Your experiences of advising PIP claimants

A key element of NAWRAs objectives is to seek to influence government proposals and existing legislation by utilising the expertise of our members.  So that we can feed in to the first review of Personal Independence Payment assessment we need your data on how well this has been working (or not working).

To make it easier to get your feedback, we drafted a brief surview.  The review closes on 5 September so we need your responses as soon as possible.  Please take a moment to complete it.  Please also pass this on and encourage your colleagues to complete it too. Here is the link to our survey:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LLSL8R5

It would also be useful if you could send us some case studies that we can include.  If you have any case studies, or any other issues you would like to raise, please contact julie.henry@durham.gov.uk.

Meeting in Glasgow in September

Here’s some advance notice of our next NAWRA meeting, kindly hosted by Glasgow City Council’s Welfare Rights and Money Advice Service.

Venue: Renfield Centre, 260 Bath Street, Glasgow G2 4JP

Date: Friday 12th September 2014

Time: 10am-4pm (registration from 9.30am)

Our guest speaker will be Dr David Webster of Glasgow University.  David is currently involved in research which introduces a historical perspective into analysis of the current JSA/ESA sanctions regime.

There will also be participatory workshops on topical issues in welfare rights advice (details to follow).  As always, there will be plenty opportunity to meet fellow advisers and share information and ideas.

The full agenda will be available soon.

NAWRA meetings are free for members to attend and there’s no need to book a place.

Notes from our meeting in Stockton

We held a successful meeting in Stockton-on-Tees in June 2014.  Many thanks to all members who came along.  Minutes from the meeting and slides from the guest speakers and workshops are available now in our members’ area.

Our next meeting will be held in Glasgow on 12 Sept 2014.  More details soon…

Incorrect advice about free school meals

NAWRA has identified an issue with clients being incorrectly turned down for, or being discouraged from claiming, free school meals. We believe this issue to be widespread following a random check of 11 council websites of whom 7 were showing incorrect criteria.

Children are eligibla for free school meals if a parent receives any of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • The guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided you’re not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and have an annual gross income of no more than £16,190)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit

Many local authorities seem to be applying their own interpretation to the above criteria, for example by assuming that if a client claims another out-of-work/in-work benefit apart from those listed above then they would be inelgible for free school meals or by adding their own criteria to the list above.

Here are two examples that we have come across on council websites that add additional criteria:

  • “You are not eligible if you receive any amount of Working Tax Credit”
  • “Please note that anyone claiming Working Tax Credit, Contribution-Based Job Seeker’s Allowance and/or Contribution-Based Employment and Support Allowance is NOT eligible for free school meals, regardless of what other credit/benefits are being claimed”

Clearly, both of these examples are a misinterpretation of the law.

A few councils, as a result of contact from a local welfare rights service, have changed the information on their website. We need all welfare rights services to check their local websites for accuracy and encourage changes where necessary. As well as the correct criteria being on the website, call centre staff also need to be trained in applying the correct criteria.

We would welcome contact from members regarding this issue so that NAWRA is able to keep a record of the progress we make. If you have comments, or examples, please email our committee member Tamara Moreau.

Consultation on benefit waiting days

We have submitted our response to the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) enquiry into government proposals to extend the number of benefit waiting days from three to seven.

NAWRA has strongly condemned the proposal, stating that the change would impact disproportionately on disabled people and those who have not been in regular employment. It will be another cut to those who have already been adversely affected by a string of welfare reforms including restrictions to local housing allowance, the bedroom tax, benefit cap, the introduction of PIP and cuts to tax credits. Further, it will make it harder for people to find work as they are left without basic resources.

The government’s supposed aim is to encourage and support people into work. NAWRA fails to see how taking away the resources necessary for a basic living can in any way support people into work. The proposal as stated will lead to:

  • Increased stress and ill-health for claimants
  • Claimants and their families having to go without food or heating
  • Increased rent arrears
  • Increased reliance on foodbanks which are already stretched
  • Increased use of loan sharks and pay day loans
  • Reduced ability to find work or move back towards work

The full text of our response can be downloaded from the resources area of the website (direct link).