Crystal Law Solicitors are one of the few law firms in the country that are able to provide legal advice in all areas of Welfare Benefits from form filling to judicial review matters. Our Solicitors at Crystal Law have over twenty years of experience in social welfare law and have assisted thousands of individuals with their lawful entitlement to welfare benefits.
Due to the drastic legal aid cuts in 2013, individuals and communities who require legal advice help have struggled to gain access to it. To fulfil a social need Crystal Law Solicitors provides high quality social welfare advice locally as well as nationally. Crystal Law Solicitors was founded upon the ethos of providing marginalised communities and individuals a voice and since opening we have provided hundreds of individuals with invaluable advice. Based in the heart of Leicester, we at Crystal Law Solicitors provide comprehensive, clear, cost-effective and practical legal advice to help you with any social welfare matter. Our team has a success rate in excess of 90% overall and we specialise in representation, advocacy, submission preparation for First-Tier and Upper Tribunal matters.
Crystal Law Solicitors is one of the few nationwide firms with expertise to tackle civil benefit fraud. We have an entirely separately section devoted to benefit fraud.
There is a systematic process to claiming welfare benefits and challenging unfavourable decisions. The basic stages in a claiming any benefit and appealing are:
- Form filling
- Mandatory Reconsideration/Reconsideration
- Lodging Appeal with First-Tier Tribunal
- First Tier Tribunal Hearing
- Permission to appeal with First Tier Tribunal
- Permission to appeal with Upper Tribual
- Upper Tribunal Hearing
The first step of obtaining a social welfare benefit is by completing an application which can be online, over the phone or on a paper application form. At Crystal Law our expert Solicitors have vast experience in advising individuals on their rights and entitlements and we are proficient in completing application forms correctly at first instance. A badly completed form can often result in nil entitlement and may led to lengthy appeal process which can take months to resolve. At Crystal Law we aim to secure entitlement at the earliest stage possible to avoid the unnecessary hurdles of appealing.
A Mandatory Reconsideration (MR)/Reconsideration is your legal right to challenge a welfare benefit decision. This is usually the stage immediately following a rejection of entitlement. We have found that many individuals whom have completed forms without advice or assistance are often faced with a negative decision and need to challenge it. We offer a free initial consultation to anyone faced with a negative decision and with our experience are generally able to advise you on prospects of success and strategies to secure entitlement. We have seen in the past few years the DWP, HMRC and Local Authority rejection rates have increased dramatically and we encourage claimants to challenge if they feel the decision is incorrect.
At Crystal Law we take referrals from many charities, local libraries, other law firms, churches, local MP’s to assist individuals who have received negative decision and cannot access legal advice easily. We have a fantastic success rate of overturning decision at the reconsideration stage for clients.
Once you have lodged your Mandatory Reconsideration/Reconsideration you will usually be issued with a final decision on a Mandatory Reconsideration Notice (MRN) if the decision has been changed in your favour and you are happy with it there is nothing further to do. If however the decision is negative or less than expected you have the option to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal. This is covered in more detail below
Once the mandatory reconsideration is done, you have the option of appealing the decision if you are not satisfied with the outcome. To do so, you will have to await the mandatory reconsideration notice then you complete a designated appeal form to be sent to the Tribunal Services. Council Tax and Tax Credits Appeals have separate forms so it is is important you lodge your appeal correctly.
Under legislation you have 1 month to lodge your appeal. This time limit can be extended to a maximum of 13 months with exceptional circumstances. If you are out of time we can discuss this with you. We have assisted many of our clients lodge an out of time successfully.
In your appeal application you will have to cite your grounds of appeal and submit further evidence. After an appeal is lodged the decision making body will usually prepare all the paperwork including all the decisions, this is often called the “bundle”.
As a claimant you have the right to provide further written representations before the Tribunal lists an oral or paper hearing. We have found that solid written submissions addressing the legislation, guidance and caselaw tailored to your particular circumstances adds substantial weight to your appeal. Our Solicitors have prepared bespoke submissions for several hundred appeals and we have the knowledge, skill and experience to assist you with event the most complex of benefit situations. To ensure the best prospect of success it is advisable to prepare well and gather the relevant evidence to be placed before the Tribunal. With our experience we are able to advise on what evidence is suitable for the type of hearing to held. We assist our clients in gathering evidence which can include; medical reports, consultant letters; witness statements; supporting letters; bank records.
This can be a daunting prospect for any claimant to a face a qualified Judge and many other professionals. At Crystal Law Solicitors, we provide representation nationally and have attended Tribunals throughout the country.
Our ethos and aim is to ensure that any client is as well prepared as possible for a Tribunal Hearing. In order to achieve this we prepare bespoke written submissions, usually prepared well in advance of a Tribunal which ensures only the relevant issues are covered at the hearing.
Our team have successfully represented hundreds of individuals throughout the country.
A Tribunal Decision can either be favourable or negative. At Crystal Law you are welcome to contact us to discuss a negative tribunal decision to see what, if any, rights you may have to challenge this decision. There are various options available following a negative decision including seeking a “set aside” or “seeking permission for leave to appeal to the upper tribunal”. Solicitors at Crystal Law Solicitors are well versed in challenging Tribunal Decisions and we have helped many individuals secure entitlement.
- Set Aside
- Permission Seeking leave to Appeal to the Upper Tribunal
The Tribunal Rules and caselaw generally guide when you can lodge an application for a set aside. Reasons often include, failure to attend and procedural irregularities on the part of the Tribunal.
If you feel the Tribunal decision is wrong you have the option to lodge a permission to appeal with the First Tier Tribunal. If this is granted than your appeal will be dealt with by the Upper Tribunal. If this is rejected an application to the Upper Tribunal can be lodged directly.
We are on the few firms nationally with this breadth of experience to challenge negative Tribunal decisions.
The Upper Tribunal will usually consider appeals when an error of law has been identified. If permission seeking leave to appeal has been granted than the matter simply proceeds in the Upper Tribunal. In the event the First-Tier Tribunal Judge has refused permission a secondly opportunity exists to lodge permission directly with the Upper Tribunal on a prescribed “UT1” form. We have successfully assisted many clients nationally with Upper Tribunal cases from the most complex disability matters to the most complex financial “capital” appeals.
The Upper Tribunal may require you to attend a hearing in relation to your case. We are able to represent you at such hearings and prepare written submissions if required by the Upper Tribunal. In the event an Upper Tribunal have refused your appeal you have an option of pursuing the matter further. Should you wish to pursue this option please do not hesitate to contact us.
Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working-age who are on a low income. It replaces six existing means-tested benefits:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
Universal Credit is intended to be simpler than the current system of benefits and tax credits. Universal Credit is paid on a monthly basis. Entitlement is worked out by comparing your basic financial needs that the government says you need to live on with your financial resources.
Universal Credit is being introduced gradually. Whether you can claim depends on where you live and your personal circumstances. If you don’t live in a qualifying area or you are not eligible to claim Universal Credit you may be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or other means tested benefits. You don’t need to do anything if you are already claiming existing benefits. You will be told by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) when you have to claim Universal Credit.
Unfortunately, history tell us that migration from one benefit to another leads to problems, should these arise our experts are on hand to provide assistance.
There are various disability benefits available, including:
- Personal Independence payments (PIP)
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Attendance Allowance (AA)
- Employment Support Allowance (ESA)
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or a disability if you’re aged 16 to 64. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is usually paid every 4 weeks. It is tax free and you can get it whether you’re in or out of work and irrespective of your income levels. It’s made up of 2 components (parts); Daily living component and Mobility component. Whether you get one or both of these depends on how your condition affects you.
Our team are specialists in all aspect of PIP from form filling to advocacy at Tribunal hearings. We are currently assisting many claimants challenging their decisions and have a fantastic success rate – please see our testimonials to get an indication of the successes we have had.
If you require any expert advice in respect of PIP please do not hesitate to contact us.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax-free benefit for disabled people who need help with mobility or care costs. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a tax-free benefit for disabled children and adults to help with extra costs you may have because you are disabled. It is not based on your disability but the needs arising from it. For example, if you need someone to help look after you.
You may be able to claim Attendance Allowance if your ability to keep safe or look after your own personal care is affected by physical or mental illness or disability and you are over 65. Attendance Allowance has 2 weekly rates, and the rate you get depends on the help you need. Claiming Attendance Allowance will not reduce any other income you receive, and it is tax-free. If you are awarded it, you may become entitled to other benefits, such as Pension Credit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction, or an increase in these benefits. As we get older, many of us need a little extra help to look after ourselves, especially if we have a long-term illness or disability. We will show you how to increase your chances of making a successful claim for Attendance Allowance.
If you are ill or disabled, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) offers you financial support if you are unable to work or personalised help so that you can work if you’re able to. You can apply for ESA if you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed. You might be transferred to ESA if you’ve been claiming other benefits like Income Support or Incapacity Benefit.
. You must have a Work Capability Assessment while your ESA claim is being assessed. This is to see to what extent your illness or disability affects your ability to work. You will then be placed in one of two groups if you’re entitled to ESA (1) work-related activity group, where you will have regular interviews with an adviser or (2) support group, where you don’t have interviews.
The main welfare benefit for carers is called Carer's Allowance. Carer’s Allowance is extra money to help you look after someone with substantial caring needs. You don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for to claim Carer's Allowance. You will also get National Insurance credits each week towards your pension if you're under pension age. You may also be eligible to claim Income Support as a carer.
Income Support ensures people have enough to live on. It is only available for certain groups of people who do not get Jobseeker's Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance and are not in full time employment. The actual amount you get depends on your circumstances. Income support is a means-tested benefit which means entitlement is based on your income, savings and other capital. These will be looked at to see if you qualify. Income Support can be paid on its own if you have no other income or can top-up other benefits or part time earnings to the basic amount the law says you need to live on. You do not have to have paid national insurance contributions to qualify for Income Support.
You can apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) to help you while you look for work. There are the different types of JSA: Contribution-based JSA If you’ve been working and paying Class 1 National Insurance Contributions for most of the past two full tax years, you may be able to claim contribution-based JSA. You can only claim for six months, but if you’re still looking for work you may be able to claim income-based JSA after that. Income-based JSA The majority of JSA claims are for income-based JSA. Income based JSA is a means-tested benefit which means entitlement is based on your household income, savings and other capital, which will be looked at to see if you to qualify
You could get Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction to help you pay your rent and your council tax liability if you’re on a low income. Housing Benefit can pay for part or all of your rent. How much you get depends on your income and circumstances. You can apply for either benefit whether you’re unemployed or working.
You get a range of benefits if you’re responsible for a child under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training). Child Benefit You could get Child Benefit for each child you’re responsible for if they’re under 16 or under 20 and in approved education or training You don’t need to be working to claim Child Benefit. Only one person can get Child Benefit for a child. There is an income cap which withdraws your entitlement to child benefit if you exceed this. Child tax credit You could get Child Tax Credit for each child you’re responsible for if they’re: - under 16 - under 20 and in approved education or training You don’t need to be working to claim Child Tax Credit. You get money for each child that qualifies and Child Tax Credit won’t affect your Child Benefit. Childcare cost Childcare costs are incoporated into your entitlement to tax credits. You may be able to get help from the government to pay for childcare like childminders and nurseries. You must use ‘approved childcare’ to qualify for help. You will receive extra tax credits to help with your childcare costs if you’re eligible. When calculating your childcare costs, you can only include costs you pay yourself.
You could get Working Tax Credit if either of the following apply: - you’re aged from 16 to 24 and have a child or a qualifying disability - you’re 25 or over, with or without children To be entitled you must (1) work a certain number of hours a week, (2) get paid for the work you do (or expect to) and (3) have an income below a certain level.