DBC letter to Secretary of State on emergency covid-19 measures

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The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a network of over 100 organisations, have written an open letter (below) to Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to call for urgent changes to the benefits system to ensure we protect disabled and seriously unwell people from further physical and financial harm during the covid-19 emergency.

Full details of these proposals can be found in the DBC reports section.

“Dear Secretary of State,

Covid-19 – the Disability Benefits Consortium’s proposals for additional short-term measures to protect disabled people’s incomes

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a network of over 100 organisations with an interest in disability and social security. For our full list of members, see https://disabilitybenefitsconsortium.wordpress.com/dbc-members/

Using our combined knowledge, experience and direct contact with millions of disabled individuals, people with long-term health conditions and carers, we seek to ensure that Government policy reflects and meets the needs of all disabled people.

The DBC welcomes the recently announced measures designed to protect the incomes of large numbers of people whose livelihoods have been adversely impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. But we believe that these support measures need to go further.

People living with a disability and those with long-term health conditions tend to have lower real incomes and higher costs than the general population and we are calling on the Government to produce a more comprehensive package of support, to better protect these individuals and their families, at this difficult time.

1. One of the most pressing issues is the current level of demand on the system due to the unprecedented number of new claims. This is causing extremely long waiting times and problems with the digital claims process. We welcome the commitment to expand the Department’s capacity, but the challenge remains considerable. We believe that the Government should give high priority to resolving urgently the technical and capacity issues involved.

Also, clear guidance must be made available (to the public and to staff) regarding the correct process to make both a digital claim for Universal Credit (UC) and a non-digital claim, including how the verification call is to be made – that is, if outbound from the DWP rather than inbound from the claimant.

2. The increase in the UC standard allowance is very welcome, helping to cushion the financial shock, which many will experience. However, other claimants likewise face financial challenges, especially after several years of a benefit freeze. We recommend that the Government should give a corresponding uplift of “legacy” and similar benefits – including, for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the restoration of the Work-Related Activity Group (and UC equivalent Limited Capability for Work) addition.

3. We believe that artificial limits that keep many households (mainly with children) below basic benefit levels are particularly inappropriate at this time. We recommend that the Government should suspend the benefit cap and the “two-child policy”.

4. Any Working Tax Credit (WTC) claimant who loses their job over the coming few months will not be able to continue claiming WTC and will have to claim UC instead. This means they will lose Transitional Protection (TP). As you know, this is a temporary top-up payment that would have been added to their UC to offset any losses, when the DWP eventually transferred them from WTC – but it is not payable when you move to UC because of a change of circumstances, such as job loss.

Disabled people in work and parents of disabled children stand to lose far more than most people if they lose TP – sometimes amounting to thousands of pounds a year. This will make it even more difficult for them to recover from the economic shock of the next few months.

The recommendation above to restore the Limited Capability for Work Addition to UC will help, as long as these claimants can retain it in their UC calculation up to and after they return to work.

Also, we recommend that the lower rate of the disabled child element of UC should be restored to its level in the legacy system.

5. New claimants for UC will have to wait at least five weeks until they receive their first payment. We know that this can mean people face a significant reduction in income, leading to worry about how to pay bills and buy food. The DWP offers an “advance payment”, in effect a loan deducted from future payments, which can leave people struggling to make ends meet. We recommend that the Government should make all UC advances for disabled people non-repayable grants.

6. There has been no formal indication that work-related conditionality has been suspended, although it is difficult to see how it could be meaningfully applied in present circumstances. We recommend that the Government should explicitly suspend work-related conditionality and associated sanctions.

7. Currently, 1.3 million claimants have deductions made from their UC payments to pay debts – over half of them losing 20% or more of their basic allowance. We recommend that the Government should suspend all debt repayment deductions from UC, to ease financial hardship for the duration of the current crisis.

8. It is very important that, during this epidemic, people living with a terminal illness have swift access to benefits via the Special Rules for Terminal Illness. It is our understanding that under UC, people with a terminal illness will temporarily be able to apply via the Special Rules without the DWP needing sight of a DS1500 form (a form signed by a medical professional to say that the person has a reasonable expectation of death within six months). If this is the case, then this is a very welcome step. We recommend that the Government should extend this provision to other benefits which can be applied for under the Special Rules: ESA, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance.

There are further measures that the Government could take that are likely to have an impact on those living with a disability and in need of benefit support at this time, including:

9. As medical professionals come under more pressure over the coming weeks it is unreasonable to expect they will be able to provide medical evidence to support a claimant’s benefit application. We recommend that the Government should extend the time requirements for claimants to return paperwork and to gather medical evidence where necessary.

10. Similar pressures are likely to slow down the Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) process. This will mean people could be receiving less financial support than they are entitled to. We recommend that the Government should pay the basic/ standard rate to claimants whose benefit is suspended pending MR, until the process is completed – and also, fully reinstate a benefit that has been wholly or partly withdrawn and is awaiting MR or an appeal.

11. Help to pay council tax is also crucial at this time of acute financial pressure. We recommend that the Government should encourage Local Authorities to remove features such as the two-child policy and the self-employed claimants’ Minimum Income Floor from their local Council Tax Support/ Reduction schemes. Some have simply copied these rules automatically from DWP benefits, possibly without fully appreciating their adverse impact where claimants are struggling.

We hope that, when something like a normal life returns, the support package as outlined above, which suggests achievable and positive temporary improvements, to be introduced in response to a crisis, might prove a focus for longer-term policy discussion.

Meanwhile, we commend to the Government the above proposals to make immediate changes to complement the emergency measures already taken.

In view of the widespread public interest in the current emergency measures, we shall be releasing these proposals to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Disability Benefits Consortium”

DBC’s response to the Chancellor’s Budget statement

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The March 2020 Budget statement, delivered by the Chancellor today, had two principal aspects – measures to address the impact of the coronavirus outbreak; and some considerable spending commitments, geared substantially towards infrastructure projects.

One missing dimension was the need to fix a number of problems created for benefit claimants – not least those with disabilities – by changes to the social security system through the long period of austerity.

The DBC, of course, understands the need to deal with the coronavirus threat and is aware of the importance of infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that the need to repair the impact of austerity on disabled claimants has not been recognised.

The upcoming spending round must tackle the numerous problems in the benefit system. Disabled people and those with long-term health conditions should expect no less.

DBC recommendations

These were our pre-Budget recommendations to the Chancellor:

  • Build upon the end of the benefit freeze by uprating payments by 2% above inflation for four years, so as to restore the amounts lost during the freeze – and restore the link between the “Local Housing Allowance” and rents at the 30th. percentile of the market.
  • Restore the disability elements lost in the transition from “legacy benefits” to Universal Credit.
  • Review the current Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and process, in consultation with disabled people.
  • End the 5-week wait for Universal Credit.
  • Remove sanctions on disabled people’s benefits – base policy instead on high-quality, impairment-specific employment support

 

Further details from:

Geoff Fimister

Tel. 07743 813740

E-mail gfimister@blueyonder.co.uk

Policy Co-Chair,

Disability Benefits Consortium

DBC’s recommendations for the 2020 Budget

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The Disability Benefits Consortium has submitted a series of recommendations for this year’s Budget.

In our representation to the Treasury, the DBC called on the Government to:

  • Not only end the benefit freeze but also uprate payments above inflation so as to restore the amounts lost during the freeze.
  • Restore the disability elements lost in the transition from “legacy benefits” to Universal Credit.
  • Review the current PIP assessment criteria and process, in consultation with disabled people.
  • End the 5-week wait for Universal Credit.
  • Remove sanctions on disability benefits.

A copy of our submission can be found in the DBC reports section.

DWP ad judged dangerous to disabled people – charities demand apology

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint stating a government advert for Universal Credit is “dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people”.

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), a coalition of over 100 disability charities, is now demanding an apology from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Earlier this year the ASA launched a formal investigation after it received a complaint from the DBC – along with 43 others – about a DWP campaign in the Metro newspaper. Positioned as a “myth buster” on Universal Credit, the DBC argued the adverts were “misleading” and “dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people”.

Today the watchdog upheld the complaint, agreeing that government officials had breached the advertising code when promoting supposed advantages of Universal Credit.

In its ruling, the ASA said the DWP couldn’t sufficiently substantiate its claims about Universal Credit. It said the so-called “facts” presented in the adverts were all misleading. These included claims people could move into work faster under Universal Credit, and payments could be made sooner than five weeks, as well as the promotion of “advance payments” without explaining the fact these were a loan, and came with conditions.

One member of the DBC, Z2K – an anti-poverty charity,  has today launched a campaign calling for an independent investigation into how and why the DWP approved these misleading adverts.

Jonathan Blades, External Relations Manager at the MS Society and Parliamentary Co-Chair of the DBC, said: “This ruling exposes the DWP’s indefensible attempt to provide inaccurate information to vulnerable people. The fact is that Universal Credit is leaving disabled people significantly worse off, and in some cases forcing them to turn to food banks. It’s equally disgraceful these adverts have cost the taxpayer more than £225,000, at a time when disabled people are typically losing £1,200 a year thanks to welfare system changes.

“The DWP must apologise for its actions and concentrate on fixing Universal Credit. MS is relentless, painful and disabling and benefits are crucial for people to maintain their independence. Instead, people are being pushed needlessly into debt by a government disguising loans as “advanced payments”. They need to stop messing around with misleading adverts and focus on reform – like scrapping the five week wait so people don’t need these loans in the first place.”

DBC responds to Amber Rudd statement on managed migration

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On Monday, 22 July 2019, Amber Rudd announced that the Government would be laying regulations to enable the pilot of transferring existing welfare claimants onto Universal Credit (UC) to go ahead. The regulations, which were originally to be discussed in Parliament, have now been laid by negative resolution, meaning that after months of delay there will be no substantial debate in parliament of what is included in the regulations.

The announcement, and the regulations, also include a new measure to give claimants previously in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) backdated payments of up to £405 per month alongside their Universal Credit award, up from a maximum of £360. We are seeking clarification of how these figures have been arrived at.

The DBC has long argued for a review-based approach to migrating existing benefit claimants onto UC, looking at each case individually, and therefore remains concerned by the approach taken by the Department. The DBC believes that this approach risks vulnerable claimants, including disabled people, who are not in touch with any services, falling through the cracks. Questions also remain how the Department will scale up this ‘who knows me’ approach to a national level.

Furthermore, the DBC would like to see more detail as to how the pilots will be evaluated, how the Department arrives at the compensation figures for previous SDP claimants and how the Department will address the outstanding concerns by the DBC around level of benefits available to disabled people under UC, as well as the five-week waiting period.

As outlined in our recent report ‘Has welfare become unfair?’ the introduction of Universal Credit is likely to increase levels of poverty amongst many of those reliant on this benefit for their income. The DBC will therefore continue to campaign for a better deal for disabled people.

Has welfare become unfair – a new report by the Disability Benefit Consortium

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Today’s report by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), ‘‘Has welfare become unfair – the impact of changes on disabled people” looks at the financial impact and lived experiences of welfare reform on disabled people.

Changes to the welfare system over the past ten years have left disabled adults four times worse off financially than non-disabled adults, according to new research commissioned by the Disability Benefit Consortium.

While many people who receive welfare support have experienced cuts of an average of £300 as a result of changes to the welfare system, disabled people have typically lost around £1,200 per year.

The research funded by the Three Guineas Trust and conducted by the University of East Anglia, the University of Glasgow and Landman Economics is the first comprehensive study looking specifically at the cumulative impact of welfare changes on disabled people. The research also found:

  • The more disabilities you have the more you lose out, for example someone who has six or more disabilities loses over £2,100 each year on average, whereas someone with one disability loses around £700 each year
  • Households with one disabled adult and one disabled child lose out the most, with average losses of over £4,300 per year

As part of the research, 50 people living with a variety of conditions and disabilities were interviewed about their experiences. People said that they found the application and assessment processes highly stressful, and that they did not feel trusted, and constantly challenged.

The report also states that the current system has become so complex and dysfunctional, that many disabled people have found it has had a devastating impact on their wider health and wellbeing.

You can find the full report here.

Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister

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The DBC welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to kick-start a drive to tackle the injustices faced by disabled people. We look forward to engaging with Government on the forthcoming Green Paper focused on improving support for those receiving disability benefits, whether in or out of work. We know that many disabled people struggle to get the financial support that they need and face a complex and often confrontational benefits system that is drastically in need of reform. We hope that the Green Paper will look at how assessments and decision making can be improved and that people receive the appropriate level of financial support that tackles poverty allowing disabled people to be play a greater role in society.

DBC letter to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

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The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a national coalition of over 80 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.

As a coalition we are writing to issue an official complaint regarding the recent advertisement campaign from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) concerning universal credit, which ran for the first time in the Metro newspaper on Wednesday 22ns May 2019.

The DWP are advertising what they call ‘Universal Credit uncovered’, a series of adverts ‘busting myths’ on Universal Credit.  According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), you ‘work to make sure all advertising wherever it appears is legal, decent, honest and truthful’, we consider that the aforementioned DWP adverts are deliberately misleading. We believe the adverts breach the Non Broadcast Codes – in particular those regarding misleading advertising

3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.

The adverts claim it’s a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, adding: “fact: it does.” These statements omit the thousands of claimants universal credit does not ‘work for’ but instead has driven them into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks, and homelessness.

A joint DWP and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move to universal credit, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit[1]. About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over until they received their first payment. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money1.

The Work and Pension Select Committee report ‘Universal Credit: support for disabled people’ found that one in eight universal credit claimants do not receive their benefit on time and in full[2]. One in ten receive nothing at all on time and disabled people fare even worse as only a third of new claimants whose award includes an additional amount for disability receive payment on time and in full.

The DBC recently surveyed around 500 disabled people about their experience of Universal Credit. The survey highlights some serious concerns and deeply worrying findings. The majority of respondents who moved from employment support allowance onto universal credit said they now get less or a lot less money than they did previously. People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.

The government claim that universal credit supports you if you are on a low income or out of work. Given disabled people are struggling to get by on universal credit, to claim it works is simple misleading.

3.2 Obvious exaggerations (“puffery”) and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead.

A second advert says “myth: Universal Credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time.” Followed by “fact”; your Jobcentre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords”.

In reality, the DWP will never pay an advance payment to a landlord, only directly to the client.  The wording implies an advanced payment can be paid directly to the landlord. The use of two different colours to separate the claim is inaccessible to some disabled people and will leave people wrongly believing that an advance payment can be paid directly to a landlord.

This claim also clearly implies that anyone can have their rent paid directly to the landlord.  In reality, you have to apply to the job centre for this to happen, and you have to meet certain criteria.  So, for a person on the old legacy benefits, who would have had housing benefit paid directly to the landlord, it is true that it will be harder to pay their rent on time, because they now must take responsibility for doing it themselves, which takes more planning.

The claim clearly does not distinguish between advanced payments which cannot be paid to landlords and regular payments. It also makes no distinction of whom would be eligible for direct payment and implies this option is guaranteed for everyone. This is again misleading and incorrect.

3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.

One advert says it’s a “myth” that “you have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit”, followed by “fact: Jobcentres can “urgently pay you an advance.” It is not clear that an advance must be paid back, the advert omits that these advances are taken out of future payments and have to be paid back over several months. This means claimants receive less money in the following months, and less money than they will have actually budgeted for. It could be misconstrued to mean it is a payment in advance instead of a payment in arrears; it is essentially a loan.

This claim also misleads the reality disabled people face when taking out the loan before receiving their payment. Given that disabled people are a key audience for universal credit this advert is clearly targeting vulnerable groups without providing the necessary clarity. One disabled person who took out the loan said:

“The full monthly payment is nowhere near adequate anyway, and now I’ve taken an advance I get even less. I’ve never been in such a financial mess and I’ve now been forced to get help from a foodbank. It felt like a walk of shame.”

Latest statistics show 840,000 people have had reduced payments as a result of taking out this loan. Of this 840,000 claims with a deduction[3]:

  • 50% (420,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance
  • 20% (170,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance
  • 28% (238,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance
  • 1% (13,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance

The fact that people who take out this loan can then look to have 40% reductions in future benefits should have been set out clearly in the advertisement. It is not clear in the language that this payment is a loan and that taking it out can leave disabled people in a worse financial position.

The advert itself is visually misleading and inaccessible. Given the target audience is those who are out of work, many of whom will be sick or disabled, the lack of clarity that it is a DWP advertisement is disingenuous. An internal memo, reported by the Mirror, claims the lack of clarity (no logo or DWP branding) regarding this being a DWP advertisement was deliberate[4].

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It is a disgrace that they are being treated with such disregard. At best these adverts are accidentally misleading at worst they are knowingly dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people.

We believe there is clear evidence that these adverts are misleading and urge the ASA to take this complaint seriously and act as quickly as possible.

We look forward to your response,

The Disability Benefits Consortium

[1] Gov UK, Transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transition-from-tax-credits-to-universal-credit-qualitative-and-quantitative-research-with-claimants

[2] Work and Pensions Committee, Universal Credit: support for disabled people. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1770/1770.pdf

[3] Universal Credit:Written question – 257147 – https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-21/257147/

[4] Mirror, ‘Fury as DWP launches taxpayer-funded ‘spin’ campaign to defend Universal Credit‘. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/fury-dwp-launches-taxpayer-funded-16183343?utm_source=sharebar&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebar

Universal Credit and Me

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Disabled people face unavoidable costs as a result of their disability and cannot afford to lose substantial sums each year, yet under Universal Credit, the reality is that many disabled people are significantly worse off.

The five week wait is having a devastating impact on disabled people with a significant number having to wait even longer. Even once payments have been made, the lack of a disability element within Universal Credit means disabled people are struggling financially.

The DBC recently surveyed around 500 disabled people about their experience of Universal Credit. The survey highlights some serious concerns and deeply worrying findings.

The 5 week wait

The five week wait (even longer for some – 7% of people we surveyed waited over 12 weeks before receiving their first payment.) is having a significant impact on disabled people who in many cases have no other financial income, and no savings to fall back on. 30% of people told us that waiting for a payment meant they couldn’t eat. 30% told us they couldn’t heat their home. 40% of people got behind with their rent or mortgage, which for some led to eviction.

Over 30% of people we surveyed told us that waiting for their first payment had meant they were forced to use a food bank. People are falling into debt or relying on family and friends to get them though. Most worryingly, a number of people said they had considered suicide.

“I couldn’t pay my rent, so I had to move out and I tried to kill myself.” “There was a lot of stress, anger, crying. I wished I was dead.”

Many people couldn’t understand the reason for having to wait five weeks, when they had been assessed as being unable to work due to their disability or health condition.

“I am willing and planning to commit crime to get out of the debt I’m now in. I worked until I was too unwell to. I paid my taxes. I am very angry.”

“5 weeks with no income and no way to tell if or when any money will arrive is impossible. I’m down to one meal a day, my rent is late and I can’t afford my prescriptions.”

In the last few weeks, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been running a series of newspaper advertorials to “myth-bust common inaccuracies.” The DWP state that advance payments are available to help people during the five week wait. What they fail to make clear is that these advance payments are in fact loans that have to be paid back. Disabled people who have taken out these loans are finding themselves with even more financial problems once their UC payment begins.

“The full monthly payment is nowhere near adequate anyway, and now I’ve taken an advance I get even less. I’ve never been in such a financial mess and I’ve now been forced to get help from a foodbank. It felt like a walk of shame.”

Disability premiums in the previous benefits system provided disabled people with financial support for the extra disability related costs they face. The majority of respondents who moved from ESA onto UC said they now get less or a lot less money than they did previously.

People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and again, most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.

“I have considered suicide frequently. I’m not sure I can cope with this forever. The DWP are basically killing me.”

Despite reassurances from the government that people who have had their Severe Disability Premium removed will receive a backdated payment and those yet to claim will have transitional protection applied, people are still waiting. Even when they do receive backdated payments, it will still not cover the money they lost.

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It is a disgrace that they are being treated with such disregard. Our survey clearly indicates that the claims recently made by the Department for Work and Pensions in their advertising campaign are not reflective of many disabled people’s experience on the ground.  

We join with other organisations in supporting the #5WeeksTooLongCampaign calling for an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit. It is leaving many disabled people without enough money to cover the essentials. It is unnecessary and cruel.

The DBC and its members urge the government to introduce a disability element to Universal Credit, to replace the disability premiums that have been cut from the system leaving disabled people unable to afford basic essentials.  

As the Department is looking to start migrating more disabled people onto Universal Credit, we ask the Government to listen to these experiences and not only improve the claiming process, but also the financial support available to disabled people. Until these problems are resolved, the managed migration process must not be allowed to go ahead and all current transfers from old benefits to UC should be paused.

DBC statement on Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work vacancy

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Conservative Vice-Chair James Cleverly has stated that former Disability Minister Sarah Newton will not be replaced until the “very difficult and turbulent” Brexit process has been resolved.

There has been growing concern at the delay (now almost three weeks) in filling this important Ministerial vacancy. With the Universal Credit roll-out constantly generating problems and ongoing issues around various disability benefit assessments and decision-making, now is not the time for a missing Minister.

The Disability Benefits Consortium fully supports the growing number of disability organisations that are calling for this crucial position to be filled as soon as possible.

DBC statement on changes to benefit system

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Yesterday (5th March) Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced proposed changes to the welfare benefits system.

A statement from the DBC is below:

“Today the Government announced a number of changes that it hopes will improve the experience disabled individuals have of the benefit system. These include the proposal that those over pension age will no longer automatically undergo a PIP reassessment, and bringing the WCA and PIP assessment together to reduce the burden on individuals. In addition, the Government also said that it was trialling a new approach to work-related requirements, starting with no conditionality and then building from there.

The target for getting disabled people into employment may also be made more ambitious, and research is to be commissioned into claimants’ experiences.

The DBC welcomes the change of tone and approach that these announcements present, in particular exempting those over pension age from reassessment for PIP. However, the devil is as always in the detail and while combining the WCA and PIP assessments has some advantages, it must be combined with radical improvements in the standard of assessments and decision-making as well as willingness to look at how the assessment criteria can be changed to ensure that it will improve the situation for claimants. 

We now call on the Government to work with the disability sector to ensure that any changes made address the issues raised by the sector for many years.”

DBC responds to Baroness Buscombe’s comments on sector support for managed migration

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14th January 2019

Dear Secretary of State,

Re: Universal Credit Managed Migration

Following recent comments in the House of Lords, we write to clarify and emphasise the view of the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) (which represents over 80 disability organisations) as regards the managed migration process.

The “70 stakeholders” referred to by Baroness Buscombe in the debate on 8 January (Lords Hansard, cols. 2123-4) include a number of DBC members. We are therefore concerned that Baroness Buscombe’s comment – “Why do 70 different stakeholders want to work with us if they condemn what we are trying to achieve?” – seems to imply that these stakeholders support the “stop-start” approach that currently characterises the managed migration proposals. This is not the case and we are disappointed at this suggestion.

The view taken by the DBC and its members has clearly and consistently been that:

a.) we believe there should be an orderly transition whereby existing legacy benefit claims are converted to UC claims through a review process (we do not accept that this is not possible); and

b.) failing this, we will nevertheless work with the DWP to try to minimise the problems of stop-start and maximise the number of claimants able to transfer without mishap.

Clearly, this willingness to engage does not imply that we support stop-start. We do not, and shall continue to press for an orderly, review-based approach. Meanwhile, we hope to get as near to this as possible in ongoing discussions with the Department.

I hope this serves to clarify our approach. We are making this letter public, so as to help dispel any misapprehension regarding the DBC’s position on these matters.

Yours faithfully,

Signed by co-Chairs of the Disability Benefits Consortium:

Anastacia Berry – MS Society

Beatrice Barleon – Royal Mencap Society

Geoff Fimister – Thomas Pocklington Trust

Hannah West – Motor Neurone Disease Association

Katie Lee-Hall– MS Society

Rob Holland – Royal Mencap Society

 

cc Baroness Buscombe

 

DBC responds to Amber Rudd statement on UC

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The DBC welcomes today’s confirmation that the Government is intending to take time to get the migration process for Universal Credit right.

However, if they intend to achieve this, we believe there will need to be a change of approach. We urge the Government to move away from the “sink or swim” approach to “managed migration” still currently proposed. We would like to see an orderly changeover through a review of existing benefit awards.

Ideally, too, all current transfers from old benefits to Universal Credit should be paused while problems are fixed.

The Government must now focus on how it can support people through this process so that no one falls through the safety net.

The Secretary of State has clearly indicated that she wants to address some of the deep concerns that have been raised in relation to UC. We therefore urge her to also address the cuts to disability benefits that are inherent to UC. These cuts are already a source of extreme concern so everything must be done to ensure people are not left worse off.

DBC response to Work and Pensions Committee report on Universal Credit

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19 December 2018

The DBC welcomes the Committee’s report which confirms the disability sector’s concerns with Universal Credit and the potentially disastrous consequences for disabled people if the Government gets the transition to UC wrong.

The DBC has long argued that the cuts to the disability premiums must be reversed and that disabled claimants, who have not yet undergone a Work Capability Assessment must have their disability recognised in what the work coaches require them to do, and in the payments they receive.

The DBC has also long warned of the ‘sink or swim’ approach of managed migration proposed by the Government.

In line with the Committee the DBC is therefore calling on the Government to do much more to ensure that the migration process is indeed an orderly transition and that disabled people are pro-actively supported through the process and nobody will lose their benefits as a result of migrating to UC.

DBC statement on Universal Credit Managed Migration regulations

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Today (5th November) the Government has laid regulations concerning ‘managed migration’.

A statement from the DBC is below:

“DBC is pleased that Ministers have listened to the serious concerns raised by the disability sector over ‘managed migration’ and have taken action to address some of these.

We welcome the Secretary of State’s desire to work with claimants and charities to improve the process as well as the announcement that disabled people will have a longer time to make a Universal Credit claim before their legacy benefits are terminated.

 However, the ‘stop start’ approach remains and large numbers could still fall through the gaps. We would like to see an orderly process of migration, whereby claimants remain on their “legacy benefits” until a UC claim is in place

 Furthermore, much work is needed to ensure that the application process is accessible and appropriate support is available to complete what is a very complex process.

Finally, the Government cannot escape the fact that close to a million disabled people will be worse off on UC by more than £200 a month despite the measures announced in the budget and we would like to see these losses reversed.”

DBC’s message for the new Government

The DBC is looking forward to working with the new Government on improving the benefit system which many disabled people rely on.

For too many years, the voice of disabled people has not been heard and this must change going forward.

We are therefore calling on this Government to finally address our concerns raised during the election campaign and ask that this Government:

  • Ends the benefit freeze and uprates payments above inflation so as to restore the amounts lost during the freeze.
  • Restores the disability elements in the benefit system.
  • Reviews the current PIP assessment criteria and process, in consultation with disabled people.
  • Ends the 5-week wait for Universal Credit.
  • Removes sanctions on disability benefits.

 

DBC launches new report on Universal Credit

“Mending the holes” – the DBC report setting out costed proposals to restore lost disability elements to Universal Credit – was launched on 17 October at a seminar at the House of Lords, chaired by Lord Low of Dalston.

Sue Royston, who researched and wrote the report for the DBC, took an audience of parliamentarians, benefit specialists, DBC members and DWP observers through the ten recommendations designed to remove income losses and work disincentives, comparing UC with the outgoing (and itself far from perfect) “legacy” system.

Whether improving UC or (as Labour proposes) replacing it, the DBC report sets out a specific plan to tackle weaknesses.

The report was well-received, being recognised as a package of measures that could fix problems and genuinely simplify a complex system. You can read the report here.

The DBC will now pursue these recommendations with Ministers and opposition parties. We want to see these issues placed firmly on the political agenda.