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In this issue:
Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey has rejected a call from the chairs of cross-party committees in all four UK Parliaments to extend the Covid-19-related universal credit and tax credit ‘uplift’ beyond September 2021.
We see first-hand how this decision will plunge clients and their families into further poverty. According to Government figures 43% of current Universal Credit users classed as having food insecurity. Removing the uplift will only increase this percentage and push those already deemed as food insecure into a more precarious position. This correlates with what we see as we have seen an increase in clients needing access to foodbanks.
The DWP has confirmed that it has automated the process for identifying claimants who receive two monthly wage payments in one universal credit assessment period.
Following the Court of Appeal’s June 2020 ruling that the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully by failing to adapt earned income assessment rules within universal credit to ensure that claimants who were paid monthly had one set of earnings applied to each assessment period, the government introduced legislation (SI.No.1138/2020) which made provision, with effect from 16 November 2020, for monthly earnings to be reallocated to a different universal credit assessment period where necessary to maintain a regular payment cycle.
Our new referral portal for funders is now live at https://www.raiseadvice.org.uk. To refer a tenant for welfare benefits or money advice you will need to register on the new website. The referral form is quick and easy to use and the preferred method of making referrals to us. The rest of the new website is still under construction but we hope to have this up and running fully shortly.
If you need any help referring a tenant please email us at email@example.com or call us on 0151 459 1556 opt 1. Our lines are open Monday – Friday 9.30-3.30
Originally our client needed help with a PIP appeal as they were initially not awarded anything. On the 10/09/2020 that appeal was a success and the client received backpay of £5100. However, this meant they were now entitled to a Severe Disability Premium added on to their ESA.
How did we help?
Though the client was eligible for an SDP as they lived alone, the DWP was adamant that their son was living in the same property. Their son had not lived in the property for 10 years, to prove this we were asked to provide evidence that showed as much from her son. Unfortunately, they didn’t accept the evidence which led to us submitting a complaint on the 02/08/2021
What were the results?
Due to the formal complaint, almost 12 months after the initial PIP appeal was won, the client was finally awarded her SDP which seen her weekly income increase by £67.30 but more impressive was the arrears of £4000 that were paid.
The client lost their mother last year on top of being a victim of domestic abuse and suffering from deteriorating health. In the meantime, their mothers’ pension was continuing to be paid which seen a significant amount of arrears build up. Understandably the client buried their head as they had numerous stressors weighing them down.
How did we help?
Though the client believed they would have to pay back this money one of our money advice caseworkers spoke to the Merseyside Pension Fund and discovered that the invoice was ‘to Exors of Mrs …’
What were the results?
Thankfully, due to the call made by the caseworker, the full amount of £1274 was written off. This is because the invoice was for the Exors of the client’s mother, however because the mother didn’t have a will and therefore no executors, our client wasn’t eligible for the arrears.
The DWP has confirmed that it has extended the existing contract with Maximus UK Services Ltd to provide work capability assessments for employment and support allowance (ESA) and universal credit so that it continues for an additional two years to 31 July 2023.
The Department’s plans to create a unified, integrated assessment service from 1 August 2021 for the separate PIP health assessment and work capability assessments for ESA and universal credit were put on hold last year as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.
My name is Christine and I’m one of the money advice caseworkers at raise. My usual day to day consists of managing my ongoing caseload which can range from chasing information from clients, assisting clients in making offers of repayment to creditors, speaking with solicitors, or referring clients for debt relief orders.
In addition to managing a caseload we are targeted with opening new cases each week and each case we open entails investigating clients’ circumstances, completing financial statements and providing detailed advice which is tailored to each clients circumstance.
My names Adam, I’m the ENABLE teams Office Coordinator. My usual day consists of processing incoming post to ensure it is scanned and archived as quickly as possible and to the highest standard. This puts our Advisors in the best possibly position to proceed with a client’s case. As well as processing incoming post I also deal with the outgoing, ensuring it hits the expected professional standard and making sure that we meet our daily deadline to get it sent out in time.
My day also consists of adding new referrals to our database for our ENABLE team, making sure all the relevant data is completed and chasing clients for missing documents that are necessary to proceed. I am responsible for ensuring that all the relevant documents are completed, submitted, and archived before the end of the month deadline.
I have also recently attended a three-week training course as well as 40-hour digital course in preparation to take the lead on our social media management, which I have now led for a month with the aim to increase our online presence. This entails designing and writing weekly posts requiring me to stay up to date with all three of our teams to ensure all our posts are current and relevant as well as putting me in a position to respond to all enquires accurately.
I also analyse the monthly data from social media to work out where we could be doing better allowing us to adjust our social media targets accordingly. My work with social media also gives me the opportunity to keep up to date with other projects across the region allowing us to build on our directory so that al clients can be signposted to the correct organisation if necessary.
I often pick up various pieces of work to help with the smooth running of RAISE, offering my support wherever necessary whether that be designing presentations, creating logos or posters, dealing with customer and staff surveys as well as helping to train new employees or volunteers
“I’ve been dealing with a client who is a disabled student, and his ESA was stopped incorrectly, I also identified he was missing an SDP in his award. I pursued this for months and finally just received confirmation that he has received £16,200 backdated arrears.”
Helen Oliver Welfare, Technical Lead at Raise
“For over 6 months I have been asking for Housing Benefit to be reinstated and back paid, we were ready to go to appeal and the client had even racked up that many arrears they received a notice seeking possession. Thankfully, the council seen we were correct and the client Housing Benefit was re-instated and a huge amount of back pay (£3893.74) was issued to the Housing Association clearing the arrears”
Lisa Cashman, Welfare Rights Advisor at Raise
“A client of mine has found themselves in a precarious financial situation to the point they’ve been unable to replace their broken bed and resorted to sleeping on the floor regardless of their already poor physical health. Luckily I was able to submit a successful grant application and see the client awarded a new bed, mattress and bedding”
Tom Roberts, ENABLE Advice Assistant
“Just received a letter from housing benefit for my client. They are backdating her HB payments to 2/3/2020 amounting to £6128.87 under paid HB, this was because they had not accounted for her being on Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit so should have been having her full rent covered by HB.”
Teresa Hargreaves, Welfare Rights Advisor at Raise
Whilst all these monitory gains are great, it is important to recognise the difficulties that these clients, your tenants would have had during the period on non-payment or reduced payment of benefit.
We asked or funders for feedback on our service and received 47 replies. The responses were generally very positive. Areas identified for improvement are around the automated updates and emails etc. This is something we are already looking at with the migration of casework to Advice Pro, however, we are mindful of the restrictions imposed by GDPR on sharing information and limitations of AP to automatic responses.
Some helpful comments are:
“The feedback from referrals is inconsistent and slow. However, once received, the knowledge, application, and care shown by RAISE officers is excellent.”
However, limitations of our current reporting ability aside, the comments in relation to staff were very complimentary.
“I’ve always had fantastic service when I refer tenants and if I ring them for advice. Nothing is too much trouble for them”
“I cannot imagine how much more difficult it would be to do my job without RAISE offering sanity and clarity in an ever more confusing world. Tenants are aware of and comforted by RAISE independence and reliability – so am I!”
“I think both we, a housing association and the customer get a great service. By working together and promoting the service, if we can make the tenant better off, they can tackle their rent arrears and debt problems”
Having moved the emphasis from paper surveys over to text/email links we have received an amazing 243 responses.
96% say we met their needs well
98% our advice quality is high
97% satisfied with our high standards
95% agree we are quick to respond
98% would recommend us to family and friends
60% feel less worried
70%+ said we have a reliable and high-quality service.
Find all Raise Benefit Bulletins on our website https://www.benefitsadviceteam.co.uk/category/bulletins
CPAG produce useful updates for professional in Welfare Rights Bulletin. You can also sign up to receive the paper version at a cost.
The DWP produce useful items for professionals in Touchbase: DWP news about work, working-age benefits, pensions and services.
Newcastle Welfare Rights provide benefit bulletins for professionals.
Housing systems also provide an newsletters for Housing Association professionals.
Citizens Advice produce useful updates via Advisor.
We are a charity covering Liverpool and the surrounding areas. We receive funding from Registered Social Landlords to provide welfare rights, debt and financial capability advice to their tenants. To make a referral please visit our referral portal
We have provided Welfare Rights training to Housing Associations since 2008. Please see our website for a list of training available. Our training is written with Housing Association tenants in mind and we use our clients to inform the content of all our training material. All of our training can be tailored to meet the learning requirements of your staff. If you wish to speak to us about bespoke training, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org