Essex Benefits Bulletin - Spring 2012

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Essex Benefits Bulletin - Spring 2012

  1. 1. Spring 2012 Issue 09Highlights We are working with partners to ensure thatRead on for some useful information front line staff have an awareness of the newabout impacts of Welfare Reform; rule and are prepared for any additional callsbenefits changes since the last Bulletin; that they may receive as a result.update on our new team plus somedates for your diary. Time limiting Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) From April 2012, the first cohort of claimantsSome impacts of Welfare Reform affected by this new rule will see their benefit– a foreword change. For some it may be that they need help to ensure they have claimed incomeBenefit Cap related ESA. For other claimants; particularlyWe understand that Department for Work those who are unable to claim income relatedand Pensions (DWP) have been working ESA (because they have a partner who workswith Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over 24 hours a week), it will be vital that they(HMRC) to identify those people who may are encouraged to get a full benefit check.be affected by the Benefit Cap – i.e. the This could ensure they get increased helptotal benefit income limit which will be with Housing and Council Tax Benefit etc toapplied to certain claimants/households reflect the reduction in income.from April 2013.From 3rd May 2012, DWP proposes to Social Fundwrite to all households likely to be affected. As many will be aware the Welfare ReformA Helpline for claimants is being set up to Act contains provisions which provide for thereceive initial enquiries prompted by the transfer of specific parts of the social fund i.e.letters and to offer support and information. Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants from DWP to top tier local authorities, i.e. County Councils. ECC are working on a plan,
  2. 2. looking at the legislation, potential impact, housing element for social housing will beand exploring some options around paid directly to the claimant on a monthlydelivery. We will be in contact with basis.stakeholders when we have more to From April 2013, LHA upratings will be linkeddiscuss. to Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Price Index (RPI). AdditionallyWelfare Reform - Working Group housing entitlements for those of working ageGiven the complexity and volume of will reflect family size.Welfare Reform changes, a group ofCounty Council officers from across alldirectorates have formed a working group. Help with mortgage interest – extended toTheir task is to scope and analyse the January 2013changes and identify the potential impact The temporary changes to support claimantson residents. We have also been working entitled to help with mortgage interest haveclosely with partners in District and been extended until January 2013. TheseBorough councils to look at ways in which changes include reducing the waiting periodwe can inform and support residents, staff to 13 weeks and increasing the eligibleand partners. mortgage capital limit to £200,000.It is more important than ever for those Council Tax Benefit Localisationaffected by changes to their benefit to seek From April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will bea benefit check – in case the cessation or administered by Local Authorities ownreduction of one benefit means they may schemes and with less central governmentbe entitled to another. funding.If you have any enquiries about this, Cathy We had an informative presentation from RobCunningham- Elliott can be contacted by Hawes from Chelmsford Borough Council onemail cathy.cunningham- this subject at our recent Essex Benefitelliott@essex.gov.uk Network meeting. There is a ‘Pan-Essex’ working group including County, District and Boroughs and Unitary Authorities. Together they are working on the new scheme andBenefits Updates beginning to model scenarios. The thinking is there will be a similar overall approach withHousing Benefit & Local Housing individual variations. There will be aAllowance – January 2012 consultation period as part of the planningA reminder that Local Housing Allowance process. If you have any questions about this,(LHA) restrictions regarding the shared Rob can be contacted by emailaccommodation rate were extended to robert.hawes@chelmsford.gov.ukinclude single claimants under the age of35 years. Transitional protection for Employment and Support Allowanceexisting claimants ended on 1st January (ESA) - April 20122012. As previously mentioned, Contributory ESAHousing Benefit Payment Trials are claimants who are in the Work Relatedtaking place from June 2012. Under Activity Group (WRAG) will have their claimUniversal Credit, it is planned that the limited to one year. If they have entitlement to
  3. 3. income-related ESA after this time they From 23rd April 2012, Jobseekers Allowancecan continue to claim, otherwise payments claimants (JSA) who have been victims ofwill cease. For Incapacity Benefit claimants domestic violence can be treated as meetingwho migrate to ESA and who are placed in the Jobseekers conditions for an initial fourWRAG, the time starts from their date of week period. They will need to notify thetransfer. Secretary of State in the required way that they have been threatened with, or subjectedThe ‘In Youth’ version of Contributory ESA to domestic violence and the initial four weekis no longer available to new claimants. period is to provide time to do this.Those existing claimants in the WRAG willalso have their claims limited to one year.Please note that those claimants of Working Tax Credit – April 2012Contributory ESA who are in the Support Couples with children now have to work atGroup (SG) are not subject to this least 24 hours per week between them, withrestriction. one partner working at least 16 hours in order to claim Working Tax Credit. There areFrom 1st May 2012, the 104 week ‘linking exceptions to this including if one partner is arule’ is being removed. Linking rules mean carer or the worker qualifies for the disabilitythat someone may be able to return to their element.previous ESA award after a period of work.A linking rule of 12 weeks will now apply. The ’50 plus’ element, which previously applied to those aged 50 and over returningIt is planned that all Incapacity Benefit, to work following a benefit claim, has beenIncome Support on the grounds of withdrawn. People over 50 can still claimdisability and Severe Disablement Working Tax Credits but would need to beAllowance claims will have undergone the working at least 30 hours per week unlessmigration to ESA by January 2013. Only they can access the 16 hours per weekthose existing claimants of these benefits category by another route.who are due to reach State Pension Age in2014 will not go through the process. Child Tax Credit – April 2012 There has been a change in the income limitsFrom March 2014, there are changes for Child Tax Credit. Income limits may beplanned for the ESA Work Capability different for some individuals based on theirAssessment following the Harrington circumstances, for example if they have aReview. disability. The following link will take you to the HMRC website which gives more detailJobseekers Allowance about the change:April 2012 sees the introduction of a 3 year http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/taxcreditsbudget/indeJobseekers Allowance youth contract for x.htm#1those aged 18-24. It includes measuressuch as work experience, weekly signingcycles for claimants and incentives for The family element of Tax Credit is nowemployers. withdrawn immediately after the Child element is withdrawn.
  4. 4. Income Support – 21st May 2012Tax credit claims and changes of For some time we have been aware of thecircumstances can now only be backdated proposals to change the Lone Parentfor one month instead of three months, eligibility criteria in respect of the age of thegiving less time to notify events like the youngest child. With effect from 21st May,birth of a child. Lone Parents whose youngest child is aged 5Another important change is that the ‘in or over will not be able to claim Incomeyear’ falls in income disregard will reduce Support via this route. They will be expectedto £2,500. Unless income falls by more to claim Jobseekers Allowance unless theythan this, Tax Credits will not be meet the criteria for Income Support inrecalculated. another way, for example as a carer for a disabled person.From April 2013, the disregard for ‘in year’increases in income will reduce from From April 2014, it is proposed that remaining₤10,000 to ₤5,000 cases of pre-tax credit Income Support and income based Jobseekers Allowance whichIt has been proposed that giro cheque have child additions will no longer exist.payments for Tax Credits will only be for 4 Claimants may be eligible for other benefits.weeks and will then cease until an accounthas been provided. From October 2012 no State Pension Agepayments will be made unless an account State Pension age for women continues tohas been provided. adjust to equalise with mens. This also has an effect on the age at which Pension Credit and Winter Fuel Payments claims can be made.Child Benefit – 7th January 2013 In March 2015 State Pension age for menThe latest on Child Benefit is that a charge and women is set to increase to 66 andwill be applied to taxpayers in relation to between the end of 2015 and end of 2017,their or their partner’s child benefit claim State Pension age starts to rise in stages towhere income exceeds £50,000. A levy will 67. By October 2020, State Pension Age willbe applied to income between £50,000 and be 67.£60,000 up to the amount equal to ChildBenefit received. It is debatable whether Weekly Benefits Limit (Benefit ‘Cap’)this will have an effect on providing From April 2013, a weekly benefits limit willevidence for child responsibility for certain apply. For lone parents and couples this willclaims, where being in receipt of Child be £500 per week and for single claimantsBenefit offers access. An example of this £350 per week. There are some exceptions tocould be Parent and Carer Credits this, for example claimants of Working Tax(formerly Home Responsibilities Credits and Disability Living Allowance. TheProtection) which count towards weekly limit does not include Social Fundcontributions for State Pension and also loans, free school meals or Discretionarychild premiums in Housing Benefit. Housing Payments and Council Tax Benefit.
  5. 5. Universal Credit and claimants of Attendance Allowance areIn April 2013, the Universal Credit (UC) not currently part of the PIP process.Pathfinder will launch, with the intention ofroll out nationally from October 2013. Inthe first phase, new claimants will receive Motability SchemeUC in place of means tested, working age From January of this year and for newbenefits (Income Support, income based applicants, drivers of motability cars can onlyJobseekers Allowance, income related be insured on the vehicle if they live within 5Employment and Support Allowance, miles of the Disability Living AllowanceHousing Benefit and Tax Credits). UC will claimant.be payable to those both in and out ofwork. Social FundSignificant changes in circumstances will As mentioned in the foreword, from April 2013also see existing claimants transferred to specific parts of the Social Fund i.e. CrisisUC. Loans and Community Care Grants will be localised and will be administered by LocalThe second phase from October 2013 Authorities with their own schemes.encompasses those households who could Budgeting Loans will be replaced by anbenefit from receiving UC will be advance payments system for those waitingtransferred. for their usual benefit to be paid.From 2015 to the end of 2017, all thoseremaining on existing benefits will be We are still working with the system in it’stransferred over to Universal Credit. current form. From April 9th 2012 Crisis Loans for non-householders in an emergency orPersonal Independence Payments (PIP) disaster situation will be allowed a maximumand Disability Living Allowance award in relation to living expenses. This willFrom April 2013, Personal Independence be based on 30% of the appropriate benefitPayments (PIP) will replace Disability personal allowance rate, rather than theLiving Allowance (DLA) for working age previous 60%.claimants. It is planned that a ‘face to face’assessment will be part of this process. School Leaving AgeThere will be two components - ‘Daily It is proposed that during 2013, schoolLiving’– ‘and ‘Mobility’. Each will have two leaving age will increase to 17 years followedrates, ‘Enhanced’ and ‘Standard’ At by a rise to 18 from May 2014.present we do not know amounts thatmight apply and finer details but hope to be Post Office Card Accounts (POCA)able to share more information on the PIP These were created to assist claimantsprocess with you later in the year – either without a bank account or who were unable tothrough our Essex Benefits Network or obtain one. POCAs were intended as aother usual channels. temporary measure and will now run until March 2015, with the possibility of anThose claimants of DLA aged over 65 will extension beyond that.continue to claim DLA for the foreseeablefuture. Claimants of DLA aged under 16 Benefit cheque payments are being phased out. On this theme, the ‘Simple Payment’
  6. 6. service will be available from Summer your use as our partner organisations. The2012. It will be a contracted service number should not be given out to membersprovided by Citibank and Paypoint across of the public.the UK and is aimed at those who cannotuse a mainstream account or Post Office TrainingCard Account. It is not intended for those Our training courses continue at variouswho already have an account or would be venues around the County. Please visit ourable to open one. Claimants are sent a website for detailswelcome pack which explains how the www.essex.gov.uk/essexbenefitsplus/trainingservice works and they are issued with a Dates for this quarter have been releasedcard that allows them to access their from April and are filling up fast. Currently onebenefit payments at Paypoint outlets. The day courses on Introduction to Benefits,card does not have any financial value or Employment and Support Allowance, andhold details of the claimant. Where a Disability Living Allowance are on offer.regular carer or family member collects We will be releasing some new dates by thepayments on behalf of the claimant an end of April. Courses will include our popularadditional card is issued. You can read Out of Work benefits and also Benefits formore information by clicking on the link Carers. Places are free to staff working withbelow and opening the PDF file: people in the Essex area.http://www.adviceuk.org.uk/filegrab/documents/1e27723a3fd6d183a78d65496e97537f/sig-factsheet-v-3.0-a.pdf Disability Rights Handbook 2012/13 issue Previously we have been able to provide each of our training delegates with a copy ofThis completes our Benefits round up for this useful handbook. Unfortunately this is nothis issue. longer the case and your organisations may wish to purchase copies for frontline and office use. The handbooks are published byWhat’s in a name… Disability Rights UK and retail at ₤28.50 each including postage and packaging. They canYou may have noticed that our name has be obtained by ordering online through thechanged, though this issue retains our old Disability UK website:headers! As Information, Advice and www.disabilityrightsuk.org . Contact phoneAdvocacy we are part of the Strategic number for Disability Rights UK is 020 7250Planning and Commissioning Team at 3222Essex County Council. We are delighted tocontinue working with you and thank you Benefits Rates Guidesfor your support. We are no longer involved in the production of rates guides. Other organisations doHelpline produce these and they are available on theOur Helpline remains open daily 9.30 to internet. An example is the LASA Benefit4pm for benefit related enquiries and we Rates poster, which can be found on theirlook forward to hearing from you. Please website and is downloadable:remember that our Helpline is only for http://www.rightsnet.org.uk/pdfs/benefit_rates _poster_2012_2013.pdf
  7. 7. Dates for your diaryEssex Benefit NetworkFor those of you who couldn’t attend ourrecent well attended Updates session, ournext Essex Benefit Network meeting will beheld on Wednesday 18th July 2012. Usualvenue of the Essex Records Office, WharfRoad, Chelmsford. Starting promptly at9.30 a.m. with an estimated 12.30 finish.The topic for this session will be advertisednearer to the date.Invitations will be emailed to ourdistribution list by the beginning of July. Ifyou would like to be added to our listplease let us know.What do you think of our Bulletin?We appreciate your views on ways toimprove our service. Please let us knowyour thoughts and any suggestions forimprovement.Contact usHelpline01245 434205Mon-Fri 9.30-4pmbenefits.helpline@essex.gov.ukFax: 01245 436319All other enquiriesessexbenefitsplus@essex.gov.ukInformation Advice and AdvocacyStrategic Planning and CommissioningA5County HallChelmsfordCM1 1YSwww.essex.gov.uk/essexbenefitsplus

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