The Government’s introduction of “Universal Credit” has only served to add to the concern and uncertainty of people in the UK suffering chronic pain, as to how ongoing changes to benefits will affect them financially.
What is Universal Credit?
The government is gradually rolling out Universal Credit, which is a means tested benefit that will ultimately replace the following:
- Child Tax Credit;
- Housing Benefit;
- Income Support;
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA);
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA);
- Working Tax Credit.
There are a variety of qualifying criteria, but generally a person can claim Universal Credit if they are:
- not able to work as a result of ill health or disability;
- if they are a carer;
- if they are looking for work; or
- if they are working but on a low income.
The Citizens Advice eligibility checker, which you can find via this link is a very useful tool.
If you’re not entitled to Universal Credit, there are a number of free to use, online calculators to help you check what other benefits you may be entitled to. These include:
People receiving either Personal Independence Payment (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) will continue to receive those benefits along with their Universal Credit payment. Universal Credit is non-taxable and payable monthly.
How does Universal Credit affect Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)?
ESA is a benefit that is paid to people who have an illness or disability that affects their ability to work. There are two types:
- contribution-based ESA, which is only paid to people who have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions;
- income-related ESA, which is means tested.
Universal Credit is replacing only income-related ESA.
Work Capability Assessment
Perhaps the biggest concern for people suffering chronic pain who are claiming Universal Credit, as well as other benefits, is the requirement to undergo the now infamous Work Capability Assessment (WCA), for which please see our earlier article. The purpose of the WCA is to assess whether the claimant satisfies the ‘work capability’ element of the application.
From 29th September 2017, if a claimant attending a WCA is deemed to have a limited capability for work and work-related activity, they will not have to be reassessed if they are assessed as having:
- “have a severe, lifelong disability, illness or health condition”; or
- “are unlikely to ever be able to move into work”.
That’s all well and good, but the trouble is that, anecdotally at least, it seems that people suffering chronic pain conditions may struggle to be assessed as having a limited capability for work in the first place. Indeed, a sceptical person may think that the whole WCA process is designed with failure in mind. This begins with the 25 page questionnaire, the ESA50.
The claimant’s approach to completing the ESA50 is absolutely vital and again, Citizens Advice have come up trumps with a very helpful, step-by-step guide in this regard, which can be found via this link.
A useful tip
People applying for benefits who have made or are making a claim for personal injury may find it helpful to use the medical evidence from their claim in the benefits application. However, it is crucial that you discuss this with your legal representative before disclosing medical reports to anyone else.