Reply To: Change of address…..again!


I’ve been trying to find some legal basis for the DWP’s advice, or for an alternative view as the case may be. I was trying to establish the precise anatomy of an elephant and what it would take to shoot one dead, rather than merely stun it.

Paragraph 2 of Schedule 7 to the CSPSSA 2000 seems to say that once you have made a decision that someone has no entitlement to HB on the basis of their circumstances on a given date, any subsequent change of circumstance cannot bring them back into entitlement without another claim being made. The drafting of paragraph 2 appears to contemplate such decisions only being made on initial consideration of a new claim, rather than later when there has been a chcnage of circumstance, but I would have thought that the words “decision on a claim” and “at that time” could be taken in the context to mean either when the claim is first decided, or later when you are dealing with a supersession. This is supported by the definition of the term “relevant decision” as including a superseding decision: see para 1 of the Schedule.

The implications, I think, are as follows:

– If you know that the claimant has moved out of their home, but you have no reason to think that they have moved to another one where they would still have some entitlement, you make a superseding decision to the effect that there is no HB from the appropriate day (whenever that might be – I’m not about to exhume that argument here). A new claim is then required if the claimant subsequently resurfaces at a later date: having been nil-entitled once, the claimant does not have a dormant life-time award that can be reactivated by an advantageous change: the elephant is dead.
– The above reasoning also applies to changes in financial circumstances and, indeed, the claimant’s own death.
– But the council might have been premature in shooting the elephant: unknown to the council, the claimant did in fact still qualify for HB at the time. In these circumstances, the shooting of the elephant could be “revised” (or appealed) to make it so that it never happened. The un-shot elephant would then be superseded in a less life-threatening way instead.

– Alternatively, when a claimant moves out, the council might have reason to believe that he or she will still be entitled to HB somehere else in the same area: the amount of rent might be the only thing that has changed. In these cases, the council might decide that it is prudent to tranquilise the elephant before approaching it (suspension); but it is only sleeping, it isn’t dead. The advantageous change rule will apply: if the elephant will be bigger when it wakes up, the extra food has to reach the zoo within a calendar month or the elephant will only start to grow from the date when the food is delivered.

At this point, the metaphor is getting out of control, so I’ll leave it there.

P.S. OK, just read that back and for the avoidance of doubt I am saying that the restriction on advantageous changes only applies when the new rent is higher than the old one: if you have a sleeping elephant that will be smaller when it wakes up, the elephant can easily be made to barf up the excess food before you allow it back into the enclosure (or in other words, you only de-suspend up to the level of the new rent). There would be no time limit as such, because entitlement is going down. In these acses, there is no interim period of nil entitlement as DWP seems to imply.