The Department for Work and Pensions is exploring the idea of creating a single new assistance payment that would take the place of Universal Credit, PIP (Personal Independence Payment), and ESA (Employment & sustain Allowance).
It would be a one-stop system where people with health problems only need to be assessed once to see what level of help they qualify for.
At present, multiple consultations have to be held for all the different benefits that are obtainable and people say they find it “difficult and confusing” to go by the same course of action repeatedly.
Some have told the DWP that having more than one confront-to-confront assessment is “extremely distressing.”
But others are worried that under a single assistance scheme, their finances would depend on the outcome of just one appointment.
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The DWP says keeping all these different existing benefits and having just one assessment wouldn’t work – but a brand new scheme would be a way to make the whole system simpler.
At present, those with health conditions or disabilities who aren’t working or are on a low wage can put in a claim for Universal Credit or ESA (Employment and sustain Allowance).
They can also apply for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) to meet the additional costs of their condition. Some get the older assistance Disability Living Allowance, which PIP will ultimately replace.
Statistics show there are 3.5 million working-age disabled people receiving UC/ESA or PIP/DLA – or both types.
Of those, 1 million get UC or ESA, 900,000 get PIP or DLA, and the remaining 1.6 million get both types.
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The idea of a new assistance to untangle the current welfare system has been put forward in the DWP’s document Shaping Future sustain: The Health and Disability Green Paper.
In it, the DWP said: “People who are on PIP in addition as claiming either ESA or UC with a health condition currently go by two separate application and assessment processes. This method that people sometimes feel the same information is requested twice. The different purposes of the separate benefits are also not always clear to people claiming them. Some people have told us that having to go by two separate processes can be confusing and difficult.
“People told us that there needs to be a simpler application and assessment course of action. Some people felt that having a single health and disability assistance would help unprotected to this. Other people were worried about all their financial sustain depending on the outcome of one assessment.
“introducing a single assessment into the current system would not be advantageous. The benefits have been designed separately and each assessment considers different criteria.
“However, in the future, we could look to create a new single assistance. This could both provide sustain both for disabled people and people with health conditions on low income, and with additional costs.
“Alternatively, a new assistance could have different priorities or a different set of objectives to our current system. More focus could be put on supporting people with their additional costs, or on helping people to find and stay in work.
“If we were to introduce a new single assistance, depending on how this was designed and its objectives, it might be possible to use a single assessment. Alternatively, we might be able to simplify access to this new assistance in some other way.”
The report additional: “We will consider the impact of any possible changes to the benefits system on the other benefits and sustain we provide for disabled people and people with health conditions. For example, changes to PIP, UC or ESA could affect benefits such as Carer’s Allowance and Attendance Allowance. We will look holistically at any changes we make, to avoid unintended consequences.
“We are committed to making any changes collaboratively, working with and listening to the people who receive and rely on our benefits.”
Universal Credit is also obtainable to those without medical problems and, in those situations, people don’t need an appointment with a health specialized, though any income and savings are assessed every month before the DWP decides how much money will be paid into accounts.
A total of six million people claim UC, with numbers doubling during the pandemic.
The standard allowance for Universal Credit has now been cut by £86 a month, following the removal of a coronavirus top-up that was provided from April 2020 to September 2021.
Shaving off that raise – equivalent to around £20 a week – has sparked fears of financial struggles and poverty this winter.
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