10 March 2015
Explained: The Impact of Universal Credit on People with a Brain Injury
The UK Government’s Welfare Reform Bill, which introduces Universal Credit, has been rolled out nationwide. The Welfare Reform Bill, which was introduced to parliament in February 2011, is the biggest overall change to the UK benefits system since the commencement of the welfare state.
February 2015 marked the introduction of Universal Credit across the whole of the country. Universal Credit replaces means-tested benefits, including income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Tax Credits and Housing Benefit. These changes are meant to simplify the welfare system and remove discouragement to take up employment.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said, "The reforms will end the absurdity of a system where people too often get rewarded for doing the wrong thing, and those who strive to do the best by their families get penalised."
Many disabled people want to work but the percentage actually in paid work is very low. There is concern that benefit withdrawal will have an adverse impact upon all disabled people. In order to qualify for Universal Credit you have to meet work related conditions known as ‘requirements’. These are then recorded in a ‘claimant commitment’. It is questionable whether people with head injuries will manage to commit to these requirements or indeed understand them.
Disabled people continue to face prejudice from employers and need support to overcome barriers and discrimination within employment. For many people with a Brain Injury, work is an unlikely prospect and this needs to be reflected within Universal Credit.
How Will Universal Credit Affect People with a Brain Injury?
Sanctions can be applied for failing to comply with any of the work-related requirements that apply to the individual’s case. There are four levels of sanctions and in each Universal Credit can be reduced or stopped completely.
Contributory Employment and Support Allowance is now restricted to 12 months for those placed into the Work Related Activity Group. This has a very severe impact on those with a brain injury if they do not qualify for the income-related Employment and Support Allowance, which will in time be replaced by Universal Credit.
The biggest blow of all with the change to Universal Benefits is the loss of the disability premiums which are currently paid under income related Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support. The loss of these premiums will result in a significant drop in income for all disabled people.
Claiming Universal Credit will also only be accepted via an online process and any changes to an individual’s circumstances must also be recorded using the online system. It is unclear at the moment how this process will affect those with brain injury and who struggle in dealing with technology.
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