Ongoing Benefits Changes

This useful summary of ongoing benefits changes was included in the Contact a Family Summer Newsletter.

Over the past few years the government has made a number of changes to the current benefit and tax credits system. Together these amount to the biggest shake up of the benefits system in generations.

These changes apply to England, Scotland and Wales. Most of the changes also apply in Northern Ireland although there may be differences in the date when this happens.

Personal Independence Payments

As you may or may not be aware, when your child turns 16 they will be invited to claim PIP. One of the processes of PIP is to complete the PIP form and then the young person must attend an inter- view by themselves, with their parent/carer or with an appointee but the young person must be pre- sent and the appointee must be present if they have claimed one.

If you are not aware an appointee is a person who has the right to deal with the benefits of someone who can’t manage their own affairs because they’re mentally incapable or severely disabled.

Since December 2016, appointees have been able to attend PIP consultation appointments with claimants. Representatives need to bring the appointment letter or, explain how they know the claimant, how they knew about the appointment and provide ID. The appointee must tell the repre- sentative straightaway, as PIP consultation appointments can be rearranged only once and the PIP Assessment Provider (Atos or Capita) must be contacted before the appointment takes place. Not attending appointments may affect benefit entitlement. Claimants with an appointee cannot attend consultation appointments on their own.

Universal Credit

All means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age will be replaced by a new Universal Credit.

Currently families with a disabled child are not expected to claim Universal Credit in most areas. However, this is gradually changing as the government rolls out the Universal Credit full service to more and more job centres. In these full service areas, a family with a disabled child will be asked to claim Universal Credit if they have fewer than three dependent children and they try to make a new claim for any means-tested benefit or for tax credits.

By September 2018 the full Universal Credit service should apply to new claims by families with fewer than three dependent children everywhere in the country.

The government also intends to move existing claimants of means-tested benefits and tax credits onto Universal Credit. This is scheduled to start in July 2019, being completed by March 2022.

Contact a Family is concerned that many families with disabled children will be worse off on Universal Credit over time. This is as a result of cuts to the basic child disability element alongside other planned changes to Universal Credit outlined below.

From April 2017

Limiting of the child element in tax credits and Universal Credit to two children.

Normally the amount of tax credits you receive increases with your family size. This is because you receive an additional payment known as the child element for each child in your family.

Families will no longer receive an additional child element for a third or subsequent child born after 5 April 2017. This restriction applies to both existing claims for tax credits and to new claims.

Families with an existing claim for Universal Credit will also not receive a child element for a third or subsequent child born after that date.

Families with more than two children making a new claim for Universal Credit will instead be re- directed to make a tax credit claim.

In summary, you will only be affected by this policy if you have a third or subsequent child after 5 April 2017.

Scrapping of the family element of child tax credit and the higher first child element in Universal Credit

The family element is a tax credit payment of £545 per year awarded where the claimant has at least one dependent child. This will be scrapped for families whose dependent children were all born on or after 6 April 2017.

From the same date, an equivalent Universal Credit payment known as the higher first child ele- ment will also be scrapped for families making new claims under the Universal Credit system.

Reduction in the amount of benefit paid to employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants in the work-related activity group

Since 3 April 2017, disabled adults (including young disabled people) who claim ESA and who are placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.This amounts to a cut of almost £30 per week for the over 25s and to a cut of £44 for the under 25s.

The WRAG consists of people who have been assessed as being unfit to work but who are ex- pected to undertake activities with a view to making them work-ready over time.

This cut will only apply to new claims that are treated as made after that date and not to existing claimants. It will also not affect the most severely disabled ESA claimants who fall into the ESA 'support group' rather than the WRAG.

This cut will also apply to disabled adults who claim Universal Credit on the basis that they are incapable of work rather than ESA.