'THINK' September 2021 Edition

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

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

Highlights include:

  • Advice NI role in flagging the impact of the imminent Universal Credit £20 cut;
  • The work of Sean O’Farrell, Senior Adviser, Advice North West, who has diligently pursued the publication of the Blue Badge Scheme discretionary criteria, providing transparency for all those people who need a Blue Badge but who do not fall within automatic entitlement;
  • A new ‘Information Updates’ section from our newest member of the team;
  • All the latest NI Assembly and Commons Questions & Answers.

And much, much more,

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

Universal Credit cuts will plunge over 100,000 NI households into poverty

Advice NI highlights that 116,000 households in receipt of Universal Credit face poverty and hardship if the Government presses ahead with plans to cut £20 per week from October 2021.

Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy Advice NI said:

“Based on statistics provided by the Department for Communities, the proposed £20 cut to Universal Credit will impact on families with children which make up 42% of households in receipt of Universal Credit, so this cut will directly impact on the lives and prospects of children. Of course the impact is compounded by a decade of austerity which has included a benefit freeze and the 2 child cap which has already disproportionately impacted on families with children.

In addition, the assertion by Government that it wants to focus on jobs as a route out of poverty does not deal with the issue and in fact demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of Universal Credit. Claimants are not a homogeneous group of people. For example, 40% of households in receipt of Universal Credit have ‘No Work’ requirements, for example they are severely ill or indeed terminally ill, and so unfortunately work is not an option for them and so is not a solution to the £20 cut. Quite simply, as we move towards winter and escalating food and fuel costs, Advice NI is calling for the Government to retain the £20 and make it permanent.”




Parliamentary Petition Opposing £20 Universal Credit cut

Make the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit permanent.

Confirm that the uplift will be incorporated, permanently, into the standard rate of Universal Credit, for all present and future claimants of Universal Credit.




UC process automated, for identifying claimants who receive two monthly wage payments in 1 assessment period

DWP has changed its processes so that the Universal Credit system now automatically identifies claimants who receive a second monthly salary payment in one benefit assessment period.

Staff will be able to move the second payment forward to the next assessment period in the system, ensuring the claimant’s benefits don’t fluctuate from one month to the next due to the system thinking a claimant has received increased wages in one month.

Touchbase: August Roundup of recent DWP announcements

DfC also stated:

The update applies in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The system improvement generates a new activity for Universal Credit agents to investigate impacted cases and complete the required action.

We would however actively encourage any customer impacted to advise us via their online journal.



ADF Payments disregarded for Universal Credit Childcare

New regulations, in relation to the treatment of payments from the Adviser Discretion Fund (ADF) for upfront costs of childcare. In force from 4 October 2021, the Universal Credit (Childcare Costs) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.249/2021) amend regulation 35 of the Universal Credit (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2016 to make provision to disregard an ADF upfront childcare payment when calculating a claimant's childcare costs element within their universal credit award.

Legislation: The Universal Credit Regulations 2021



Communities Minister extends eviction protection until May 2022

Minister Hargey has announced that she is extending legislation to protect private renters from eviction to 4 May 2022. Introduced at the start of the pandemic [enacted 5 May 2020] the Private Tenancies (Coronavirus Modifications) Act requires landlords to give tenants a 12 week notice to quit period before seeking a court order to begin proceedings to evict.

The legislation was due to expire on 30 September and after a review, the Minister has taken the decision that it should be extended further until 4 May 2022 to protect renters in the private rented sector. 

Communities NI: Hargey extends eviction protection until May 2022



Northern Ireland Homelessness Bulletin January - June 2021

The Northern Ireland Homelessness bulletin is a biannual publication which contains information on a range of areas relating to homelessness.

Communities NI: Northern Ireland Homelessness Bulletin



Health Minister announces grants for groups supporting carers

Health Minister Swann has announced the allocation of the first tranche of grants to organisations providing vital support for carers.

Almost £600,000 of the £4.4m Support for Carers Fund has been awarded to groups across Northern Ireland. It is part of a £24m package of funding made available in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support carers, cancer charities and mental health organisations.

Following assessment, 16 applications have been successful in securing funding which will see a total allocation of £594,921 from this round of funding. The activities being funded include provision of practical support, wellbeing events, respite, advocacy support and work to address isolation and loneliness. Projects cover both adult and young carers.

Health NI: Health Minister announces grants for groups supporting carers



Sanctuary Scheme & Bedroom Tax

In force from 1 October 2021, the Housing Benefit and Universal Credit (Sanctuary Schemes) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.248/2021) amend the Housing Benefit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 (SR.No.405/2006) and the Universal Credit Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016 (SR.No.216/2016) to make an exception to exclude individuals in the social rented sector from under-occupancy deductions:

Where domestic violence has been inflicted upon or threatened against the claimant or a member of that claimant’s household and they are consequently living in a property that is adapted under a sanctuary scheme.

Legislation NI: The Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Regulations

DWP states that housing benefit claimants seeking a sanctuary scheme bedroom tax exemption will have to self-identify and provide evidence from an ‘official source’:

A8/2021: The Domestic Abuse Support Regulations 2021


Post Office card accounts closure extended until November 2022

Post Office Card Accounts are to be extended for another year in order to safely move existing users over to traditional bank accounts or a new Payment Exception Service. It has now been extended for 12 months to ensure everyone has the time to make alternative arrangements. DWP is writing to all customers who currently receive payment into a POca, telling them the service is ending and encouraging those who are able to open a bank account to do so.

Those who remain unable to access such services will be migrated onto a new Payment Exception Service, which allows them to choose how they receive their payments.

Post Office card accounts closure extended until November 2022

Payment Exception Services & Post Office Card Accounts



High Street Coronavirus Financial Assistance Scheme to be disregarded for social security purposes

In force from 24 September 2021, the High Street (Coronavirus, Financial Assistance) Scheme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021 (SR.No.268/2021) introduce a new scheme of financial assistance to mitigate the effect of the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic by making a ‘Spend Local’ pre-paid card worth £100 available to every person resident in Northern Ireland aged 18 or over on 25 October 2021.

Legislation: The High Street Scheme Regulations 2021

Members Policy

Blue Badge - Discretionary Criteria

Sean O’Farrell [Senior Generalist Adviser, Advice North West] made a Freedom of Information request with the Blue Badge Unit to ask for disclosure of the Discretionary Criteria for an award of the Blue Badge.

The case went to the Information Commissioner and then General Regulatory Chamber. Following an appeal, the Decision went in adviser’s favour:

‘On 29 September 2020, the Commissioner issued Decision Notice IC-47215-Y1J2, upholding the Council’s decision to apply Regulation 12(4)(e) and therefore to withhold the requested information. In making this decision, the Commissioner balanced the competing public interests in disclosing the information on the one hand and withholding it on the other.

On 21 October 2020, Mr O’Farrell sent a Notice of Appeal to the Tribunal.

Mr O’Farrell’s ground of appeal is that the Commissioner wrongly exercised her discretion in finding that the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.

Taking all these matters into account, the Panel concludes that the Commissioner ought to have exercised her discretion differently when balancing the public interest. The Panel considers that, contrary to the Commissioner’s conclusion in her Decision Notice, the public interest balancing exercise favours disclosing the requested information rather than withholding it.’ From The Decision of the General Regulatory Chamber.

Department for Infrastructure publish Blue Badge ‘Assessment’ criteria used in applications for the Blue Badge which are 'Discretionary' in nature and do not fall within 'Automatic' entitlement.

EIR Request for a copy of the 'Assessment' criteria used by the Department in applications for the Blue Badge

Speaking about the publication of this information, Kevin Higgins, Head of Policy Advice NI said:

“I would pay tribute to the work of Sean O’Farrell, Senior Adviser, Advice North West, who has diligently pursued this issue with the Department. Publication of the discretionary criteria provides transparency for all those people who need a Blue Badge but who do not fall within automatic entitlement for example by receiving the higher rate of the mobility part of Disability Living Allowance or receiving eight points or more under the 'moving around' activity for the mobility part of Personal Independence Payment. The discretionary criteria is applied to applicants who have a permanent disability which means they cannot walk or have a lot of difficulty walking.”

Advice NI welcome publication of Blue Badge 'discretionary' criteria

Information Officer Updates

High Street Scheme – ‘Spend Local’ Pre-Paid Card

To align with the opening of the application portal on 27 September 2021, and hot on the heels of a presentation by the Department for the Economy to advice service managers, you can now access a short briefing on the application process for the High Street Scheme:

Advice NI Information Briefing Paper

Short introductions are included on the operation of the scheme, how to apply and the type of support available, as well as a number of links to further information about the scheme.



Payment of the LCWRA Element in Universal Credit

In response to enquiries on this issue from advisers, Advice NI has published an information briefing on the payment of the Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity (LCWRA) Element in Universal Credit:

Click here to read it.

The briefing addresses differences between the UC relevant period and the assessment phase of ESA, exceptions to the relevant period and the impact of the UC assessment period on the payment of the LCWRA element. References to relevant guidance and legislation are provided, as well as links to useful information sources, key questions for advisers to consider and simple diagrams to demonstrate the different scenarios.


Child Disability Payment

The Child Disability Payment was introduced by the Scottish government from 26 July 2021 as a replacement for Disability Living Allowance for children. To address certain overlaps with benefits payable in Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has published a number of memos outlining the procedures that should be followed:

ADM Memo 11/21 / DMG Memo Vol 3/101 – Consequential Amendments to Social Security Legislation – Introduction of Child Disability Payment

ADM Memo 12/21 / DMG Memo 1/123, 4/151, 6/97, 8/100, 9/49 & 13/123 – Disability Assistance for Children and Young People – Consequential Amendments to Social Security Regulations


IFS Report - Expiry of Universal Credit uplift: impacts and policy options

Tom Waters and Thomas Wernham, writing for The Institute for Fiscal Studies, [funded by the Nuffield Foundation] produced this report on the expiry of the £20 UC uplift.  Excerpt:

‘By February 2021 there were 5 million UC claimants – double the number seen pre-pandemic. Almost all of these claimants are benefiting from the temporary £20 per week uplift in UC, due to expire at the end of September. How much that uplift matters to family incomes varies substantially. On average it represents 12% of entitlements, but for a quarter of claimants (1.2 million) it makes up at least 20%, while for another quarter it is less than 8%. That variation comes from differences in circumstances…..The £20 uplift represents a significant share in entitlements for many claimants – in particular those who are single without children, are not liable for rent, or are not judged to have a work limiting disability – all groups that have increased in frequency since the eve of the pandemic. For many of these people UC is their only source of income, with a majority of those on UC out of work and without a working partner.’




CPAG Report - Universal Credit and access to justice: applying the law automatically

This report focuses on some of the problems UC claimants are experiencing both making a claim for UC and receiving accurate payments, which appear to be caused by the digitalisation and automation of the UC system.

CPAG Report

NI Assembly

UC £20 Uplift

AQO 2410/17-22

Ms Á Murphy asked the Minister for Communities what engagement she has had with her Scottish and Welsh counterparts regarding the British Government’s intention to cut the £20 uplift to universal credit and working tax credit.

Ms Hargey: Throughout my time in office, I have repeatedly demonstrated my determination to protect the most vulnerable in our communities across society and to target resources to those most in need. In my letter to Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on 26 July 2021, I expressed my grave concern about and objection to the withdrawal of the £20 uplift in universal credit, particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Of course, Thérèse Coffey replied that the British Government had always been clear that the uplift was a temporary measure.

I wrote to Thérèse Coffey again on 30 August, in a joint letter with my Scottish and Welsh counterparts, to seek a continuation of the £20 uplift in universal credit. That was similar to a joint letter that was issued on 12 November 2020.

Stopping the £20 uplift will have a devastating effect on people at this time, when they are in need of financial support. I recently brought the matter to the Executive, which endorsed a letter calling for the uplift to be retained. Given the uncertainties resulting from the global pandemic that we are still going through, we should continue the measure. The British Government should maintain the £20 uplift, because we know from reports from the Trussell Trust and others about the impact of withdrawing it.

My counterparts in Scotland and Wales share my concerns about the consequences of the withdrawal of the provision, which supports vulnerable families. If the uplift is not extended after 5 October, I will include it as part of my planned review of welfare mitigation measures. I continue to explore options on this issue.

Ms Á Murphy: I thank the Minister for her answer. Can she provide an assessment of the impact on the most vulnerable in the North if the British Government go ahead with the cut to universal credit and working tax credits?

Ms Hargey: At the moment, over 140,000 are in receipt of universal credit. As a result of the £20 uplift, £110 million goes into the pockets of people here on an annual basis. That is a huge amount of money that will be lost if the British Government proceed with the policy to withdraw that money in October. It will have a huge impact, given that the pandemic is still here and many restrictions are still in place. Of course, the impact of the pandemic will be felt long after the restrictions begin to ease, as we saw with, for example, the financial crash over 10 years ago. Our society is, in many ways, still feeling the impact of that, particularly the most vulnerable. This would have a devastating impact. Again, that is why I have worked with my Executive colleagues and Ministers in Scotland and Wales to push the British Government to retain the uplift and to protect those families.

Mr Butler: I thank the Minister for the work that she has put in so far. Given the emerging news about the energy crisis and the fact that the British Government may or may not act on the wishes of devolved Ministers, what actions will you, as our Communities Minister, put in place to ensure that people who are caught in that trap do not suffer?

Ms Hargey: We have put in a number of measures. Throughout the pandemic, over £300 million has been invested in support schemes that target those individuals and support communities. We have done a lot of work with local councils as well. Obviously, we continue to support our independent advice sector, and we want to continue doing that. It is a perfect storm in some way, with this increase in fuel prices, the impact of the pandemic and the impact of Brexit, and then there is the issue of the British Government moving to withdraw that lifeline from people.

As I said, £110 million would need to be found. My yearly budget is just over £800 million, which puts that money into context. We would have to find that money from the Executive, and I would need Executive Ministers to work with me on prioritising that. I will make an announcement soon on the review of welfare mitigations. Of course, all of this will be taken into consideration as part of that, along with other issues that Members will be aware of, such as the two-child rule.

Mr Durkan: I thank the Minister for her action to date. I welcome the fact that the Executive have endorsed the letter to Treasury on this very important issue. Will the Minister outline what conversations she has had with Executive colleagues on how we can mitigate this, should the Tories persist down this punitive policy path, and where the money might come from to do so? Also, on the wider review of mitigations, legislation will be required for that, so what delay might we see should we have to do that?

Ms Hargey: The proposal that I have put to the Executive on communicating with the British Government and showing not just our concern but our objection was endorsed by all Ministers around the Executive table, which was good. Work is ongoing. From the analysis that I have done in the Department, it would take £110 million to retain the uplift, based on the figures for those claiming universal credit at the moment. Obviously, that will fluctuate slightly depending on how many people are on universal credit. We are looking to see what can be done. You either find £110 million — there is no pot of money sitting there, so that would have to come from another Department — or you stop doing something else in order to meet that need. We know that it would have a devastating impact on people. That is why it will be included in the review of mitigations more widely. I will announce shortly the members of the independent panel who are taking up that review. The other issue is that there would need to be legislative changes made. I have a paper in with the Executive on extending the period of the current mitigations and closing the loopholes. I am waiting on approval from the Executive for that to be presented to the Chamber.

Miss Woods: The removal of the uplift for universal credit will be devastating, given the end of furlough and the increase in energy prices that we have been discussing. Can the Minister provide any update on the fuel poverty strategy? What preparations is she making to help with fuel poverty for this winter? For example, is she working with the Minister for the Economy on a fuel bank fund?

Ms Hargey: I agree that it would be devastating. That is what we have communicated to the British Government, and my counterparts in Scotland and Wales have sent the very same message on the impact that it will have on citizens there. As I said, we have heard the stories from the Trussell Trust and others. There would be a bigger impact here in the North, because of all the other issues that we as a society have. Moreover, we are a society emerging from a conflict, so there is an impact on people's mental health and well-being and on people who find themselves needing that essential support from our social security system. We are therefore looking at all of that at the moment.

I am concerned about fuel prices as well. The Member will remember that, last year, we put in the additional payment over the winter period. That moved at pace, but it did not reach all the target groups that it needed to. We are looking at options at the moment. I will need to bring something to the Executive to have it agreed.


AQW 22013/17-22 Ms Kellie Armstrong (APNI - Strangford)

To ask the Minister for Communities what actions her Department is taking to make claimants aware that they will have a reduction in payment following the end of the £20 per week Covid uplift; and what support is she putting in place to counter the negative impact this will have on vulnerable people and children still being impacted by the long-term effects of Covid, such as increased cost of living.

I have continuously expressed my grave concern that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit is being withdrawn, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. If the uplift is not extended after 5 October 2021, I will include it as part of the planned review of welfare mitigations measures.

To ensure people on Universal Credit are given as much advance notice as possible about this change, monthly reminder messages have been sent to each person’s individual journal account from July. The last journal message will be delivered between 8 and 17 September and this will give the date for each individual’s final £20 uplift payment.

These journal messages also provide details of independent organisations who can help with debt and money advice for anyone who is anxious or worried about this change. Further information is also provided to signpost people to the full range of existing support provided by the Department’s Make the Call service and the financial help that is available from the Adviser Discretionary Fund and Discretionary Support service.My Department’s Debt Management team will also be available to discuss repayment options with anyone who may experience difficulty making repayments to the Department.


AQW 22104/17-22 Mr Mark Durkan (SDLP - Foyle)

To ask the Minister for Communities to list the number of Universal Credit claimants in each constituency.

The number of Universal Credit claimants in each constituency can be found in Table 5B of the supplementary tables to the NI Universal Credit Statistics publication. These published statistics can be accessed on the DfC website via the weblink.



AQW 22195/17-22 Mr Mark Durkan (SDLP - Foyle)

To ask the Minister for Communities, in relation to funding to close welfare mitigations loopholes, to date (i) how much has been allocated; (ii) how much has been spent; and (iii) how much is likely to go unspent given the delay in tabling the relevant legislation.

(i) The estimated total cost for the revised Benefit Cap mitigation scheme in 2021/22 was £5.5 million. This included an additional £3.5 million of estimated expenditure for amendments to this mitigation scheme. The estimated additional expenditure arising from amendments to the Social Sector Size Criteria mitigation scheme was £154,000 in 2021/22.

(ii) The legislation to amend the existing welfare mitigation schemes by closing the “loopholes” has not yet been approved by the Assembly. Therefore, there has been no expenditure incurred on the delivery of the amended mitigation schemes in the current financial year.

(iii) Expenditure incurred as a result of closing the “loopholes” will be determined by the date on which the relevant legislation comes into operation. As this date is not known my Department does not currently have an estimate of the additional expenditure that will be incurred in the current financial year.


Fuel Poverty

AQW 22082/17-22 Mr Stewart Dickson (APNI - East Antrim)

To ask the Minister for Communities for her assessment of the risk of increasing levels of fuel poverty this winter; and to detail the actions she is taking to protect vulnerable households from rising energy prices.

Fuel poverty is defined as needing to spend more than ten per cent of the total household income on all fuel use to maintain a satisfactory level of heating, that is, twenty one degrees in the living room and eighteen degrees in other occupied rooms. Fuel poverty is generally caused by a combination of three factors, poor household energy efficiency, low income and fuel costs….

I wrote to Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on 26 July and expressed my grave concern that the £20 uplift in Universal Credit is being withdrawn, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic….If the uplift is not extended after 5 October 2021, I will include it as part of the planned review of welfare mitigations measures. My Department offers a range of support to assist low income households with rising energy prices.

The Affordable Warmth Scheme

The Affordable Warmth Scheme is the Executive’s main fuel poverty scheme providing a range of energy efficiency improvement measures which include cavity and loft insulation as well as new and replacement heating systems and windows where appropriate. The Scheme has invested over £90 million and improved the energy efficiency of almost 21,000 households since it was introduced in 2015.

I approved changes to the eligibility criteria for the Scheme which were implemented on 1 July 21. Those changes increased the income threshold from £20,000 to £23,000 and removed disability benefits from the calculation of income. It is anticipated this will increase the number of households eligible for support.

The Boiler Replacement Scheme

The Boiler Replacement Scheme is a grant based scheme funded by the Department and administered by the Housing Executive which provides a grant of up to £1,000 to eligible households towards the cost of replacing old and inefficient boilers over 15 years old.

Cold Weather Payment Scheme

The Social Fund Cold Weather Payment Scheme provides a one off payment of £25 to the elderly, disabled and those with children under 5 years old in periods of severe weather. These periods are assessed by the Met Office which links every residential postcode to selected weather stations around the country, so that when the temperature criterion for a postcode is met (i.e. the average temperature is recorded or forecast to be 0oC or below over seven consecutive days) a payment is automatically triggered.

Winter Fuel Payments

The Winter Fuel Payment is a tax free and non means tested benefit which is paid annually to eligible older people. The rate payable is between £100 and £300 depending on personal circumstances, to help people pay their heating bills. To be eligible for a Winter Fuel Payment an individual must have reached the qualifying age in the qualifying week, which is the third week in September. In addition to the above criteria the only other criteria is that a person lives in the UK during a qualifying week.

Discretionary Support

An award of short-term financial help may be made through the Discretionary Support scheme to assist with additional expenditure for fuel costs if a person is in an extreme, exceptional or crisis situation. Such awards will be made as an interest free loan provided a person meets the eligibility criteria. This includes an assessment of the ability to repay a loan and the level of existing Government debt. A person does not have to be claiming benefits to be eligible for Discretionary Support and it is available to those who are working if their annual income is below £20,894.40. Currently a maximum of three loans can be made in a rolling 12 month period.



AQW 21904/17-22 Mr Gerry Carroll (PBPA - West Belfast)  

To ask the Minister for Communities on how many occasions contract service level of targets with Capita have not been met; and what financial penalties resulted.

From the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment Assessment Services Contract in June 2016 to July 2021, Capita failed to meet contractual service levels on 264 occasions across 17 key performance targets. This has resulted in financial penalties being levied totalling £2,393,956.30.


AQW 22041/17-22 Mr Andy Allen (UUP - East Belfast)

To ask the Minister for Communities to detail the total number of occasions on which a Capita health care professional that conducts a personal independence payment (PIP) assessment, has contacted a claimant's GP, since the inception of PIP, broken down by reason for contact.

Since the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment Assessment Services Contract, Capita has contacted a GP on 54,420 occasions to request completion of a GP factual report.

Parliamentary Questions

Universal Credit Uplift

Jim Shannon, Democratic Unionist Party  UIN 43515

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for what reasons it remains his Department's policy not to extend the universal credit uplift of £20 beyond autumn 2021.

Will Quince, Conservative

The Chancellor announced a temporary six-month extension to the £20 per week uplift at the Budget on 3 March to support households affected by the economic shock of Covid-19. Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, and the temporary uplift was part of a COVID support package worth a total of £407 billion in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

There have been significant positive developments in the public health situation since the uplift was first introduced with the success of the vaccine rollout. Now the economy is reopening and as we continue to progress with our recovery our focus is on helping people back into work.

Through our Plan for Jobs, we are targeting tailored support schemes of people of all ages to help them prepare for, get into and progress in work. These include: Kickstart, delivering tens of thousands of six-month work placements for UC claimants aged 16-24 at risk of unemployment; we have also recruited an additional 13,500 work coaches to provide more intensive support to find a job; and introduced Restart which provides 12 months’ intensive employment support to UC claimants who are unemployed for a year. Our Plan for Jobs interventions will support more than two million people.



UC Impact Assessment

Mrs Sharon Hodgson, Labour UIN 46952

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what impact assessment her Department has undertaken of the potential effect of the end of the £20 uplift to universal credit on young women.

Will Quince, Conservative

No impact assessment has been made.

The Chancellor announced a temporary six-month extension to the £20 per week uplift at the Budget on 3 March to support households affected by the economic shock of Covid-19. Universal Credit has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the pandemic, and the temporary uplift was part of a COVID support package worth a total of £407 billion in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

The latest poverty figures (2019/20) demonstrate that absolute poverty rates (both before and after housing costs) for working-age adults in working families have fallen since 2009/10. In 2019/20, 8% of working age adults in working families were in absolute poverty (before housing costs), compared to 9% in 2009/10.

Through our Plan for Jobs, we are targeting tailored support schemes of people of all ages to help them prepare for, get into and progress in work. These include: Kickstart, delivering tens of thousands of six-month work placements for UC claimants aged 16-24 at risk of unemployment; Restart, which provides 12 months’ intensive employment support to UC claimants who are unemployed for a year; and JETS, which provides light touch employment support for people who are claiming either Universal Credit or New Style Jobseekers Allowance, for up to 6 months, helping participants effectively re-engage with the labour market and focus their job search. We have also recruited an additional 13,500 work coaches to provide more intensive support to find a job. In total, our Plan for Jobs interventions will support more than two million people.



UC Overpayments & Waivers

Damien Moore, Conservative UIN 41213

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether her Department informs people who have been overpaid universal credit that they can apply for a formal waiver.

Will Quince, Conservative

From August 2020 to July 2021, a total of *89,000 Universal Credit Official Error Overpayments in excess of £1,000 were recorded on Debt Manager. There are currently approximately 6 million Universal Credit claimants. The Department is unable to provide information on how many waiver requests for Universal Credit Official Error overpayments exceeding £1,000 were made (and were successful) in the last 12 months, as to do so would incur disproportionate costs.

When the Department informs claimants of a benefit overpayment (either by letter, or via the journal in Universal Credit), they are advised to contact the Department’s Debt Management Team to discuss repayment. During this discussion, if a claimant expresses concern about repayment, Debt Management staff will inform them that they can request that a waiver be considered.

It should be noted that a waiver can only be granted where the recovery of the overpayment is causing substantial medical and/or financial hardship, and where clear evidence of this can be provided. DWP pays welfare benefits to around 23 million people and is committed to ensuring that the right people are paid the right amount of Universal Credit. The vast majority of benefit expenditure (more than £200bn across all benefits) was paid correctly in the last financial year, with front line staff working hard to prevent overpayments from occurring.

*Please note that this data is taken from operational data systems, and is not intended for publication. Therefore, the data itself is not quality assured to the standard of published Official Statistics and National Statistics.



Terminal Illness Special Rules Duration

Stephen Timms, Labour UIN 43378

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if her Department will remove the three year award duration for benefits claims made under the special rules for terminal illness.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative

For the majority of cases made under the SRTI, people are given three year awards. This approach was based on a recommendation from an expert advisory group, initially for DLA, but later adopted in other benefits. The three year awards given to SRTI claims strikes a balance that recognises making a prognosis is not an exact science and that people who do live longer than expected should continue to receive the support provided to them by benefit system, while also enabling those who live for much longer than expected, to be looked at afresh in light of their circumstances as they come towards the end of their award.

As part of the Health and Disability Green Paper consultation, we are consulting on reform of assessments and seeking views on policy proposals, including the principle of receiving unnecessary assessments and reviews. Following the consultation, detailed proposals will then be brought forward in a White Paper next year.



Stephen Timms Labour UIN 41620

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will end the practice of Departmental assessors rejecting the clinical judgment of a medical professional that a patient is terminally ill in relation to accessing benefits under the special rules for terminal illness.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative

A claim made under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness is in most cases supported by a DS1500. DS1500 forms have never been a requirement for a claim under the terminal illness rules but remain the quickest and most appropriate route to gather evidence to support entitlement in these cases.

The DS1500 form is completed by the claimant’s healthcare professional and provides information relating to their diagnosis, clinical features and past or current treatment. The Assessment Provider’s healthcare professionals may, on occasion, contact the claimant’s medical practitioner where additional information or clarification is required in order to process the claim under the Special Rules for Terminal Illness.

Where it is not possible to supply a DS1500 in support of a Special Rules for Terminal Illness claim we will consider alternative evidence and work flexibly and quickly with the claimant and/or their clinician(s) to make a determination.




Jessica Morden, Labour UIN 41756

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether her Department accepts a statutory safeguarding duty of care to vulnerable benefits claimants.

Will Quince, Conservative

The Department does not have a statutory safeguarding duty or legal duty of care. The safety of claimants is of great importance to us and the Department provides staff with training and guidance to help them identify those who require further support beyond the provision of benefits.

Our staff can direct vulnerable claimants to agencies and services who are best placed to support them, including those who have statutory safeguarding duties such as local authorities and social services. DWP supports the work of all statutory safeguarding agencies, either when formally requested to do so, or by engaging with them to identify, where possible, those who might need particular support.




Helen Hayes, Labour UIN 42039

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate she has made of the number of claimants granted pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme who will lose access to benefits; and what support her Department is putting in place in those cases.

Justin Tomlinson, Conservative

The Home Office’s EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) allows EU citizens to apply for an immigration status and ensure that they have the right to live, work and access income based benefits. EU citizens may be granted settled or pre-settled status, depending on whether they have been resident in the UK for a continuous period of more than five years.

EU citizens with pre-settled status have the same access to benefits as they did prior to the introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). They will satisfy the right to reside element of the Habitual Residence Test and can access benefits if they are exercising a qualifying right to reside, such as a worker or self-employed person, and are habitually resident in the UK.

As long as an individual continues to exercise a treaty right, those with pre-settled status can continue to access benefits. Moving from pre-settled status to settled status will not result in losing benefits if the application is made in time.



Poverty and Pensioners

Mr Barry Sheerman, Labour  UIN 41657

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps she is taking to reduce levels of poverty in people that are of pension age.

Guy Opperman, Conservative

The Government is committed to action to alleviate levels of pensioner poverty. The overall trend in the percentage of pensioners living in poverty is a dramatic improvement over recent decades. Relative pensioner poverty rates (before housing costs) have halved since 1990. For the year 2019/20 there were 200,000 fewer pensioners in absolute poverty (both before and after housing costs) than in 2009/10. Material Deprivation, an alternative way of measuring poverty, is at an all-time low of 6% of pensioners.

Since 2010, the Government has increased the full yearly value of the basic State Pension by over £2,050 in cash terms. Around 1.4 million pensioners also receive some £5 billion of Pension Credit, which tops up their retirement income and is a passport to other financial help such as support with housing costs, council tax, heating bills and a free TV licence for those over 75. Around 70 per cent of eligible pensioners already receive the main Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit but we want all eligible pensioners to claim it. That’s why on 16 June as part of a media day of action on Pension Credit, DWP joined forces with Age UK as well as the BBC to help reach, via national and local media, older people who may be reticent about claiming it. We have also set up a working group made up of a range of stakeholders who have an interest in pensioners’ financial wellbeing to look at other opportunities and channels to get information about Pension Credit to pensioners and their family members.