Social Security Chamber Decision Reports
Individual Tribunal decisions will not be published by the Chamber but, from time to time, the Chamber President Anne Scott intends to publish updates on matters of interest and points of law arising in decisions.
Decision Report 10 - September 2021
Scottish Child Payment
We have received 12 appeals and decided 4. At the request of Social Security Scotland 7 appeals have been sisted (put on the shelf) whilst the law is looked at again. At present if a person who is not responsible for a child has been awarded and is receiving other benefits relating to the child before the person responsible for the child makes a claim for Scottish Child Payment it is simply not possible to make an award. That is clearly not what was intended and is unfair but the tribunal can only apply the law and has no power to look at what is fair.
02 September 2021
Decision Report 9 - February 2021
Funeral Expense Assistance - known as Funeral Support Payment
We had a recent case where the problem was that, although the appellant otherwise qualified for the benefit, for very good reasons, the funeral did not take place in Scotland.
The law is very clear and the payment can only be made if the place of the funeral is in the UK, a member state of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The Tribunal has no discretion however persuasive the reasons might be for the location of the funeral or the cost of arranging it.
19 February 2021
Decision Report 8 - February 2021
Young Carer Grant
We have had two appeals for Young Carer Grant and there are a number of points that should be noted about the qualifying conditions, namely:-
(a) The young carer must have provided care over a period of 13 weeks ending with the day before the day on which the application is made.
(b) The care must be provided in at least 10 weeks during that period for at least a total of 208 hours.
(c) A carer can combine hours caring for up to three persons during that period.
The other point that has arisen is that where a young carer has made a successful application for the Grant and has been paid it, then a new application cannot be made any sooner than one year after the date of the successful first application.
15 February 2021
Decision Report 7 - April 2020
Funeral Support Payment
The first appeal in
relation to Funeral Support Payment has been decided in the appellant’s favour.
The appellant, although married to the deceased, did not live with the deceased
and they had both claimed State Pension Credit as single people. The Agency had
argued that because of those facts the appellant could not be treated as having
“the nearest relationship” to the deceased. The law states that to qualify for
this benefit, the application must be made by the “nearest relative” of the
deceased. That will often be a spouse or civil partner unless they have
permanently separated by agreement or by a court order. In this case there was
no court order and very clearly no agreement to be permanently separated. There
were very good reasons why the couple lived separately. They had no choice
about how to claim State Pension Credit.
If a couple, although together in every other sense, for whatever reason do not intend to live in the same household or do not live in the same household for more than 52 weeks the DWP will treat them as single people. The same rule applies for a number of other DWP benefits. It does not mean that a couple have permanently separated. On the facts in this case it was very clear that the couple, although living separately were very much still married and had not permanently separated. I also observe that as can be seen in the press and online not all couples live under the same roof but they do remain very much together!
28 April 2020
Decision Report 6 - February 2020
Best Start School-Age Grant
A recent appeal raised the interesting point that the Best Start School-Age Grant discriminated against children born in January and February 2014. That was because although they might start school in 2019, they could not have lodged an application on time in terms of the law.
Although welfare benefits are protected by Human Rights legislation, the appeal failed on two grounds. Firstly, it is a school-age grant not a school grant. Secondly, like with changes to ages for retirement benefits, the age for benefits at the start of life is not considered to be discrimination by the Courts.
17 February 2020
Decision Report 5 - January 2020
As I indicated in the first Decision Report, the general rule is that on the date of the application, if there is no qualifying benefit in payment, then the application for Best Start Grant cannot be successful. That is true for most benefits. However, Universal Credit works in a different way to the other benefits.
There are two important points to note. The first is that an advance payment of Universal Credit is not a qualifying payment. Effectively, it is a non-interest bearing loan and is repayable. The second point is that Universal Credit is calculated in two stages. The first stage is a calculation of the entitlement and that is described by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as being the 'UC maximum amount'. The DWP then makes deductions from that amount and arrives at what they describe as the 'UC adjusted amount'. If the UC adjusted amount is £0 then it is not an award of a qualifying benefit. It is quite possible that someone could have a UC adjusted amount of more than £0, but in fact is not paid anything because of other deductions. That person would still be treated as being in receipt of a qualifying benefit.
27 January 2020
Decision Report 4 - October 2019
Best Start School-Age Grant
There have now been a number of School-Age Grant appeals and almost all of them concerned children whose entry to school was deferred for a year. A number of the appellants have complained that the publicity about this is not clear and it is confusing. The Tribunal has not seen the publicity but, whether or not that is the case, that is not something that the Tribunal can take into account.
The other issue that has arisen more than once is about financial need. The arguments are that the family really need the payment because otherwise they cannot afford the uniform or that because of a child’s disability they have far greater expense than other parents. The Tribunal can only decide whether the conditions laid down in the law are met and has no other powers. Financial need cannot be taken into account.
15 October 2019
Decision Report 3 - September 2019
Best Start School-Age Grant
The first appeal has been decided. Although many people think that this Grant is available to help with the expense when a child starts school, in fact, that is not the case. It is a School-Age Grant. It can be applied for whether or not the child goes to school. An application for the School-Age Grant must be made in a window which is:
(a) If the child’s birthday is in January or February it is the period between 1 June of the calendar year in which the child’s 4th birthday falls and the last day of February in the following year, or
(b) In every other case it is the period between 1 June of the calendar year in which the child’s 5th birthday falls and the last day of February in the following year.
As with the other Best Start Grants there is no provision in the legislation for extending that period. The Tribunal has no power to extend the time limit or to consider whether the result of the application of the law is fair.
10 September 2019
Decision Report 2 - August 2019
Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant
We continue to receive appeals in relation to Pregnancy and Baby Grant and the issues are the same as those in the first five appeals described in the Decisions Report of May 2019.
Best Start Early Learning Grants
The first appeal has been decided. An application must be made in the period between the child’s second birthday and the day the child becomes three years and six months old. In that case the appeal was dismissed because the appeal was made when the child was a few weeks older than three years and six months.
There is no provision in the legislation for extending that period even if there is a good reason why the application could not be made on time. The Tribunal has no power to extend the time limit or to consider whether the result of the application of the law is fair.
14 August 2019
Decision Report 1 - May 2019
Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant
The first five appeals have been decided by the Tribunal. The Agency chose not to attend any hearings and four of the appellants also opted for their appeals to be paper cases.
The Tribunal offered the appellant in the first appeal the opportunity to attend a hearing at a Tribunal Centre or alternatively to explain her point of view to the Convenor by telephone at a mutually convenient time. She preferred to use the telephone. That option would be offered to any appellant irrespective of whether or not the Agency wished to attend a hearing. It is a more informal way of dealing with any appeal and can be arranged more quickly.
One of the appeals concerned someone who was not in receipt of a qualifying benefit. The general rule is that on the date of the application, if there is no qualifying benefit in payment, then the application for this benefit cannot be successful.
In the remaining four cases, the application for the benefit was made after the baby was six months old. In one case the application was only one day late. In all four cases, the appellants gave reasons why the application was late. Unfortunately for those appellants, the legislation is quite clear and the deadline is explicit. The application will not be valid if it is made before the first day of the 24th week of pregnancy or after the end of the day, six months after the day the child was born. There is no provision in the legislation for extending that window, even if there is a good reason why the application could not be made on time.
The Tribunal has no power to extend the time limit or to consider whether the result of the application of the law is fair.
31 May 2019