Keep the faith

Our national Chair, Alan Markey, has recently had an article published in ‘Adviser’ magazine. In the article Alan offers his take on how the social security landscape has changed, on increasing conditionality and a hostile environment for claimants, and highlights the increasing importance of advisers in the fight against poverty.

If you don’t have a copy of the magazine, you can read his article on the Medium website.

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Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland

NAWRA has submitted a detailed response to the recent consultation on ‘Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland’.

In time Disability Assistance will replace Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance as per devolved powers covered in Section 31 of Social Security Act (Scotland) 2018.

The points covered in our submission include:

  • It is welcomed from Scottish Government that Disability Assistance will be paid to aged 18 but we would extend this further for children and extend to aged 19 or end of non-advanced education, especially if already in payment through PIP
  • 50 metre test for mobility
  • Minimum assessments and only when required and should always be people centered
  • Introduction of safeguarding
  • Increase in independent advice provision as in accordance with our social security bill and charter

Our NAWRA rep in Scotland, Craig Samuel, said:

“At NAWRA we welcome a more inclusive and generous approach by Scottish Government and, in line with our charter, an increase in advice provision and kindness. But we still have a lot of hurdles to overcome before we can relax.

 

We must get payments made as quickly as possible to ensure we give the best opportunity of success to people living in Scotland; to reduce poverty levels, reduce isolation and reduce adverse childhood experiences.

 

We must also keep open all our channels of dialogue especially when we are relying on a safe and secure transfer from London. On behalf of NAWRA, I look forward to participating in future developments and hearing from our Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville as our key note speaker on 13th September when we have our annual Scottish conference in Edinburgh.”

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Impact of welfare reform

The Equality and Human RIghts Commission have published their final  cumulative report on the impact of government Welfare Reforms.  The report suggests that children will be hit hardest with an extra 1.5 million being pushed into poverty.

In addition, the report finds that the child poverty rate for those in lone parent households will increase from 37% to over 62% and households with three or more children will see losses of around £5,600.  They also identify significant and disproportionate impacts on disabled families, on women and on Bangladeshi households.

The report concludes that these negative impacts are largely driven by the freeze in working-age benefit rates, changes to disability benefits, and reductions in Universal Credit rates.

David Isaac, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for making recommendations to Government on the compatibility of policy and legislation with equality and human rights standards, said:

“It’s disappointing to discover that the reforms we have examined negatively affect the most disadvantaged in our society. It’s even more shocking that children – the future generation – will be the hardest hit and that so many will be condemned to start life in poverty. We cannot let this continue if we want a fairer Britain.”

The Commission calls on government to reconsider existing welfare policies and to review the level of welfare benefits to ensure that they provide an adequate standard of living.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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IB and ESA conversion – letter to Damian Green, MP

We have written to Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to raise concerns about what we see as the DWPs failure to follow correct legal procedures on conversion of incapacity benefit claimants to employment and support allowance.  The full text of our letter is reproduced below.

Our members have identified many former Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance claimants who have been migrated to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and only been awarded contributory ESA as the Department for Work and Pensions have failed to apply the regulations and their own guidance and undertake a financial assessment to check entitlement to any top up of Income Related ESA.

The DWP guidance states:

Obtaining Information:

45413:  The claimant’s duty to disclose information relevant to their existing award of benefit is modified to enable the Secretary of State to require from the claimant information or evidence for the purposes of determining whether that award should be converted to ESA 1.  [1 ESA (TP, HB, CTB) (EA) (No2) Regs, Sch 1, para 13 (a); SS (C&P) Regs, reg 32 (1)]

 45414:  Enables the Secretary of State to establish whether a claimant whose existing award is IB or SDA and who is not entitled to IS, might be entitled to ESA (IR) as well as ESA(Cont) on conversion.

The legal requirement for conversion decisions from incapacity benefit to ESA to consider entitlement to income-related ESA is confirmed in [2015]UKUT 342 (AAC)

The migration process started in March 2011 and we are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to revisit all claimants nationally where they failed to adhere to the legal requirement and their own guidance and assess them any entitlement to an income related top up.

Many of our members have taken up cases in respect of individual claimants and found that they have been underpaid by thousands of pounds (see rightsnet discussion thread for more details). This is only the claimants that have been in a position to obtain advice. There are likely thousands more who have had their benefit incorrectly calculated due to DWP failing to follow the law. NAWRA believes that the DWP is obliged to correct those cases and seeks to ensure that the DWP trawl all cases to pick up any outstanding errors of law.

NAWRA strive to challenge, influence and improve welfare rights policy and legislation, as well as identifying and sharing good practice amongst our members.  It is in this vane that we request this piece of work is undertaken to ensure that all claimants receive the correct amount of benefit that is due to them.

We look forward to hearing your response, and the action you will be taking to ensure that any cases where the legislation has not been applied correctly will be picked up and arrears paid.”

We will update members when we receive a response.

 

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Universal Credit inquiry

NAWRA has sent a formal response to the Work and Pensions Committee Universal credit update inquiry.  Thank you to all the members who responded to our request for information – your help has been invaluable, as always.

NAWRA has serious concerns about Universal Credit – in particular as the full service rolls out.  We have called for a range of changes to be implemented if the full rollout is to have a chance of success.  These include:

  • Allowing alternative payment arrangements on request – allowing flexibility would ease the transition for claimants, ease the administrative burden on the DWP, and lessen the need for such a high level of personal budgeting support.
  • Recognising that for some people getting online on a daily basis may not be possible – alternatives such as phone or face to face contact need to be more readily available.
  • Verifying and paying housing costs much more quickly.
  • Taking payments for temporary housing out of the monthly assessment process so that all costs can be met as they arise and paid promptly.
  • Removing waiting days for all claimants – leaving claimants without money makes it virtually impossible to job seek effectively and put people in debt right from the start.
  • Reinstating implicit consent for advisers – so that problems can be resolved as quickly and effectively as possible.

You can download and read our full response to the inquiry in March 2017 and updates from September and October 2017.

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