Wednesday 3rd April 2013
Changes to the benefits system under the 2012 Welfare Reform Act will have an impact on people already affected by cancer. Some changes have already begun, while others are taking place over the next few years. Macmillan Benefits Adviser Carolyn Walmsley details the main changes.
Disability Living Allowance (DLA), the current disability benefit for people aged 16–64 with long-term disability, is due to be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
PIP, like DLA, will have two components that will be awarded according to mobility difficulties and the need for assistance with daily living. Terminally ill applicants can claim the daily living component of PIP under the fast-track ‘Special Rules’ without fulfilling these requirements.
From April 2013, all new claims for people in designated parts of northern England will be for PIP instead of DLA. People elsewhere in the UK can continue to make initial claims for DLA. However, from June 2013 all new claims will be for PIP instead of DLA.
All existing DLA claimants aged 16–64 will eventually be affected by the introduction of PIP but this may not take place until 2015 at the earliest. However, they will be invited to claim PIP instead of DLA if there is a change in their circumstances before this time.
Claimants have no need to take any action until requested to do so by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) or by the Social Security Agency (SSA) in Northern Ireland.
Fundamental to welfare reform is the introduction of one benefit, Universal Credit (UC), to replace six means-tested benefits – Income Support, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit, and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance when paid on an income-related (means-tested) basis.
New claims for the six benefits listed above will be phased out between October 2013 and April 2014. By the end of this period, UC will be claimed instead of any one of them. UC includes provision for basic living costs, children’s cost and housing costs, including rental payments. People currently receiving any of the six listed benefits will have their claims migrated to UC between April 2014 and 2017.
There is a guarantee that their benefit income will not reduce when this happens, as long as their circumstances stay the same. People don’t need to take action themselves; the DWP or SSA will contact them.
A number of benefits will remain as they are. These include Attendance Allowance, bereavement benefits, Carer’s Allowance and help with health costs. From April 2013, however, Council Tax Benefit is being replaced by a system of localised Council Tax Support.
Employment and Support Allowance
Contribution-based ESA, the basic earnings-replacement benefit for people of working age who are too ill to work, remains in place. And people affected by cancer who are receiving, anticipating or recovering from any kind of chemotherapy or radiotherapy will now be treated as unable to work or undertake any work-related activity. They will therefore satisfy the work capability assessment for entitlement to ESA and be allocated to the support group of recipients.
From April 2013, a benefit cap may restrict a recipient’s total weekly income from benefits and the amount of help they receive with their rent.
Contact the Macmillan Welfare Rights Team on 0808 808 00 00. Macmillan’s financial information is being updated and will be available to order soon.