Client not informed to claim UC by HB
A client started studying full time. HB department advised them they could stay on HB as they have children living with them. Client sent off attendance letter. HB suspended claim and requested evidence of income from them and their partner. Client sent this off in time. Called back 2 months later as they hadn’t heard anything. Hb advised over the phone claim would be in payment and sent entitlement letters. 3 weeks later they were told her partner should have claimed UC, cancelled the claim from when they started studying and applied an OP for full entitlement.
I’m wondering if we have grounds for appeal and if there is anything in the HB or UC regs that would help support the appeal?
Thanks in advance
Declaring that somebody “should have claimed UC” is not a meaningful reason to terminate HB or impose an overpayment. That just isn’t how it works. The way that natural migration works is that claimants are prevented from making new claims for legacy benefits but are not prevented from making claims for UC. Therefore if someone is put in a position where they would otherwise have claimed a legacy benefit, they now have the choice between claiming UC or doing without the old benefit.
Taking that logic one step further, there will be cases where something happens to end HB entitlement (e.g. leaving the council area or ceasing to have a rental liability) and but for UC the claimant would have wanted to make a new claim for HB when they became re-entitled. They are prevented from doing so and are faced with a choice between claiming UC or getting no help with housing costs. There are also cases where a person has HB but it needs to be terminated because they have made a claim for UC with the effect that a stop notice is served to the LA. What doesn’t exist are circumstances where a local authority can just arbitrarily determine that somebody ought or ought not to have claimed UC.
What is important in your case is whether something has happened which ought to have resulted in her HB award ending - for instance moving out of the council’s area or having an income sufficient to nil the award - if that has not happened then it is difficult to understand the decision.
It sounds like the HB claim ended because they became a student. When one member of a couple with children becomes a student, only the partner can claim HB.
Thank you for the speedy response Charles and Elliot. I believe the claim should have been ended as the client was originally the sole claimant and then started studying (partner not studying). It was not a joint HB claim (although partner’s income was used in calculation), therefore claim needs to end and partner should make a claim for UC.
It’s just that HB department indicated on the phone, at first updating the claim and sending out entitlement letters, only to change their mind 3 months later. Then creating an overpayment from the whole period since client started studying.
Partner would have claimed UC straight away, if they had been told. Looks like a mistake from the HB department here so overpayment grossly unfair. Not sure a DHP would work either as HB say no entitlement for the period and UC claim hadn’t been made.
HB is (and has always been) claimed by, and awarded to, a single person, even if they are a member of a couple. However, the partner’s income is taken into account in the claimant’s award.
In your case, pre-UC, the other partner would have had to became the claimant, due to the rule I mentioned in my previous post. As new claims for HB cannot be made any more, it effectively means they have to claim UC (which is a joint claim) to get support for their housing costs.
I would say the overpayment is not recoverable due to official error however.
If they didn’t delay in making the claim for UC after being notified that HB had terminated, they should be able to backdate the UC claim up to a month. (Technically, this rule doesn’t apply to a couple where only one was receiving a legacy benefit which terminated, but that would be irrational, and I’m pretty sure DWP will still allow backdating.)[ Edited: 27 Jan 2021 at 09:03 pm by Charles ]