Social Security Chamber Decisions Report
Individual Tribunal decisions will not be published by the Chamber but, from time to time, the Chamber President Anne Scott intends to publish updates on matters of interest and points of law arising in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.
Decisions Report 7 - April 2020
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
Decisions Report 6 - February 2020
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
Decisions Report 5 - January 2020
As I indicated in the first Decisions 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
Decisions Report 4 - October 2019
Best Start School-Age Grant 2019
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
Decisions Report 3 - September 2019
Best Start School-Age Grant 2019
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
Decisions Report 2 - August 2019
Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant 2019
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 2019
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
Decisions Report 1 - May 2019
Best Start Pregnancy and Baby Grant 2019
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