Those who claim benefits should be aware of an important change which will come into effect today.
On Wednesday, January 27, the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway will cease to exist.
This is essentially a ban on people who claim SDP moving over to Universal Credit. From today they can move on to Universal Credit if they choose – or they may be forced onto the new system due to a change in circumstance (such as a new home or new relationship).
Campaigners say that this may leave some people worse off.
The gateway hadn't been in place for very long, only being introduced in January 2019, and was put in place to prevent those claiming from experiencing financial loss, due to disability premiums not existing within Universal Credit.
Those who naturally migrated to claiming Universal Credit normally won't receive transitional protection when moving across from another benefit (such as DSA).
Up until today, those who were claiming the Severe Disability Premium weren't able to move across to Universal Credit and were able to keep the premium, but new changes now mean the funding will be replaced with a "transitional element" as claimants will be moved across to Universal Credit.
Scope, a disabilities charity, has highlighted that the new element isn't ring-fenced in the same way as premiums, adding that there is a risk it could erode.
Recipients have also been issued a warning regarding any potential move to Universal Credit.
This is because they would need to go through the five-week waiting period to get their first Universal Credit payment.
However, these people should continue to get their old benefit for two weeks after they submit their Universal Credit claim.
It is possible to apply for an advance during this time frame, however this must be paid back, beginning out of the first payment.
Louise Rubin, head of policy and campaigns at disability equality charity Scope, said: “In this gruelling winter lockdown, when emergency support is desperately needed, many disabled people are instead facing more anxiety and uncertainty over their finances because of this poorly-timed change.
“This change affects people who receive the severe disability premium, a group with some of the highest support needs and extra costs.
"On top of facing the senseless five-week wait for Universal Credit, those affected will now be penalised because of changes out of their control such as their rent increasing, or their health deteriorating."
Rubin continued: “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.
"The Government must reintroduce disability premiums under Universal Credit and provide an emergency support package for disabled people hit hardest by the pandemic.”
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson said: “The money from the legacy disability premiums is now more effectively targeted at support for the most severely disabled and when fully rolled out, Universal Credit will be £2billion 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.”
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