Welfare Benefits Update – February 2019

2019 may only be a few weeks old but we have already seen some major changes to the way state benefits are claimed, with more in the pipeline.

Universal Credit (UC)

Universal Credit was first introduced in April 2013 with the aim of simplifying the benefit system by replacing six existing benefits with one, means-tested benefit. Rollout was initially due to be completed by 2017 but this has been subject to numerous delays. From the end of 2018, UC is now available in all Jobcentre’s for most new claimants. UC replaces the following benefits:

· Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
· Income Based Jobseekers Allowance
· Income Support
· Housing Benefit
· Working Tax Credits
· Child Tax Credits

Benefits for those entitled to a severe disability premium

Concerns over transitional protection for those in receipt of legacy benefits prompted the government to introduce legislation to protect additional premiums that aren’t available in Universal Credit, in particular, the severe disability premium. This legislation has not yet been approved.

In the interim, from 16th January 2019, the government has created a new law that prevents claimants making a new claim to Universal Credit if they would be entitled to a Severe Disability Premium at the time of claiming or at some time in the month before. These claimants will be directed to claim Employment & Support Allowance and Housing Benefit.

‘No claim may be made for universal credit on or after 16th January 2019 by a single claimant who, or joint claimants either of whom—

(a) is, or has been within the past month, entitled to an award of an existing benefit that includes a severe disability premium; and

(b) in a case where the award ended during that month, has continued to satisfy the conditions for eligibility for a severe disability premium.”’

The government has vowed to compensate claimants that have already moved and lost the SDP.

Two child limit within Universal Credit

Up to this point, any claimant with three or more children have been unable to claim Universal Credit. These claimants were redirected to tax credits. However, from 1st February 2019, this no longer applies.

The government has also announced plans for transitional protection to ensure support will still be provided for all children born before 6th April 2017 regardless of how many children the claimant/s have for as long as they are entitled. Families with a third or subsequent child born on or after 6th April 2017, will not receive additional support unless they qualify for any of the exceptions.

Pension Credit

From 15th May 2019, there is a big change to way people qualify for Pension Credit. Under the old regulations, a couple could claim Pension Credit as long as one of them was of qualifying age. For example, a 40-year-old with a 65-year-old partner could be included on their partner’s Pension Credit claim. This removed the need for them to seek employment.

The new legislation will force them to claim Universal Credit until both claimants reach pensionable age. This could mean couples losing out on a large amount of financial support as Universal Credit is generally not as generous as the legacy benefits it replaces. Anyone claiming Pension Credit prior to this date will be protected.

There are many more benefit changes which we will see over the next few months. Our Welfare Benefits Adviser, Phil Runciman is on hand to offer advice and support. Please contact us if you need anything further.