FURTHER UPDATES - Benefit changes from April 2013 & moving into 2014

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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

There are a lot of changes to the benefits system planned for the next few years.   Several big changes are happening from this April.   This is a brief guide to the changes we think may affect a lot of people with Down's syndrome and their families. 

If you need more information or advice, don't hesitate to call the DSA Benefits Advisers, Helen and Chris on 0333 1212 300 (not a premium rate), 10-4, Monday to Friday.

The change from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being abolished from 8 April 2013 for people of working age (16-64) and PIP is being introduced to replace it.

Children under 16 will continue to claim DLA, as they do now.  Children under 16 receiving DLA will stay on it until they are 16.  People aged 65 and over on 8 April 2013 who receive DLA will stay on DLA.

Eventually, everyone aged 16-64 who receives DLA now will be transferred to PIP, if they meet the new conditions.  Everyone will be re-assessed under the new PIP conditions.  No one on DLA will be transferred to PIP automatically.

The DWP has recently amended the dates for claimants moving from DLA to PIP.  Our Benefits Advisors monitor any changes and amend the information below accordingly.  The dates were updated on end of October 2013.

From what we know of PIP, we don't expect very many people with Down's syndrome to lose out severely, though it is impossible to be sure until the new benefit is fully in operation.

No one with Down's syndrome is going to be affected for some time.

Download the DSA PIP factsheet - Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people with Down's syndrome

How is the change going to work?

From 8 April 2013, people aged 16-64 making new claims (that is, people who are not getting DLA now) will claim PIP instead of DLA in the north west and north east of England.   From 10 June 2013, all new claims throughout the country will be for PIP not DLA.  It will no longer be possible to make a new claim for DLA if you are aged 16-64.

  • From 28 October 2013, DWP will begin to contact existing DLA claimants, but only the ones living in Wales, East Midlands, West Midlands and East Anglia who turn 16 on or after 7 October. They will be will invited to claim PIP instead of having their DLA renewed.   People living in these areas who report a change in needs and ask to have their DLA looked at again after 28 October will be invited to claim PIP.
  • From 28 October 2013, people in these areas whose existing award comes to an end on or after 17 March 2014 will start to be invited to claim PIP.  People whose existing award ends between 7 October 2013 and 17 March 2014 will be re-assessed under DLA, and invited to claim PIP later on.
  • People whose DLA award is indefinite will not be moved from DLA to PIP until after October 2015.   The Government plan that everyone will have been invited to claim PIP by September 2017.

PIP Update – further areas included

From 13 January 2014, DWP will extend the areas where they're inviting existing DLA claimants to claim PIP (under the circumstances described above) to postcodes beginning DG (Dumfries and Galloway), EH (Edinburgh), TD (Galashiels) and ML (Motherwell).

From 3 February, they will further extend these areas to postcodes beginning CA (Carlisle), DL (Darlington), HG (Harrogate), LA (Lancaster) and YO (York). 

What does all this mean for you?

  • If someone with Down's syndrome turns 16 between 8 April 2013 and 7 October 2013, their DLA will be renewed under the existing rules.  They will be moved to PIP later.
  • If someone with Down's syndrome turns 16 from 7 October 2013, they will be invited to claim PIP but only if the live in Wales, East Midlands, West Midlands or East Anglia.  Their DLA will not be renewed.  Anyone in these areas who asks for their DLA to be re-assessed because their circumstances have changed from 28 October 2013 will be invited to claim PIP instead.
  • Anyone living in Wales, East Midlands, West Midlands or East Anglia whose existing award ends after 17 March 2014 will also be invited to claim PIP instead.  People whose existing award ends between 7 October 2013 and 17 March 2014 will be re-assessed under DLA, and moved to PIP later on.
  • No one who has an indefinite award will be affected until October 2015.  Then cases will be chosen randomly until everyone has been transferred by the end of 2017.

So the first people with Down's syndrome who will claim PIP will be those living in Wales, East Midlands, West Midlands and East Anglia and who are either young people turning 16 after 7 October 2013, people who ask for the their DLA to be re-assessed after 28 October 2013, and people whose existing awards of DLA end after 17 March 2014.

Download the DSA PIP factsheet - Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for people with Down's syndrome

View the PIP Postcode Map to see the areas starting Perosonal Independence Payment (PIP).   

For detailed information about PIP, the new rules, and how to claim when the time comes, go to Disability Rights UK's factsheet on PIP.

There is also a range of information on the Department for Work and Pensions website.

Changes to Council Tax Benefit

Council Tax Benefit, which helps people on low incomes pay their council tax, is being abolished from April 2013 in England, Scotland and Wales.   Instead of one national scheme, local councils will run their own schemes, with their own rules.   Appeals against decisions will be handled locally, rather than by the independent Tribunals Service.  

The budget allocated to councils by central government to support people paying council tax is being reduced by 10%.   People over state pension credit age will not be asked to pay more than they do now. 

As a result, people of working age on low incomes in many local authority areas will be asked to pay more towards their council tax.  This will apply to at least some people on basic benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance and income-based Employment and Support Allowance.  This will only affect people in England.   The Scottish and Welsh parliaments have made a commitment to keep the existing levels of council tax support. 

The government has published guidelines to try and encourage English local authorities to set rules which ensure that:

  • No claimant who is currently on maximum CTB ( pays no council tax now) ends up paying more than 8.5 per cent of their annual Council Tax liability
  • The rate at which Council Tax support is withdrawn as income rises – i.e. the income taper – is no higher than 25 per cent (it is currently 20 per cent within the national CTB scheme)
  • There is no sharp reduction in support for those entering work.

For more detailed information about what's happening in your area, contact your own local council.

For a broader perspective, the Joseph Row tree Foundation has published a report, "Reforming Council Tax Benefit", which looks at the implications of the changes. 

Details about how the changes may affect families can be found in the Resolution Foundation's report, "No Clear Benefit":

Introduction of the Benefits Cap

From April 2013 there will be a cap on the amount of benefits you can receive unless you are exempt from this rule.   The cap is:

  • a maximum of £500 a week in benefits (lone parents and couples)
  • a maximum of £350 a week in benefits (single people)

The introduction will be gradual, with all households capped by September 2013.

For details about which benefits are included in the cap and which are not, please go to Disability Rights UK factsheet on the Benefits Cap.

Who is exempt from the cap?

You will be exempt from the cap if anyone in your household is claiming certain disability benefits.   

However, families where parents are looking after a son or daughter with Down's syndrome may NOT be exempt from the cap.  Under benefit rules, an adult person, receiving benefits in their own right (such as Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance), is a separate "household" from the parents or carers living with them.  This means that parents of an adult child with Down's syndrome will be subject to the benefits cap – if they aren't exempted because of benefits they themselves are receiving.  Their child's income will not count towards their income.

For more information about how carers of adult children will be affected, go to Carers UK website.

You will be exempt if you receive:

  • attendance allowance
  • disability living allowance
  • employment and support allowance support component.  When universal credit is introduced you will be exempt from the benefits cap if you get the limited capability for work and work related activity element
  • industrial injuries benefits
  • personal independence payment
  • war disablement pension/armed forces compensation scheme payments (that are equivalent to industrial injuries benefits)
  • war widow's or war widower pension
  • working tax credit even if you have been awarded a "nil entitlement" (you must be working the relevant number of hours).  When universal credit is introduced you will be exempt from the benefits cap if you (or you and your partner's) gross monthly earnings are equivalent to 16 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage

How will the cap work?

If your total benefits assessment is greater than your cap, your local authority will reduce your housing benefit payments.  When universal credit is introduced deductions will be made from that instead.

Changes to Housing Benefit

From April 2013, if you are of working age and are renting social housing (from your local authority or from a housing association) your housing benefit will have the same size criteria applied as for private tenants.

You are allowed one bedroom for:

  • every adult couple (including civil partners)
  • every adult aged 16 or over
  • any two children under age 10 (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability)
  • any two children of the same sex aged 10 to 15 (unless it is inappropriate for them to share a room because of disability)
  • any other child
  • a non-resident carer if you are (or your partner is) a disabled person who needs overnight care

No other rooms are taken into account.

If your home has one 'empty' bedroom you will lose 14% of your housing benefit under the proposed new rules.  If you have two empty bedrooms you will lose 25% of your housing benefit.  Unlike private tenants, you will not have a four bedroom limit on your housing benefit. 

You may be able to get help, if you are affected, under the discretionary housing payments scheme.   Councils have some extra money to increase Housing Benefit where people are badly affected by the changes, but it is up to your council to decide if you will get extra help.

The size criteria will not apply to you if you or your partner are over state pension credit age.

Changes from October 2013

Universal credit

From October 2013, a new benefit for working-age claimants – Universal Credit (UC) – will replace all the following benefits:

  • income support (IS);
  • income-based jobseeker's allowance (JSA);
  • income-related employment and support allowance (ESA);
  • housing benefit (HB);
  • child tax credit (CTC);
  • working tax credit (WTC)

After October 2013, there will be no new claims for IS, income-based JSA or income-related ESA .  No new claims for HB, CTC and WTC will be possible after April 2014.

If you are already on one of these benefits, your claim will be transferred to Universal Credit by 2017.

For more details, have a look at Disability Rights UK's factsheet on Universal Credit

If you need more information or advice, call the DSA Benefits Advisers, Helen and Chris, on 0333 1212 300, Monday to Friday, 10-4.