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Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual & Transgender Conference 2005
29 July 2005

Conference welcomes the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 [CPA] which recognises our partnerships and families. However, conference notes that same-sex co-habiting couples who choose not to register their partnerships will have obligations in respect of claiming welfare benefits.

Conference notes that disabled and black LGBT members are more likely to be low paid and thus entitled to claim benefits.

Conference expresses its concern that same-sex co-habiting couples in receipt of working and / or child tax credits will be under a duty to report their status to the Inland Revenue within three months of the CPA coming into force or the commencement of co-habitation whichever is the later. Failure to do so will result in an administrative penalty of £300.

Initial guidance by the Department for Works and Pensions [DWP] which covers means tested benefits, including housing benefit, suggested that same-sex co-habiting couples would only need to inform the relevant authority of their living arrangements when there was another change of circumstances or their claim came up for review. More recent guidance states that same-sex couples will need to claim again as a couple when the CPA comes into force and that they should contact the office which deals with their claims as soon as they can.

Conference notes that claiming as a couple may result in the reduction of some means tested benefit, in particular housing benefit, which can lead to potential homelessness and financial hardship.

Conference is concerned that benefits decision makers including adjudication officers, benefit fraud investigators and appeal tribunal members may not have had appropriate training on LGBT awareness and the new regulations.

Conference is further concerned that same-sex co-habiting couples will be forced to be out without having protection from discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Conference instructs the National LGBT Committee:

1.To discuss the issues with the local government service group executive and consider contacting local authorities to identify their practices in relation to housing benefit and homelessness prevention for lgbt couples;

2.Enter into dialogue with PCS Proud, the trade union for employees of DWP on the implications of the CPA for benefit claimants;

3.Publicise the benefit implications of the CPA through Out in Unison or other appropriate medium including a list of resources where further information and advice can be sought;

4.Raise with UNISON Welfare the potential of same sex co-habiting couples facing financial hardship;

5.Monitor future practice in the areas specified and report back to lgbt members through appropriate mechanisms.