We receive a wide range of queries. Some examples include:
- Can my client get Pension Credit to top-up their State Pension?
- What happens to Housing Benefit if our tenant goes abroad to visit their daughter?
- Which partner in a couple should claim to maximise entitlement?
- My client has just had an accident at work – what help is available?
- A carer has just gone into hospital, what will happen to her Carer’s Allowance?
- My client’s son has just been diagnosed with autism. Is there any help with the extra costs the family face?
The Welfare Benefits Unit also provides broader support, assisting those who work with members of the public and advising on complex benefit issues, as shown in the following case studies:
Mr A is a 68 year old man with chronic health problems including heart and neurological disease. He lives with his working adult daughter.
Mr A was overpaid Pension Credit over a period of 8 years due to his daughter being in the household and the Pension Service having no record of this. He was very distressed after a Pension Service Visiting Officer informed him of the overpayment.
Mr A was very anxious whilst also coping with reduced income. He already had an Individual Voluntary Arrangement to help manage his debts.
The Welfare Benefits Unit were contacted by his Neurology social worker. She forwarded the relevant paper work and we were able to advise quickly and explain how the overpayment had occurred. The outcome was unfortunately correct but Mr A was reassured when he understood more about how the amount would be recovered and was able to contact his IVA adviser who in turn contacted his creditors.
As Mr A now had the correct advice he was able to budget accordingly.
Mr and Mrs P
Mr and Mrs P live in a housing association property with their five children. Mrs P has underlying health problems and is unable to go out to work, however she is not entitled to a disability benefit. Mr P gets seasonal low paid work. They are affected by the Benefit Cap during the times he is out of work. This has a dramatic effect on being able to maintain a stable budget. When work ceases, their income drops and in turn Working Tax Credit stops and as a result they have to pay increased rent. They have rent arrears and a Notice of Seeking Possession has been served.
One of the children has behavioural problems. The family are working with social services due to problems at school. A diagnosis has not yet been made. A housing support worker has been provided to help the family with budgeting. She has successfully helped the family claim a Discretionary Housing Payment which resulted in a short-term award. A claim for Disability Living Allowance for the daughter was unsuccessful.
The Welfare Benefits Unit were able to read through the paperwork, provide template letters for evidence gathering and prepare a submission.
Mr and Mrs P attended the appeal and it was successful. This resulted in an increased income for the family and protection from the Benefit Cap.
Mr S lives in a 3-bedroom housing association property. He has long-term medical conditions, literacy and comprehension problems and a chaotic lifestyle. He has been unable to pay the under-occupancy penalty and is in rent arrears.
He was referred through the Single Access Point to an Independent Living Officer (ILO). Her role is to help him access choice-based lettings and manage his budget. She visits once a week. Mr S is asked to leave his paperwork out and over time the ILO regularly has to take action about his benefitst. Examples include assistance with claiming Employment and Support Allowance, help with completing his ESA50 questionnaire and calls made to establish why it was stopped unexpectedly. Assistance was also given in relation to Mr S asking for a mandatory reconsideration.
Mr S claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance whilst waiting for a decision on his Employment and Support Allowance. The ILO noticed that his Claimant Commitment was not manageable (it took no account of his mobility issues or illiteracy).
The ILO received support from the Welfare Benefits Unit with asking for a review of his Claimant Commitment, challenging a sanction decision and appealing the Employment and Support Allowance decision when the review was unsuccessful.
Mr S’s Employment and Support Allowance was reinstated at appeal. He was also successful challenging the sanction decision and altering his Claimant Commitment.