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More than free phone calls needed to solve disabled peoples universal credit problems

23 October 2017

The recent Government announcement of free phone calls to the Universal Credit helpline is welcome if long overdue

 However, the Universal Credit system itself needs a radical overhaul if it is to fit for purpose, especially when it comes to meeting the needs of disabled people.

No group are more affected by Universal Credit than disabled people. This is because not only are key benefits for disabled people (including income based Employment Support Allowance, disability elements of child and working tax credit, and other crucial disability additions) all incorporated into Universal Credit. But in addition, changes will affect the rates at which some key benefits are paid, and mean that others aren’t mirrored in the universal credit at all.

There the obvious and immediate changes needed to Universal Credit.

Firstly, the current six weeks first UC payment waiting period is too long with the consequence that there are increasing numbers of people in ever increasing rent arrears. The 92% of East Dunbartonshire tenants on Universal Credit requiring crisis grants are just one example.

Secondly there is a need to make UC payment fortnightly in arrears not monthly. There is a real risk of people making a claim over Christmas having nothing to eat and nowhere to live in. This has led the Scottish Government to introduced the option to have fortnightly UC payments. Third there is an imperative to direct UC payments directly to landlords. This latter measure ensure tenants in rent arrears are not evicted.

However, the real changes needed go beyond the obvious and immediate to the restoration of the premiums abolished with the introduction of Universal Credit.

The severe disability premium (SDP) currently gives additional support to disabled adults who receive the middle rate or higher rate of the care component of DLA or the standard or enhanced PIP daily living component and live on their own and no one is paid carer’s allowance for assisting them.

This additional support helps to cover the additional costs of both living alone with a disability and having no carer. SDP is abolished under universal credit. This will cost disabled adults with no one to care for them, or with only a young carer, about £62.45 per week (£3,250 per year).

You qualify for an Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) if you are under Pension Credit age and receive DLA higher rate care component or PIP Daily Living component enhanced rate. You can also qualify for an enhanced disability premium if you receive ESA and are in the support group. EDP is abolished under universal credit. This will cost disabled adults £15.90 per week (£825 per year).

Philip Connolly, Policy and Development Manager of Disability Rights UK said:

“The profile of a typical user of food banks suggests that it is often disabled people and those with a long-term health condition who will be most affected by the Government’s decision to press on with the roll out of Universal Credit.

We urge Government to incorporate the severe disability premium and the enhanced disability premium into Unioversal Credit to reflect the established fact that disabled people have extra costs due to their disability."

Related links

As high proportion of disabled people forced to use food banks Disability Rights UK demands Government sees it, says it and sorts it 

Government ends disabled students Universal Credit entitlement without knowing how many affected

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