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This bulletin will be distributed bi-monthly.

Law Centre NI Social Security Bulletin

No. 24. 7 June 2019

Social Security News 

PIP reviews following Upper Tribunal decisions relating to Mobility Activity 1 completed in Northern Ireland- The Department for Communities has announced that its review of personal independence payment (PIP) claims affected by the Upper Tribunal judgments in MH v SSWP (PIP) and RJ, GMcL and CS v SSWP (PIP) has been completed in Northern Ireland. The total amount of additional payments the Department paid out is around £1.9 million with the average additional payment around £3,000. Find more information here.
 
ESA underpayment exercise also completed in Northern Ireland- The Department for Communities has confirmed that it has reviewed all affected cases and contacted all ESA claimants who may have been affected by the ESA underpayment error. All arrears were paid from the date the claimant's case was reassessed and transferred to ESA. Almost £19 million has been paid in arrears payments to just under 3,000 claimants. Find more information here.
 
Final report of the UN Special Rapporteur released- The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, visited Northern Ireland in November 2018. Law Centre NI hosted a meeting with the Special Rapporteur, advice organisations, and others to examine the impact of welfare reform. In his final report on the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK, the Special Rapporteur described ministers as being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of Universal Credit, since 2010. He highlighted the steps taken in Northern Ireland to mitigate some of the worst effects of austerity, noting that this mitigation package is set to run out in 2020.  Read the full report here.
 
Supreme Court rules that discrimination faced by lone parents and their young children from the benefit cap is not 'manifestly without reasonable foundation’- In DA & others, R (On the Application Of) v SSWP and DS & others R (On the Application Of) v SSWP [2019] UKSC 21, two groups of claimants brought challenges to the lower benefit cap introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. However, the Supreme Court ruled by a majority of five to two that discrimination faced by lone parents of young children subject to the benefit cap is not 'manifestly without reasonable foundation' (MWRF) and that the executive and Parliament both gave proper consideration to the interests of the children affected to objectively justify the impact of the cap upon them. Read the full judgment here.
 
IFS launches review into inequality in the twenty-first century- On 14 May 2019, the Institute for Fiscal Studies launched a review into inequality in the twenty-first century. The review, which will be chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor Sir Angus Deaton and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, aims to look at inequalities - including in income, wealth, health and social mobility - with a view to understanding what causes them and to offer concrete policy proposals to tackle them. Find more information here.

New legislation-
 
The Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 (Commencement No. 13 and Savings and Transitional Provisions and Commencement No. 8 and Transitional and Transitory Provisions (Amendment)) Order 2019
 
This Order brings into force paragraph 53 of Schedule 2 to the Welfare Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 2015 (S.I. 2015/2006 (N.I. 1)), which amends the State Pension Credit Act (Northern Ireland) 2002 (c.14 (N.I.)) by inserting section 4(1A), which excludes mixed-age couples from entitlement to state pension credit. Section 4(1A) comes into force on 15th May 2019 (“the appointed day”, see Article 3), except in the savings cases in Article 4.
 
Under Article 4(1), if a member of a mixed-age couple has entitlement to state pension credit or housing benefit for those of state pension credit qualifying age on the day before the appointed day, entitlement as part of that couple may continue after the appointed day. For the definition of entitlement, and entitlement as part of a couple, see Article 2(4).
 
Under Article 4(2), the savings continue to apply until such time as there is neither entitlement as part of the couple to state pension credit, nor housing benefit for those of state pension credit qualifying age. Provided that there is continuity of entitlement to either benefit, the savings continue. Mixed-age couples who do not, or no longer, fall within the savings cases and require income-related benefit may claim universal credit instead.
 
Articles 5 and 6 make complementary provision to section 4(1A) and the savings in Article 4 in respect of claims to, and awards of, housing benefit for those of state pension credit qualifying age.


Universal Credit

GET INVOLVED in participatory research into the introduction of Universal Credit in Northern Ireland- This research is being conducted by Ulster University and University of York, in partnership with Universal Credit claimants in Northern Ireland and stakeholders including Law Centre NI. This participatory research project will gather experiences of Universal Credit from claimants in NI through the establishment of an ‘experts by experience’ panel, and will support claimants to share their expertise with policymakers and other stakeholders. Law Centre NI hosted an initial meeting in May. The interim report on the research is available here. If you would like to learn more, contact megan.millar@lawcentreni.org 
 

Law Centre NI on the Frontline

Law Centre NI is a member of the Cliff Edge NI Coalition. This group comprises a broad range of organisations concerned about the impending cessation of the current welfare reform mitigations in Northern Ireland (NI).  Want to get involved? Join us! Email megan.millar@lawcentreni.org We will provide you with a social media pack which will include all you need to help us make an impact. It would be great to see more friends from the frontline get on board to help to highlight concerns about the cliff edge of the end of the mitigations package.
 
Submissions to the Joint Inquiry on Welfare Policy in NI- Last week, Law Centre NI submitted its response to the Joint Inquiry into Welfare Policy in NI by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee. We also submitted a response on behalf of the Cliff Edge NI Coalition. You can read the Coalition’s submission here.
 

You're Invited

Event- Law Centre NI  is hosting a workshop on 20 June 2019- What proposals should be made in the next UK White Paper on social security (welfare benefits)? The workshops will input to a project called the Commission on Social Security (welfare benefits), led by Experts by Experience which is issuing a Call for Solutions. The Commission is made up of people with experience of claiming benefits. The Commission’s aim is to produce a White Paper style document setting out its proposals for a better social security system and building consensus on reform. Find out more information and book your place here.
 
Training Event- Masterclass: Universal Credit and Self-Employed – Tuesday 11th June. Universal Credit introduced a series of new rules for claimants who are self-employed. This half day course introduces advisers to the new rules and explains what steps self-employed claimants will have to take to make a new claim for Universal Credit. Email training@lawcentreni.org for a booking form. Find more details here.
 
PIP Terminal Illness Rules- Following up on Walter Rader's recommendation that the 6 months life expectancy criterion should be removed from PIP, we would like to hear from advisers and others who support those with a terminal illness. Please get in touch with Owen in the Social Security Hub (T: 028 9024 4401).


June's Tip

There have been many reports from advisers to our helpline of Universal Credit refusing entitlement to EEA nationals as Jobseekers without exploring alternative rights of residence. Advisers should consider if the claimant is still a worker; has retained worker status; is self employed or is the family member of one of the previous groups. Also consider if the claimant has obtained a permanent right of residence.

For assistance with these queries please call Law Centre NI's Social Security Advice Line. (T:  028 9024 4401).

 
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