Q. I bought my mother’s property around 10 years ago when working full-time. She is 87 and still lives there, but it is in my name.
I am leaving work next month due to health problems and will be looking to claim benefits. Will this property affect my level of benefits?
A. If you have been working and paying National Insurance contributions then you are likely to qualify for contributions based (new style) Employment and Support Allowance, which is not means tested, so no capital would be taken into consideration. However, if you want to claim anything means tested, such as Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, then the DWP or local authority would look to assess your income and capital. Usually a property that you own, other than where you live, would be taken into account as capital, but there are some exceptions. Properties which are occupied by a close relative who is over Pension Credit age or incapacitated are usually disregarded, as are properties occupied by ex-partners who are lone parents. Given your mother’s age, you should qualify for this exception and the property should not affect the claim.
Q. I was getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for health problems. I have been on the claim for a few years, but recently I went for a medical assessment and they have decided I am fit for work and stopped my claim.
I am going to appeal but they have told me I have to claim Universal Credit if I want to be paid anything.
I get Personal Independence Payment at the highest rate, but they have said that doesn’t change anything.
A. If you choose to appeal, you will need to submit a request for a mandatory reconsideration, and appeals then usually need to continue to the Tribunal Service when the mandatory reconsideration is not successful by completing an SSCS1 form. During the mandatory reconsideration stage you are able to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance only if you are in a ‘live service’ area, where Universal Credit has not been fully rolled out.
In these areas you can claim Jobseekers’ Allowance while your mandatory reconsideration is being considered. You would be paid the assessment phase rate while waiting for your appeal. If you are living in a full service Universal Credit area, then you will not have the option of claiming Jobseekers Allowance while your mandatory reconsideration is looked at.
You would have the option of claiming Universal Credit, however, a lot of people are finding that they are worse off claiming this.
If you are able to support yourself financially without claiming Universal Credit then you will still have the option of having your ESA claim reopened once your appeal is logged. Most people will continue to be entitled to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction while waiting for the mandatory reconsideration to go through, and this part of the appeals often goes through within four to six weeks. If your ESA appeal is successful, you would return to ESA at the reinstated rate; whereas if you claim Universal Credit during the appeals process you will have to continue with this once a decision on your entitlement is made.