Anne Killeen, Senior Casework Manager
The nature of our work at Z2K means that when a client presents to us for help with one issue we do not look at the issue in isolation. We will actively advocate for the client on other problems which the client may not realise is linked to the presenting problem.
This happened in the case of Sara, who approached us for assistance in March 2017. Sara lives at home with two adult children, one of whom works in addition to acting as her carer. She was previously in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) higher rate care and mobility.
On transfer to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Sara was awarded only 2 points, which gave her no entitlement to PIP.
She requested the Department of Work of Pensions (DWP) reviewed the decision. On reconsideration the DWP actually removed the 2 points they previously awarded. Therefore Sara’s entitlement to DLA/PIP ended on 1st November 2016.
In cases when someone is in receipt of the care element of DLA or the daily living element of PIP no non-dependents deductions are taken from their housing benefit for any working adults living in the household. As Sara had previously been in receipt of the care element of DLA but was award 0 points on transfer to PIP, the loss of her award had a knock-on effect in relation to her housing benefit and council tax support entitlement.
Sara was aware that her housing benefit entitlement had reduced and was paying the shortfall but she really didn’t understand why. She had not realised she would now have a liability for council tax even though she was in receipt of a means tested benefit. Sara discovered this when she was visited by the bailiffs who were trying to access her home. The liability to pay council tax was in the region of £800 and the initial legal costs of £100 had now increased to £700 due to bailiff fees. Sara informed the bailiffs that she would pay the money however she was awaiting the result of her PIP tribunal and hopefully a backdated payment.
There were several hearings at the tribunal with delays due to us not receiving the bundle and the courts requiring further medical information. However, we attended the tribunal with Sara in October 2017, almost a year since her DLA payments had ended.
As is often the case, the tribunal judge and doctor came to a radically different conclusion to DWP’s assessors, and awarded Sara the enhanced daily living and mobility rate for a period of 5 years.
In order to stop the bailiff’s actions we sent a copy of the decision to the housing benefit and council tax department so that her claim could be reassessed urgently. Sara’s housing benefit and council tax was reassessed on 3rd November 2017 and backdated to 2nd November 2016. The result being that both accounts were in substantial credit and a refund was requested.
The moral from this case is to highlight that the removal of the care element from a DLA/PIP award can have a knock-on affect if you have non-dependents that work in your household. Therefore claimants need to carefully consider that whilst they may believe it’s not worth the anxiety to appeal a PIP award of say £22 (the lowest rate), they need to look at the wider benefits of pursing the appeal. If they do decide to proceed with the appeal a payment arrangement will have to be put in place for the rent and council tax until the tribunal makes a decision.
Otherwise they could find themselves losing significantly more than just their PIP, with the added loss of housing benefit, council tax support and ultimately bailiff fees.
In Sara’s case the whole process took a year, which led to increased levels of anxiety and stress in addition to her existing medical conditions. Fortunately however, it ended with a very positive outcome.