Inclusion Scotland Newsletter: Welfare Reform Edition
This is a special edition of Inclusion Scotland’s newsletter from our new Rights and Resilience Project.
In this newsletter you will find:
• The latest news about key benefits.
• Answers to some frequently asked questions about key benefits.
• Information about Rights and Resilience events coming up.
Welfare Reform News
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
The UK Government are consulting about changing the assessment criteria for the Daily Living component of PIP.
When the DWP assess PIP applications they award points to people who need to use different aids and appliances to help with their daily activities. An aid or appliance can mean anything from a wheelchair or walking stick to an alarm clock or chair. The DWP thought that this was a good way of finding out about someone’s impairment.
However, some people who have got the Daily Living component of PIP have got all of their points because they use aids or appliances. The DWP are wondering whether people should receive benefits for their aids and appliances in the same way. They are looking at some alternatives, including:
1) Making a one off payment in cash or vouchers for aids and appliances. This could be repeated if a repair or replacement was needed. People who get this payment would not get any passported benefits from PIP and the payment would be included in the benefit cap.
2) A lower monthly rate, which would not bring entitlement to passported benefits and would be included in the benefit cap. Points would also have to come from a descriptor which is not about aids and appliances.
3) No points for aids and appliances if they are low cost or commonly used by non-disabled people.
4) Halving the number of points available for using aids and appliances. This would mean that people could not qualify for PIP from their use of Aids and Appliances alone. It might also mean that people have to save up themselves for the aids and appliances they need.
Inclusion Scotland responded to this consultation. We said that PIP should compensate disabled people for the extra costs disability brings. Disabled people should not receive less money, nor should they lose entitlement to passported benefits or have to save for the aids and appliances which support their independent living. We are saddened that the UK Government are continuing to consider options which remove much needed financial support from disabled people.
Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)
The DWP want to remove an extra £30 per week from people who are on ESA and in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG). People in this group receive more money because they are considered too ill to work. But the government thinks that this extra money makes people less interested in finding work.
However ESA is an income replacement benefit and Inclusion Scotland would argue that if sick and disabled people are out of work for long periods then they need more money to live on.
On 13th January disabled people and their organisations lobbied their MPs to change these plans. This lobby was held because the Welfare Reform and Work Bill was being debated in parliament on 25th and 28th
January. During this debate, the majority of MPs voted in favour of removing £30 from people in the WRAG. However, the House of Lords said this was not ok and has stopped the change from happening for now.
Universal Credit (UC)
Universal Credit is now available in the following Scottish council areas: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, South Ayrshire, Inverness, Inverclyde, Highland, City of Edinburgh, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee City, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Midlothian, Moray Scottish Borders, Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Stirling, Glasgow and West Lothian.
However it is normally only being paid to single claimants with no dependants.
The Scottish Government is getting some powers over UC in April 2017. They want to use these powers to:
• Change how often Universal Credit is paid to claimants.
You should be able to choose to get a payment every 2 weeks if this would be better for you, rather than every 4 weeks as the UK Government is planning.
• Arrange for your rent to be paid directly to your landlord.
The rent part of your Universal Credit payment should be taken before
the money is in your bank account. This would mean that all the money in your bank account is for you to spend on your food, gas and electricity bills etc.
• Possibly pay Universal Credit to individuals instead of households.
The UK Government says that Universal Credit will be a payment for everyone in your house. It can only be paid into one bank account and you have to make sure you share the money – for example with your wife or husband.
The Scottish Government is wondering whether this is a good idea or not. It might decide to pay part of the Universal Credit into each bank account so that they can control their own money. Inclusion Scotland and lots of other organisations think this sounds a lot better!
Attendance Allowance (AA)
Attendance Allowance might be abolished after the UK Government hinted at plans to give the money for Attendance Allowance to Local Authorities to help them pay for support for older people.
In his Autumn budget statement George Osborne promised £1.5 billion to Local Authorities to help towards the creation of an integrated health and social care system. Giving Local Authorities the money from Attendance Allowance would help him do this.
Attendance Allowance is due to be devolved to Scotland as part of the new powers in 2017 and is worth £480 million in Scotland. If it is abolished however, Scotland would lose this money from its benefits budget.
Scottish Welfare Fund
The Scottish Welfare Fund has new rules about what to do if you disagree with a decision about giving you a grant. From 1st April this year the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is taking over second tier reviews. You might want a second tier review if the council has decided not to give you a grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund and you asked them to review their decision but they did not change their minds. You can now ask SPSO to look at the decision the council made and decide whether it was fair and if it should be changed.
SPSO has been speaking to disabled people about how to make sure we know about second tier reviews and can use them if needed.
SPSO also want their service to be accessible and fair. They want to make sure they look at all of the right information and do not leave you waiting too long for a decision.
Question: I’ve got PIP. Will I need to apply for it again in the future?
Answer: Probably. Reasons you might have to apply again include:
• When your claim is due to end in the next 3 months, the DWP should write to you and ask you to apply again. This means that you will have to fill in another application and possibly go to another assessment.
• If something about your condition changes you need to ask the DWP to review your award. This includes if your condition gets worse and you may need a higher award.
• If your circumstances change – for example, if you change your address, your name, your bank account details or your doctor; if you go abroad for 4 weeks or more; or if you get public money to help run a car.
• The DWP can decide to review your claim at any time. If you receive a letter asking for information, you need to send them the information they want within a month.
• If the Aids and Appliances section of the PIP application is changed, this may trigger a reassessment of awards.
Question: Would it help if I send notes from my GP with my PIP application?
Answer: Maybe. Some Welfare Rights Advisors are reporting that this could help some claimants. However, we need a bit more evidence before we can say for sure.
Dundee Carer’s Centre is currently testing this idea. They have a welfare rights adviser available in a local GP surgery once a week. When a patient needs to
apply for PIP they can request a print out of their medical records from the GP’s receptionist.
They can then book an appointment with the welfare rights adviser to fill in the application and look at whether it would be useful to send in the medical notes too. As people get decisions about their PIP award, Dundee Carer’s Centre will assess how useful it was to send the medical notes.
Question: I am a volunteer. Will I have to give this up if I apply for Universal Credit?
Answer: You will have to think about how much time you have to volunteer and whether volunteering will help you to get a paid job.
To get Universal Credit you have to agree to a Claimant Commitment. A Claimant Commitment says that you will spend time looking for a job. This might mean you don’t have time to volunteer.
However if you want to keep volunteering, your Work Coach (the person at the Job Centre who helps you get a paid job) can think about this. There are some rules about what to do:
• If volunteering AND looking for a job together give you the best chance of getting a paid job, you might be able to keep some of your volunteering on.
• You can then spend half the normal amount of time looking for a job. You are not allowed to spend any less than half the normal amount of time looking for a job.
If you employ volunteers and wonder about the rules generally or in a specific case, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland has
an advice line and will be able to help. They will help any organisation, not just people working with children. Their number is 0141 5520552.
Question: I am thinking about applying for Universal Credit. Is there anything I should think about before I do it?
Answer: Yes! Only a very small number of people are eligible for Universal Credit at the moment. In most places it is only available to single people who are not disabled and do not have any children.
It is important that you speak to a benefits advisor if you think you should be on UC. They will be able to look at your situation and tell you what the best thing to do is. If you get UC when you shouldn’t, you will not be able to come off it again. This is because the DWP want everyone who gets UC to stay on it – this idea is sometimes called the ‘lobster pot’!
Rights and Resilience Events
We have some exciting events coming up! Watch out for more details and how to book.
11th March: Breaking Barriers to Benefits, Edinburgh
10.30am – 3pm, Lauriston Hall, Lauriston Street Edinburgh.
We have teamed up with People First, Advocard and the Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living (LCIL) to host an event about barriers to getting benefits and how they can be overcome.
Getting the right benefits is important in helping disabled people gain equality with non-disabled people. We will have lots of information about advocacy and advice services in Edinburgh, and the opportunity to share ideas about what is working, what is not, and what could be done differently.
You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/breaking-barriers-to-benefits-tickets-21414696935?ref=estw
or by calling Rosalind at Inclusion Scotland on 0131 2810859
16th March: Tackling Welfare Reform Roundtable, Castle Douglas
10.30am – 2pm, Douglas Arms Hotel, Castle Douglas
We’re working with the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) to bring a range of organisations in the Dumfries and Galloway area together to think about ways to help people cope with the effects of welfare reform. This will be an exciting opportunity to network, share ideas, come up with some creative new ideas, discuss the issues that are important and see the range of support available in Dumfries and Galloway.
Registration will open soon so watch this space!
24th March: Tackling Welfare Reform Roundtable, Edinburgh
12.30pm – 4pm, Hayweight House, 23 Lauriston Street Edinburgh
Following the success of our Round Table in December, we have got back together with SCVO and the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations
Council (EVOC) to do it all again! Some excellent new partnerships were formed in December and we are excited to hear how they are getting on. We hope to see December participants again as well as some new faces. It’s a great time to get involved and add some strength and momentum to our partnerships!
You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/tackling-welfare-reform-in-the-round-2-tickets-21255226956
If you want to find out more about anything in this newsletter please get in touch with Rosalind:
Phone: 0131 2810859