Disabled people in North Tyneside can be more than £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit, North Tyneside Citizens Advice reveals
Citizens Advice North Tyneside has said some disabled people in the area could be around £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit compared to the previous system.
The new benefit – which rolls 6 legacy benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance into one monthly payment – was rolled out in North Tyneside in May 2018.
A report published by national Citizens Advice on Friday – Universal Credit for Single Disabled People – revealed a significant drop in financial support for some single disabled people in a range of circumstances.
This includes losses that can be more than £300 a month for working disabled people because of flaws in the design of the new benefit. The Work Allowance is meant to improve work incentives for disabled people in Universal Credit.
However, in practice, the Work Allowance can only be accessed through the Work Capability Assessment, which gives benefits awards to people unable to work, rather than for disabled people who can work.
This creates the situation where a worker must be assessed as not fit for work to receive targeted in-work support.
Universal Credit is the government’s flagship welfare programme that rolls 6 legacy benefits – such as Tax Credits and Employment and Support Allowance – into one monthly payment.
Citizens Advice North Tyneside is calling on the government to make changes to the design of Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.
Mark Almond, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice North Tyneside, said:
“We are concerned about the toll Universal Credit could have on disabled people in North Tyneside.
“38% of our Universal Credit clients to date have had a disability or long-term health condition, and they can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them. This money is desperately needed to cover key costs including essential bills and stop people falling into serious financial difficulty.
“The government must fix Universal Credit and increase the financial support disabled people can receive under the new benefit.”
Robert was in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance(ESA) due to his long-term health conditions, but failed his health assessment for the benefit and had to stop his claim. He appealed the decision, and was advised by the DWP to claim Universal Credit while his appeal was ongoing.
However, Universal Credit does not pay the same additional premiums for disability and long-term sickness that Robert was previously receiving as part of his ESA claim. Because Universal Credit replaces ESA, Robert was not able to go back onto ESA once he had claimed it, even though his appeal was successful. This meant that he was financially worse off as a result of moving to the new benefit, but had not had this properly explained to him by the DWP during the appeal process.
Robert also now receives his benefit payments monthly rather than fortnightly as a result of switching to the new benefit system, making it more difficult for him to budget and manage his finances.
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality