Will they count my savings under the circumstances of lockdown? Can I save to buy a property on ESA? — Scope | Disability forum
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Will they count my savings under the circumstances of lockdown? Can I save to buy a property on ESA?

KweenBish
KweenBish Member Posts: 3 Listener
Hi all,

Just joined the community to ask about benefits and savings accumulated over covid and to see if anyone else is in the same situation as me. I spoke to ESA earlier today and they said I was not alone, so I feel like this needs to be addressed.

My situation is that I am currently on ESA, enhanced rate care and mobility PIP and housing benefit due to my OCD. My contamination fears mean I have been unable to go out since March last year, save for a few local walks. 

I have therefore managed to save quite a lot of money, simply because I am unable to spend it. Whilst everyone has made significant changes due to the pandemic, I wanted to specify that my disability is a relevant factor. For instance, I require a car for mobility but cannot buy one as I cannot leave the flat and if I did get one would be scared it wasn't clean. I had therefore wanted to wait until everything is more normal to avoid that unnecessary anxiety before making these purchases.

I now have approx. £7k saved from unspent benefits (largely PIP cos housing goes straight to rent, ESA for food and other bills). I called the DWP to let them know I was now over the £6k savings threshold and my claim was suspended while I submit further evidence. 

I am going to write to them explaining my situation and that once the pandemic is over, I will have outstanding expenses to catch me back up to normal life. A car, for one and a mattress, bed frame and even sofa (current one is in massive disrepair, barely usable), etc. It is not that we have suddenly won the lottery but more than we have been severely restricted at the moment, just for clarity.

Additionally, with this being the first time I have any significant savings I would rather put any money I can towards a deposit on a house as a priority, given the effect renting has had on my mental health and specific requirements I have for a property due to disability. 

I guess I have 2 questions. Are ESA allowed to count my savings as such in these circumstances. I would argue the same consideration should be given as in backdates of PIP, where a disregard of 1 year is given. This is because I cannot spend the money yet, so it doesn't seem fair to reduce my benefits because of this. Secondly, are you allowed to save up to buy a property when you are on ESA?  If you already own a property, you can still get housing benefit to pay the interest only.

It seems like it would be a little discriminatory to say disabled people cannot save up to buy their own house. Likewise, I feel it would be discriminatory to say that because you could not spend the money you were entitled to due to disability, then you will be penalised for it.

The DWP said at the moment, they have not had any specific guidance for this type of situation, although I feel they really should consider putting something in place given current events.

Sorry if this was pretty convoluted, any questions I will try to answer as best I can.

Thanks for reading.

Comments

  • calcotti
    calcotti Member Posts: 2,983 Disability Gamechanger
    KweenBish said: Are ESA allowed to count my savings as such in these circumstances. I would argue the same consideration should be given as in backdates of PIP, where a disregard of 1 year is given. ..Secondly, are you allowed to save up to buy a property when you are on ESA?  
    Not only are they allowed to, the rules say they must. There is no disregard for unspent income, the rules expressly state that unspent income becomes capital at the end of the time period for which it is paid. There is no disregard for money based on what you intend to use it for such as a house deposit. 

    KweenBish said: If you already own a property, you can still get housing benefit to pay the interest only.
    That isn’t correct. Homeowners can, after 9 months without earnings, take out a government loan (on which interest is charged) to help them pay the interest on their existing mortgage.

    Information I post is for England unless otherwise stated. Rules may be different in other parts of UK.
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,256 Disability Gamechanger
    @KweenBish hi and welcome to scope.
    I agree that in some circumstances it seems unfair but as calcotti says they can't make exceptions.
    I must admit that despite not going out much for 14 months we seem to have spent more, I fully expect a Christmas card from amazon as they seem to be here every day !
    As far as saving for a house goes the likelihood of getting a mortgage when your only income is benefits are slim at best.
    Offering PIP advice to people with epilepsy.
  • KweenBish
    KweenBish Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Hi guys, thanks for your comments.

    I am aware that in certain circumstances similar to mine (as close as I can find lol), they can have some leeway. For instance, the policy disregarding money back paid from PIP (say, following a successful appeal) for 52 weeks after the date of payment. The reason being, I assume, because they did not have access to spend that money at the time, so it would be unfair to penalise them.

    Similarly, in my case I have been unable to spend my money due to unforseen global circumstances and additionally, the effect it has had on my disability. Once things are back to normal, I will have access to spend that money on outstanding expenses accumulated over this time (such as my money to buy a new car). 

    Would it not be something they need to consider given the novelty of the situation and how many people it will have affected? One could argue that a policy needs to be put in place or it could be discriminatory. For example, in my case my inability to utilise my capital is directly related to my OCD and a result of the pandemic (an unforseen circumstance that surely requires some specific legislation). 

    Also, by not allowing people who are on ESA to save for a house that meets the requirements they would have received on housing benefit (e.g. a one bed property in a similar area), they will be stopping a significant amount of disabled people from being home owners. Especially if those people save benefits they are entitled to anyway and choose to go without. In my case, it could potentially help with my disability too by getting me a more suitable property and long term stability.

    I know it's not about what I feel is fair and that, it's more about what policies are in place, but does anyone agree they probably have a responsibility to consider implementing a policy specific to the pandemic? 
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,256 Disability Gamechanger
    edited May 24
    I'm afraid I have to disagree, although I would agree that in the near future they should consider increasing the capital limits which haven't been changed for almost 20 years but that's a different matter.

    I don't see any valid case for discrimination here, as for saving for a house there are many many people who are working who are also stuck in the rental trap, but sadly life isn't always fair.

    If you are looking for something that really has been unfair during the current crisis it is the fact that whilst UC has been uplifted by £20 per week for 18 months disability benefits i.e ESA and PIP have not seen an uplift 

    I'm sorry that non of that is what you want to hear.
    Offering PIP advice to people with epilepsy.
  • calcotti
    calcotti Member Posts: 2,983 Disability Gamechanger
    KweenBish said: I know it's not about what I feel is fair and that, it's more about what policies are in place, but does anyone agree they probably have a responsibility to consider implementing a policy specific to the pandemic? 
    The matters you raise are indeed policy matters - you can make your views known to your MP if you wish.

    Your benefits will be administered in accordance with the existing regulations. Accumulated unspent benefit is not the same as arrears of benefit and there is no applicable disregard.

    As woodbine says, the chance of getting a mortgage to support a house purchase if your only income is benefits is slim at best.
    woodbine said:If you are looking for something that really has been unfair during the current crisis it is the fact that whilst UC has been uplifted by £20 per week for 18 months disability benefits i.e ESA and PIP have not seen an uplift 
    Not providing the uplift to ESA, JSA and IS may have been unfair but I don't think it's right to bring PIP into that argument as it is a non means tested benefit that serves a different purpose.
    Information I post is for England unless otherwise stated. Rules may be different in other parts of UK.
  • MarkM88
    MarkM88 Member Posts: 1,798 Pioneering
    In fairness too, regardless of if you agree or disagree with policy, online shopping has been available and you could have bought most of what you said online plus other stuff. Unfortunately, if you don’t like online shopping or just prefer to do it in person that is an individual choice but the DWP won’t just let you off and disregard it and will still have to administer according to their policies and savings limits. 

    Shops are open again now so can’t you go and buy some of the stuff you need which will bring you back under the savings limit? 
  • KweenBish
    KweenBish Member Posts: 3 Listener
    Thanks again for everyone's comments. I'm going write to the DWP and see what they say, but does seem a bit unfair. Especially  as one poster mentioned there has been no uplift to some benefits- I guess they want to get people onto universal credit or new style ESA. Didn't really think about that.

    In reply to the last comment, I use online shopping but cannot go to the shops due to OCD related contamination fears. I cannot make all purchases online and some items, like a much needed new sofa, I have avoided buying as I cannot clean them down. Due to my disability and current events, it has been impossible to make some of the necessary purchases I require.

    I understand it can be a bit weird to understand if you don't have OCD, but the government must consider policies that don't discriminate against disabled people and I feel, in my case they are penalising me for something that is outside of my control. The reason I want similar leeway, as with back payments, is because I have outstanding expenses that the money is for, I just cannot complete them yet. Giving a disregard for a certain period would allow me to use my money as it was intended, rather than expecting me to live off it and having to start saving for these things once things are back to normal. 

    The benefits I am paid are to facilitate independent living and they would essentially be depriving me off them. I would be interested if anyone knows why they have the rule for PIP disregard on back payments. If the reasoning is similar, it may be that they have to consider implementing a pandemic-specific policy and it may be discriminatory that they have not already anticipated or made these changes. 
  • calcotti
    calcotti Member Posts: 2,983 Disability Gamechanger
    KweenBish said:  If the reasoning is similar, it may be that they have to consider implementing a pandemic-specific policy and it may be discriminatory that they have not already anticipated or made these changes. 
    That is not within the remit of DWP. They administer benefits in accordance with regulations laid down by parliament. Policy matters are a matter for government/parliament.
    Information I post is for England unless otherwise stated. Rules may be different in other parts of UK.
  • woodbine
    woodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 5,256 Disability Gamechanger
    Bear in mind that PIP isn't a means tested benefit, they do have some disregard policies, and I would just say that it seems highly unlikely that any changes will be made at this stage of the pandemic especially given the size of the national debt.
    Our daughter had OCD connected to her anorexia for a number of years so I do understand the problems .

    But I have to repeat that I see no discrimination here.
    Offering PIP advice to people with epilepsy.

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