Disability in Universal Credit
The APPG on Universal Credit is a cross-party group, which was established in order for Members of Parliament of all parties to be able to come together to discuss the experiences of their own constituents, to receive advice and support from various agencies, to share best practice at supporting constituents and monitor this critical policy as it is rolled out.
The APPG accepts the core aims of Universal Credit (UC) in simplifying the benefits system and making it easier for people to move into work. The reality of UC, however, does not live up to these good intentions. We are seriously concerned that the design of UC does not sufficiently take into consideration the specific needs of the poorest working age people in the UK, and that in its current form, UC does not work in their best interest.
On 7 February 2018, the APPG held an evidence session on Disability in Universal Credit, hearing evidence from The Children’s Society, Disability Rights UK, Scope and The Trussell Trust. The following parliamentarians were present: Ruth George MP (Chair) Drew Hendry MP (Vice-Chair), Jim Shannon MP, Emma Reynolds MP, The Bishop of Portsmouth and Baroness Lister of Burtersett.
The APPG will campaign for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to release data on the impact of UC on disabled claimants and other vulnerable groups. The APPG will produce a report from all sessions outlining recommendations for the government to implement. Organisations and parliamentarians present are encouraged to submit their evidence.
- THE CHILDREN’S SOCIETY
The Children’s Society supports change to young people’s lives at an individual level through its direct programmes of work. It also aims to affect systemic change by influencing legislation and government practice, and to affect a positive shift in public attitudes towards children and young people.
If UC looks troubling now, it is set to look ten times worse once large numbers of disabled people receive it.
The loss of the severe disability premium (SDP) alone is likely to leave large numbers unable to afford the care they need.
In many cases disabled people will be affected by multiple cuts to support at the same time.
In some cases, claimants moving onto UC from the current system will receive transitional protections (TPs) to prevent them losing money on the point of transition. However, new claimants receive no protection.
Those who do receive TPs will see it eroded over time, as it does not increase with inflation, and others may lose it altogether if their household circumstances change.
The government needs to concentrate on how claimants use and interact with the benefits system.
We are particularly concerned about the impact of UC on the following groups:
1. Disabled children
- Families with disabled children will lose £1,500 per year under UC.
- Disabled children’s support on UC will be more than cut in half from £262 p/m to £126 p/m.
- Already 1 in 10 disabled children are currently living in poverty.
2. Disabled workers
- Currently disabled workers receive additional support through the ‘disability element’ of working tax credits– typically worth £3,000 p/y.
- In many cases this group will receive no additional in work support under UC, stopping them from covering the additional costs disabled workers pay for support to allow them to work.
- Some additional in-work support is available under UC for disabled workers with disabled children, through a higher level of work allowance for people with limited capability for work.
- However, claimants can only get either the higher work allowance for disabled people or parents, not both.
3. Young disabled people
- Disabled young people under 25 will face a cut of £15p/w from their ‘personal allowance’.
- A young disabled person making a UC claim in 2020 could be worse off in real terms by around £9,300 p/y, compared to the same claimant in 2010.
4. Single disabled people
- The removal of SDP under UC is stopping people from being able to afford to buy in care and reducing support for some of the most socially isolated groups in society.
- For single disabled parents SDP helps stop children taking on significant care responsibilities.
- Removing SDP will mean that many children take on additional responsibilities, undermining their ability to participate in education and social life.
5. Limited capability for work assessments
- Under UC claimants will be deemed capable for work during both the mandatory reconsideration and appeal stage. Claimants may therefore be sanctioned if they do not accept employment during this period.
- Create a new ‘self-care’ element in UC, which would enable disabled people without care to pay for the extra help they need.
- Improve work support for this group, enabling people to get both the additional work allowance for disabled people and parents.
- Reverse cuts to support disabled children, and to the personal allowance for disabled adults under 25.
- DISABILTY RIGHTS UK
Disability Rights UK campaigns to strengthen and protect disabled people’s rights. It is led by people with diverse experiences of disability and health conditions, from different communities. Disability Rights UK work with organisations and partners, to support them to put disabled people’s priorities at the heart of their policies and practices.
Disability Rights UK’s 2012 report with The Children’s Society and Citizens Advice argued half a million-disabled people would lose out under UC once it is fully implemented.
If a claimant’s circumstances stay the same, they will migrate onto UC from 2019 onwards. If a claimant’s circumstances change they will be forced to claim UC.
It is inevitable that by combining multiple legacy benefits designed for people with complex and specific needs together, that UC would not work.
The way UC is funded is attacking disabled people’s rights – such as removing SDP.
Two positive changes in UC
- There is no earnings limit for carer element in UC.
- The support element (limited capability for work related activity) is higher in UC at £73. In the current system it is £52 (support component + enhanced disability premium).
We are concerned about the following groups and changes in UC:
- Under 25s
Currently under 25s are entitled to Limited capability for work (LCW) or limited capability for work and work related activity (LCWRA). Those who claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are paid a basic rate of £58 until assessed. Once they are assessed and in work related activity group (WRAG) or support group they received £73 basic rate + component
In UC under 25s who are unable to work are paid a basic rate of £58. Once assessed and in LCW or LCWRA they are paid £58 basic rate + element.
- Disabled students
Currently disabled full-time students who receive either Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are automatically treated as having LCW, and so can receive both ESA and housing benefit (HB) during their studies.
Although income related ESA is often paid at low levels during term-time it can be particularly useful during summer holidays, when disabled students are often unable to secure employment.
Claiming HB is often the only way a disabled student can move away from home for the first time.
Under UC, only disabled students who receive DLA or PIP and have had their LCW confirmed by a WCA are eligible for HB.
But DWP rules also bar disabled students in a full-service UC area from undergoing a WCA to determine whether they have LCW.
Their claim is refused with no requirement for the DWP to carry out a WCA.
This means that if a student has not yet had a WCA – even if they are currently receiving ESA – and move to an area where UC has been introduced, they will not be able to receive HB at university.
- Changes to limited capability for work in UC
Currently claimants who received ESA are permitted work – up to 16 hours p/w at national minimum wage. However, under ESA if claimants have a “fit note” from their GP they are not expected to carry out any work-related activity. They continue to receive a lower assessment rate of the benefit until they have had their WCA and a decision is reached on their LCW.
In UC, claimants are only treated as having a LCW once they have had a work capability assessment.
The DWP says that UC claimants with a medical certificate will only be forced to carry out ‘reasonable’ work-related activity that is ‘tailored to the individual’s circumstances’, while work coaches will demand no work-related activity ‘if appropriate’.
Disability Rights UK have had enquiries from advisers querying if clients can dispute the type of work commitments they are being asked to accept.
Decisions on reducing a claimant’s work-related activity are at the discretion of the DWP work coach, who has no medical training and likely to have access to little or no information about the claimant’s health.
- Sanctions in UC
While the percentage of claimants receiving a sanction has fallen for both Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and ESA – to 0.4% and 0.3% respectively – the figure has doubled over the last quarter for claimants of UC in the live service – from 3.4% to 6.9 %.
In addition, figures show that the most common reason for a claimant being sanctioned is:
- for UC – failure to comply with a work-focused interview (71%);
- for JSA – failure to participate in the work programme (65%); and
- for ESA – failure to participate in work-related activity (96%).
- Appeals in UC
If claimants who are refused ESA in legacy areas submit an appeal, claimants can claim JSA. Claimants who do not know to do this make a UC claim instead. Once you are on UC you cannot go back onto ESA.
- Work allowances
UC work allowances cannot be added together. This is a loss of £30 p/w for disabled parents or couples both disabled and in work.
Under UC claimants can get the disabled worker work allowance of £44 (worth £30) but only one work allowance is allowed per household so:
- parents can’t qualify as they can only get parental work allowance
- if there is a second disabled worker in household they don’t qualify
- Transitional Protection
The loss of TP if you make a claim for UC effectively places disabled people in limbo unable to try to work or move.
TP guarantees that you don’t see a drop-in income when you are moved to UC. However, if change of circumstances means you need to make a claim for UC before managed migration then transitional protection is lost.
Scope is a pan-disability charity providing support, information and advice to more than a quarter of a million-disabled people and their families every year.
Disabled people have found a lack of trust, accountability and transparency in the DWP’s roll out of UC.
Scope’s helpline has had increasing numbers of calls from disabled families claiming UC.
Many disabled people will face a drop-in income as a result of UC and the removal of SDP.
The lack of transitional protections to individuals who move onto UC prior to managed migration has caused claimants moving into UC areas to lose money.
UC is not supporting the government’s commitment to get 1 million people into work and stay in work for the next 10 years. UC is a disincentive for disabled people to go into work.
Lack of data
Currently around 12,000 households claiming UC are also entitled to additional support as they have been found to have LCW, however not all disabled people are part of that group so the total number of disabled people on UC is not clear.
As of the 31 January 2018, the government has no data on how many disabled claimants are currently on UC or will be migrated onto it.
The DWP need to address the lack of data on claimants and begin reporting how many disabled claimants are currently on UC and how many will be migrated onto it.
Work capability assessments
- The fact that 65% of PIP appeals are successful is not encouraging with UC continuing to use WCA.
- The government stated that claimants’ WCA decision relating to their ESA will be carried over as they migrate onto UC.
Recent calls to Scope’s helpline suggest this is not being implemented in practice. For example, DWP are treating UC claims from individuals in the ESA support group who move from a live to full service area as a new claim.
This means the claimant is required to go through a repeat WCA as they move from ESA to UC.
This can lead to delayed payments, with one claimant reporting waiting 11 months for a WCA under UC, receiving the standard allowance without the LCW element over this period.
Digital by default
UC’s digital bind is leaving disabled people behind. 22% of disabled adults have never used the internet compared to 5% of non-disabled adults.
There is a lack of local advice. Some advice services are not taking on UC claims due to their complexity – the more complex cases are generally disabled claimants.
The Trussell Trust have a network of 1,200 food banks, an estimated two thirds of the food banks in the UK – providing emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. They campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
EVIDENCE FROM PARLIAMENTARIANS
The following concerns and recommendations were raised and made.
- BARONESS LISTER OF BURTERSETT
It would be helpful for members to have a list of what is ‘a change of circumstances’ under UC.
- DREW HENDRY MP
Members, advice agencies and others should collectively think about what action to take to ensure claimants do not miss out on receiving advice when claiming for UC. The support UC support in Inverness have received from DWP has been poor quality.
- THE BISHOP OF PORTSMOUTH
Advice is not always available to UC claimants. The advice they do received need to be accurate and good quality.
- JIM SHANNON MP
When claimants put in a UC application they need a work coach who understands their disability and can help them with their application according to their needs.
In February 2018 a legal challenge was brought against the DWP by a terminally ill man who had a loss of income due to the removal of the Severe Disability Premium in UC.
In her written statement (7 June 2018) The Secretary of State delayed claimants in receipt of to the Severe Disability Premium moving onto UC until they qualified for transitional protection.