This month has seen the start of some of the biggest ever changes to the welfare benefits system, which are rolling out nationally over the next few years. Following on from its article on Benefit Basics a few weeks back, the charity Turn2us presents some information on how people with a disability and carers may be affected by the changes, and steps they can take to get prepared…
Personal Independence Payment
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people aged 16-64. Its introduction has already started for new claimants in areas of North East and North West England, and it will be rolled out for all other new claimants across the rest of the UK from June.
From October, existing DLA claimants will be invited to claim PIP. There will be no automatic transfer if they need report a change in their condition, reach the end of their DLA award or if they are approaching the age of 16. All other current DLA claimants aged 16-64 will be invited to claim PIP from October 2015.
PIP is based on individual need and will involve an assessment by an independent body focusing on a person’s ability to carry out a range of key activities necessary to everyday life. It has two components – a daily living component and a mobility component, both of which will be awarded at a standard and enhanced rate.
When you claim PIP, your DLA will continue to be paid until the new claim has been decided. There is no break in payment if you are awarded PIP, but it is important to make a claim for PIP within 28 days of being invited to do so, otherwise your DLA will be suspended.
This will apply to people with disabilities and carers who currently receive the following benefits:
– Income Support
– Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
– Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
– Housing Benefit
– Working Tax Credit
– Child Tax Credit
Recipients of these will be moved on to Universal Credit (UC) between October this year and 2017. Exactly when you begin to claim UC will depend on factors including where you live and whether you have a change in your circumstances.
Carers may qualify for an additional ‘Carer element’ on top of the basic UC allowance, and there will be disability additions for those with limited capability for work or work-related activity.
Changes to Housing Benefit
There has been a lot of media attention recently around the so-called ‘bedroom tax’. This is not actually a tax, but refers to ‘under-occupancy’ changes to Housing Benefit rules.
This affects people living in social housing, and means they will see a reduction in their Housing Benefit if they have one or more spare bedrooms. There are some exemptions to this, including households with disabled children who are unable to share a bedroom with siblings because of their disability, and disabled people who need support overnight from a non-resident, for example a care worker who might require a room of their own.
Tips for people affected
Turn2us is running a campaign throughout April to raise awareness of all of the benefits changes, and has launched a dedicated website to help anyone who might be affected. The website features clear factsheets on all of the changes, with details on who they affect and information about the practical steps those affected can take.
It is worth doing a free and easy benefits calculation to check you are receiving all the support you are entitled to, and to see whether you are claiming any benefits which may make you exempt from some of the changes.
If you are currently claiming any of the benefits that will be affected, you may wish to seek assistance when the time comes for you to make a claim. You can find an adviser in your local area here.