You'll often hear people say that to get Universal Credit the claimant has to have a bank account.
But there is nothing in the Universal Credit Regulations that requires this.
If you ever come across a claimant who has been refused UC because they don't have a bank account / refuse to open a bank account - then a recent Housing Benefit case could be useful...…...
The Upper Tribunal decision was that a Local Authority has no power to terminate a HB award on the grounds that the claimant refused to provide bank account details.
They decided that matters of entitlement and method of payment are separate issues.
Could the same principles apply to other benefits? We think so!
If you know of a claimant whose UC claim was withdrawn because they refused to provide details of a bank account please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of the case:
The claimant had been receiving HB by cheque, but the Local Authority made a policy decision to revert to BACS as the method for payment. The claimant failed to provide bank account details and his HB award was terminated, on the grounds that he had failed to provide the information requested.
A First Tier Tribunal (FTT) had upheld the local authority’s decision. However, the Upper Tribunal Judge decided that the FTT had mis-interpreted the regulations and its decision was wrong.
The FTT relied on the following Regulations:
Regulation 86 of the HB Regulations 2006, in Part 10 of the Regulations which deals with claims, states that a claimant must provide evidence in order that their entitlement can be determined.
The Housing Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001: – Regulation 11(1) (power to suspend payments where an issue arises about whether the conditions of entitlement are fulfilled); Reg 13(1) (power to suspend for failure to provide information or evidence needed to determine entitlement) and Regulation 14 (termination of an award for failure to provide information / evidence).
Regulation 91 of the HB Regulations 2006 (in Part 12 of the Regulations about payments) deals with the time and manner in which the HB Office should pay HB ‘to which a person is entitled’. The Judge noted that the wording of Reg 91 indicates that ‘entitlement precedes and is separate from payment’.
The local authority and the FTT had failed to distinguish between matters relevant to entitlement and matters relating to payment – ie the bank account details were necessary to arrange payment but were not relevant to whether the claimant was entitled to an award of HB. The Judge commented,
‘The local authority was wrong to rely on provisions relating to entitlement in order to terminate the claimant’s award when what was in dispute was the method of payment’.
The award could not be terminated under Regulation 86 of the 2006 Regulations. And as Regulation 86 did not apply (ie this was an issue of payment not entitlement) then neither did Reg 11, 13 or 14 of the Decisions and Appeals Regulations.
The Judge re-made the decision – that the claimant remained entitled to HB, although the issue regarding method of payment was not within the jurisdiction of the Upper Tribunal.