Universal Credit needs 'radical overhaul' says Disability Rights UK

By agency reporter
October 24, 2017

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) says the Universal Credit system needs a radical overhaul if it is to be 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 key benefits for disabled people (including income based Employment Support Allowance, disability elements of child and working tax credit, and other crucial disability additions) are all incorporated into Universal Credit. In addition, changes will affect the rates at which some key benefits are paid, and mean that others are not mirrored in the Universal Credit at all.

These are the obvious and immediate changes needed to Universal Credit (UC):

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

Secondly there is a need to make UC payments 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. 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 ensures 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, 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).

Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) is for people who are under Pension Credit age and receive DLA higher rate care component or PIP Daily Living component enhanced rate. They can also qualify for an EDP if they receive Employment and Support Allowance 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 Universal Credit to reflect the established fact that disabled people have extra costs due to their disability."

* Disability Rights UK https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/

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