Following on from last week’s column as we move out of lockdown a number of temporary measures around benefits will or have already ended and this to advise of how this may affect readers.
Reintroduction of benefit deductions for things such as Social Fund Loans, benefit advances, overpayments, etc. will recommence. The government announcement for this was made on 6th July. During lockdown there was a temporary suspension of benefit deductions for new and existing recovery, this included referrals to 3rd party collection agencies. For those clients on Universal Credit you will receive notification via your journal, clients on legacy benefits will normally receive postal confirmation. For those clients who may have previously made repayment arrangements with DWP and/or 3rd party agencies (for example to arrange a lower repayment rate) to check these are still in place. Deduction rates are set by legislation and we anticipate that when recovery re-starts then the rate may default which may cause hardship. The government have also confirmed The DWP will consider suspension in case of genuine financial hardship, however no guidance has been given as to what this phrase means in practice.
Benefit reviews/renewals will be reintroduced. During lockdown certain benefits continued to be paid when the current award period ended. This was mainly benefits such as DLA, PIP and Attendance Allowance as well as client's getting ESA or claiming UC on sickness grounds. The decision was made to temporarily suspend sending out renewal packs and for benefits to continue to be paid until further notice. Again this will be ending shortly and affected clients will be contacted. Although the renewal/review process has ended it still appears that medical assessments will still be carried out by phone as it may not yet be safe to re-open medical centres and carry out face to face assessment.
Additional benefits advice and support is available online: For the latest official announcements on benefit issues including Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income Support, as well as Jobseeker’s allowance, go to the government website www.gov.uk