Blog by Desmond Rutledge of the Garden Court Chambers Welfare Benefits Law Team.
South Ribble Council had awarded the claimant Housing Benefit in respect of his home. The landlord gave the claimant notice to quit, and on 24 September 2018 the claimant and his partner moved to a new home three miles away. The relevant local authority for Housing Benefit was now Preston City Council, which was a universal credit full-service area. The claimant made a claim for Universal Credit on 22 October 2018 but the DWP decided that the claim could not be ‘backdated’ to 24 September 2018. A First-tier Tribunal dismissed the claimant’s appeal.
Judge Jacobs allowed the appeal after considering the 'backdating' rules that extend the time to claim Universal Credit for up to one month where the claimant was previously in receipt of an existing benefit (which includes Housing Benefit), and notification of expiry of entitlement to that benefit was not sent to the claimant before the date that the claimant's entitlement expired under regulation 26(3)(aa) of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/380. The Judge accepted the following submission from the Secretary of State, who supported the appeal:
‘… the function of regulation 26(3)(aa) is to provide relief for claimants who have only belatedly discovered that the benefit they have been receiving has been replaced by universal credit, and therefore have been left unable to satisfy the usual requirement that a claim for universal credit be made on the very day that one wishes to claim from (regulation 26(1)). In view of this, in the instant case, I submit that, for the purposes of regulation 26(3)(aa), the "notification of expiry of entitlement" to housing benefit should be taken to be the letter from Preston County Council that spelled out that the old mechanism for re-establishing entitlement to housing benefit in a new borough by way of a new claim to the new council was no longer available (and hence a claim for universal credit had to be made instead). This notification was sent after the claimant’s last day of entitlement to housing benefit’ (para 8).
It was also conceded that the condition in regulation 26(2)(b) was met, on the ground that the couple could not reasonably be expected to claim universal credit until the claimant had been made aware by Preston City Council that he could no longer claim housing benefit. Judge Jacobs set aside the tribunal’s decision and remade it to the effect that the time for claiming Universal Credit was extended from 24 September 2018 until the couple made their universal credit claim on 21 October 2018.
This is a welcome clarification of one of the many problems that can arise when claimants on legacy benefits are required to claim Universal Credit due to ‘natural migration’. If someone has lost out on up to a month’s Universal Credit in similar circumstances, they have the option of applying to have the original decision revised on the grounds that it arose out of official error in light of this judgment.
The judgment is available online here.