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Benefits Blog

by Tombenefits

news and thoughts from the world of welfare rights
03 April 2018 at 15:09

April benefit rises and other chang

A look at the annual benefits increases and other changes coming up,

New benefit rates apply from next week. As ever, it's two different stories depending on whether you are of "pension age" or "working age".

 

1. If you are of "Pension age"

That's currently running at 64 and 1/4 for womens Retirement Pension and men and women on looking at Pension Credit.

The State Retirement Pension is covered by a triple lock so once again you get the best of either: rise in average earnings, rise in average prices or a 2.5% increase. This year as price inflation is on the up its that 3% increase- as measured by the CPI that is determining your increase

Pension Credit reverts to the cash increase in the old style State Retirement Pension so the less well off pensioners get slightly less - but only slightly at 2.9%

Additions to PC for carers and for disability are "protected and go up by 3 % CPI too

That same "protected" status also applies to Attendance Allowance - the handy extra amount regardless of savings or National Insurance - to help with the extra costs of living with cancer . So that goes up 3% too

 

2. Of "working age" increases or the lack of them

2.1 Protected benefits

Protected? Protected from what you may ask? Well tis a protection from the general freeze on any rise in working age benefits.

Those protections are important for people affected by cancer as they cover all or some of key working age benefits for people affected by cancer. So it's a full 3% rise for:

- Carers Allowance

- disability benefits - DLA and Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

- the Support Component of ESA and equivalents for those still on the old Incapacity benefit/ SDA

- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

 

 

2.2. Other benefits are frozen

But other benefits remain frozen. The basic rate within many benefits remains at £73.10 a week when if there had not been, freezes, caps and changing of the price index used it would now be worth close to £90.

2.3 And for some benefits it's a bit of both

And some benefits its a bit of both. So if you claim ESA then your Support Component goes up - along with any of the disability premiums you may get within Income-related ESA - but the basic amount is frozen.

So someone on Contributory ESA experiences an overall increase of just 1% ; the 3% rise in their protected Support Component is outweighed by a freeze on the main basic ESA.

A carer getting just Carer's Allowance will experience a full 3% rise. However, a carer on the lowest incomes, needing to claim Income Support or Universal credit (UC) will effectively only see a 1% rise, as that Carers Allowance is absorbed into the partly frozen IS sums.

2.4 Why the freeze in support for the poorest?

The argument for the previous 1% cap and the current freeze - since April 2016 - is that it would be wrong to protect benefit incomes at a time when earnings have been flat and public sector pay capped.

A good reason then to just link to the average growth in earnings so we can all be in this together, you might think.

But while such an open and clear link might not have made that much difference in recent years, such a policy would make the Treasury's eyes water in the long term. For, as wages start to pick up slowly from the floor, there is a cost to not leaving the poorest behind. Expect comparisons as to what's happening to earnings to be quietly dropped...

 

3. Better news for carers in Scotland

However, carers in Scotland will see the benefits of a new Carer's Supplement that will bring Carers Allowance up from its new UK rate of £64.60 to £73.10. This will initially be by two 6 monthly seperate top up payments until Carers Allowance is fully devolved.

Any such supplement is not taken into account and thereby lost - in sums for e.g. Income Support or Universal Credit

A future Benefits Blog is planned on what's occurring with the devolved benefits in Scotland3. No need to do anything

You will have had standard letters telling you what your new rate will be. No action from you is required and the new rates will slip in automatically

Any little extra helps and a full 3% increase in all your benefits sounds nice in cash terms, but of course in real terms means you stand still. If your increase is smaller or none at all, then it doesn't look like an actual cut, but of course it is

Thats why many critics call this an annual stealth cut and in terms of the savings it generates it is the biggest cut of all.

 

4. Other April changes

With the budget being moved to November, things are a little quieter this April. A couple of new announcements:

- exclusion of 18 to 21 year olds from help with rent will not now go ahead.

- the last of the improvements to help bridge the gap until first payment of Universal Credit starts this April. This will allow a 2 week run on of a previous Housing Benefit claim as you move over to UC.

 

5. The spread of Full Service Unversal Credit

Not a new announcement but a big change as UC starts to impact on many more people. UC full service is due to have arrived in all parts of the UK by December 2018.

I will explore UC in more depth in future blogs, but for now the main thing to be aware of is that you will not feel the earth move on "transition day" in your area :-). You will not have to do anything.

Initially it just means new claims for the six legacy benefits that will eventually disappear into UC - will now be for UC instead.

If you are on one of those legacy benefits already then nothing changes. You will be written to between July 2019 and March 2022 about a managed migration over to UC. And should you lose out in the sums you will get protection.

But ahead of that letter, a change in circumstances might mean an early, unprotected, "natural migration to UC. But it's only certain changes and there is a lot of confusion about that, including at DWP, HMRC and local councils. So do get advice if anyone tells you that a change in your circumstances means a switch to UC.

UC may actually be great for you and you may want to switch as soon as possible. But you may also want to avoid an early unprotected switch if in your case it would mean a real loss in your benefits.

And so...

If you have any general comments, experiences or queries around the April uprating or the roll out of Universal Credit please join the Conversation and make a post to all Online Centre members here

Or for a quiet word, in private please just message me.

Best wishes,

Tom



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