From today, January 27, people claiming ‘Severe Disability Premiums’ have the opportunity to transfer over to Universal Credit, but some won’t have a choice.
If a claimant has a “change of circumstances” such as a new relationship or moving house they could be forced to change to UC against their will.
The new amendment could see thousands of disabled people financially worse off as the Universal Credit payments of £120, £285 or £405 will slowly be phased out over a period of time if the claimant receives a new or larger element of their UC, apart from childcare.
Louise Rubin from Scope said: “Disability premiums aren’t a luxury, they help cover the extra costs disabled people face.
“They should never have been cut out of the welfare system under Universal Credit.
“Many who are shielding at home and facing spiralling energy costs now face the permanent threat of their vital premiums being eroded.
“With disabled people bearing the brunt of the pandemic, financial support is needed now more than ever.”
Universal Credit is replacing Employment and Support Allowance, which includes Severe Disability Premiums.
However, the payments do not operate in the same way under Universal Credit.
Tory welfare Chief Therese Coffey is advising severely disabled people on SDP to voluntarily choose the new payment.
She told MPs: “I would want to encourage people to consider that move because we are confident as a Department, actually the majority of people would certainly be better off.”
But Disability Rights UK, Citizens Advice and welfare charity Z2K are urging claimants of SDP to take legal advice before they make a decision as after moving over to Universal Credit you are not permitted to go back on your former benefit.
The Department for Work and Pensions state nobody will be “forced” to change to Universal Credit.
A DWP spokesman said: “The money from the legacy disability premiums is now more effectively targeted at support for the most severely disabled.
“When fully rolled out, Universal Credit will be £2 billion per year more generous than the support it replaces.
“Eligible people previously receiving the Severe Disability Premium can get transitional payments worth up to £405 a month.”
Ella Abrahams from ZK2 and co-chair of the Disability Benefits Consortium, told The Mirror: “We know that many people will be worse off if they move to Universal Credit - even when the Severe Disability Premium gateway ends.
“Once a person moves from their old benefit to Universal Credit, there is no going back.
“That’s one of the reasons why we do not encourage the 2million on legacy benefits to apply for Universal Credit just to receive the £20 uplift, especially as the Government continue to drag their heels on making any decisions as to whether or not they will be keeping it post-April 2021.”
Carlos Hagi, benefits expert at Citizens Advice, said: "Everyone’s situation is different. That’s why it's important to seek independent advice before making a voluntary move to Universal Credit from another benefit which includes a severe disability premium.
“You won’t be able to reverse your decision once you've moved and it’s possible that you could end up worse off, despite the temporary uplift to Universal Credit.
“Citizens Advice can provide free support so you can make the best decision.”
The government has refused to extend a £20-a-week benefit boost to people on Severe Disability Premiums.
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