universal Credit from legacy benefits. Prior to its suspension, the emphasis of the pilot was not to focus on the number of people moved, but to assist with developing the design of the Move to UC service and its processes, to provide the best possible support for claimants who are moved to Universal Credit.
David Linden Scottish National Party UIN 183255
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the (a) rate of universal credit sanctions on claimants who have a mental health condition and (b) effect of those sanctions on those people; and if she will publish that assessment?
Mims Davies Conservative:
No assessment has been made of the (a) rate of Universal Credit sanctions on claimants who have a mental health condition and (b) effect of those sanctions on those people.
We engage on an individual level with all of our claimants and are committed to tailoring support to their individual needs. This includes agreeing realistic and structured steps to encourage claimants into, or closer to, work, where appropriate. These conditionality requirements are regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain appropriate for the claimant. This would include tailoring to reflect any mental health issues the claimant raised.
When considering whether a sanction is appropriate, a Decision Maker will take the claimant’s individual circumstances, including any health conditions or disabilities and any evidence of good reason, into account before deciding whether a sanction is warranted.
Helen Hayes, Labour UIN 813
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of providing a £20 per week uplift to legacy benefits.
Mims Davies, Conservative:
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.
Jessica Morden, Labour UIN 160
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many people have died whilst waiting for a decision on their personal independence payment claim in 2021.
Justin Tomlinson, Conservative:
Claims made under Special Rules for Terminal Illness (SRTI) are fast tracked and are being cleared in 4 working days on average (as at the end of January 2021, the latest available published data). The cause of death of claimants to PIP is not collated centrally by the Department.
390 people died whilst waiting for a decision on their PIP claim between 1st and 31st January 2021, the latest date for which published data is available. For context, 62,330 claims were submitted for PIP over the same period. Note that the stated number of deaths includes people who submitted claims before January 2021. Source: PIP ADS and Customer Information System
These figures include claims made under normal rules and special rules for terminally ill claimants and include new claims and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP reassessment claims. If a claimant dies before a decision is made on an outstanding claim, the Department establishes whether the claimant’s representative or next of kin wishes to proceed with the claim. If not, the claim is withdrawn.
This is unpublished data. It should be used with caution and it may be subject to future revision. PIP claimants are included if they died in January 2021 and a PIP claim was registered before their date of death and was cleared after their date of death. Claimants’ dates of death are as recorded on the system at 11th May 2021 and may be subject to change. Under the Social Security (Notification of Deaths) Regulations 2012 and s125 of Social Security Administration Act 1992 date of death is provided to the Department for all registered deaths. Data covers Great Britain only.
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for what reason the time limit for returning PIP2 application forms has reverted from 12 to four weeks.
Justin Tomlinson, Conservative:
In line with the Covid recovery roadmap we are changing the time for customers to return their forms, back to the business as usual timescales to ensure that claims are processed as quickly as possible. Customers can request additional time to return their form if they need more time to gather information. Any Additional Support customers who do not return their form will still have their claim referred for assessment.
Debbie Abrahams, Labour UIN 900018
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent progress her Department has made on tackling child poverty.
Will Quince, Conservative:
Throughout the pandemic, our priority has been to protect incomes, including additional spending of over £7.4 billion last year, to strengthen welfare support for people of working age.
The evidence shows having parents in work is the most effective way of tackling child poverty, which is why we have invested £407 billion in protecting jobs throughout the pandemic, and why we are spending over £30 billion on a comprehensive plan for jobs to help people back into work.
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