Interim payments of universal credit where claimant does not have a National Insurance number

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Bui & Onakoya v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2023] EWCA Civ 566.

The Court of Appeal has given judgment (on 25.5.23) in an important case on the position where a claimant for universal credit does not yet have a national insurance number. Where a claim for universal credit is made, payment of UC cannot be made for a period of some five weeks after the claim. In the case of most conditions of entitlement, the possible resulting hardship can be mitigated by making an interim payment. However, the Secretary of State maintained that this was not legally possible where the condition of entitlement related to the fact that the claimant did not yet have a NINO. The Upper Tribunal upheld this position. No payment on account of UC has ever been made in these circumstances.

The Court of Appeal (Underhill VP; Nugee and Edis LJJ) disagreed with the UT. It allowed the appeal and granted a declaration that “In the case of a claimant for Universal Credit who does not have a National Insurance Number and whose claim has not yet been determined, the Secretary of State may assess whether it is likely that the conditions of entitlement for benefit are satisfied, and, if it appears to him that it is, may make a payment on account of benefit in accordance with regulation 5(1) of the Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013 SI 2013/383.”

The judgment will have a considerable practical effect in these circumstances where the interval between the claim for UC and its payment is long.

Richard Drabble KC appeared for Ms Bui and Ms Onakoya, (leading Tom Royston and Rosalind Burgin for Ms Bui and Daryl Hutcheon for Ms Onakoya); instructed by Child Poverty Action Group and Central England Law Centre.

The judgment may be accessed here.

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