What the changes mean
A number of announcements about benefits were made in the recent Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Welfare Reform White Paper. Below is an update on what these changes mean as well as some information on where you can find help with your benefits.
Disability Living Allowance reform
The Government recently release a consultation document on their proposed reforms to DLA. The key changes are:
- Disability Living Allowance will be renamed as Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
- The ‘care’ and ‘mobility’ components, which currently have three levels of payment each, will be replaced with ‘daily living’ and ‘mobility’ components with two levels of payment each.
- A new assessment will be brought in around 2013-14, the format of which will usually entail “a face-to-face meeting with an independent healthcare professional, allowing an in-depth analysis of an individual’s circumstances”.
- Existing working age recipients will be reassessed using this new system and there will be regular reassessment of recipients to ensure they remain eligible.
There are more details of the changes and Mind's position in this briefing. We will be responding to the consultation and would encourage others to also submit.
Universal Credit and benefit sanctions
The Welfare Reform White Paper has laid out how the new Universal Credit system will work and what sanctions benefit claimants will face if they turn down jobs or miss appointments and interviews.
Although we welcome the move to simplify the benefits system and ensure that it pays to work, we are concerned about the potential negative impact of conditionality on those with mental health problems.
Measures such as withdrawing benefits for a period of time in response to, for example, someone missing an appointment are unlikely to help someone who is experiencing a mental health problem to get back to work. The system needs to be sympathetic to the difficulties that people are facing.
We believe that a supportive rather than a punitive approach is the best way to help people back into work.
Employment and Support Allowance
The Government announced in the CSR that claims for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will now be limited to one year for those in the Work-Related Activity Group claiming on a contributory basis. You can claim contribution-based ESA if you have worked for the majority of the last three years. If you do not meet these requirements then you can claim income-based ESA, as long as your savings amount to less than £16,000 and your partner, if you have one, works less than 24 hours per week. Claims for income-based ESA will not be limited to a year. You can find out more about claiming ESA here.
Mind is strongly opposed to this change. We believe that people who have worked and then go on to experience a mental health condition should be supported by the state regardless of their means. We believe the time limit will cause great distress to those claiming ESA on this basis and will be counter-productive in terms of helping them return to work. We will be challenging the Government over this decision.
We are calling on our campaigners and supporters to contact their MP about this policy and others that we believe need to be challenged.
Total household benefit cap
The Government announced that the total amount of benefits received by a household will be capped at the average income for a working family. The main implication of this measure will be that people in receipt of large amounts of housing benefit may have this cut. There is an exemption from the cap for people in receipt of Disability Living Allowance. You can find out more about housing benefit here.
Mind is deeply concerned that this cap will lead to people being forced to move home because they will no longer be able to afford their rent. The upheaval of having to relocate and the loss of existing networks of care, support, and social contact could be very damaging to someone's condition. We will be contacting Ministers to raise these concerns.
Council tax benefit
The Government announced that there will be a 10 per cent cut to the budget for Council Tax benefit and that the administration of the fund will be devolved to local authorities. This will mean that some people will see a cut in their Council Tax benefit, which will put a strain on already tight budgets. You can find out more about Council Tax benefit here.
Mind is concerned that Councils may not have the expertise or experience to ensure that people with mental health problems receive the support they need. We also believe that cuts to this budget could contribute to people having to relocate, as discussed above. We will be raising these concerns with Ministers.