Benefit changes ‘could impact the most vulnerable’

Frances Renton
Frances Renton

Significant changes to how benefit claimants challenge decisions came into force this week and Scottish Borders Council wants to make sure people know their rights.

Instead of being able to make an immediate appeal against a Department of Work and Pensions decision, claimants now have to go back to the DWP first to ask them to reconsider. It is only after going through this new stage that they can submit an appeal within a month.

Wanting to ensure that claimants are aware of the changes and tight timescales Councillor Frances Renton, executive member for social work said: “We are aware that these changes are complicated and could have a significant impact on potentially vulnerable claimants. We would urge anyone who has concerns to contact either their local Citizens Advice Bureau or the council’s welfare benefits service to seek advice.”

There is a particular change in relation to disputes around Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If a claimant fails their ESA Work Capability Assessment they will not be able to claim the allowance until a request for reconsideration has been made. If a claimant takes it to appeal they will be entitled to receive ESA at the assessment rate, until completion of the hearing. If however, the claimant has successfully claimed another benefit such as Jobseeker’s Allowance during the same period then they will continue to get this payment until the appeal is concluded unless they make a request for the ESA instead.

The new appeal and dispute rules only apply to DWP benefits and child maintenance cases. Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Tax Credits cases remain the same.

More information from the DWP: www.dwp.gov.uk.