A number of major changes are planned in Britain's benefit system. We are campaigning to make sure people with learning disabilities are protected in these changes.
New funding of £5.4 million from the Scottish Government will be directed at benefit advice services who support an increasing number of people hit by welfare changes.
This will include:
· Immediate cash injection of £300,000 for services such as those provided by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS)
· Setting up a new £1.7 million fund providing direct support to advice services - we think this will be open to all organisations to apply for.
· A further £3.4 million to be spent over the next two years on helping organisations mitigate the impacts welfare reforms".
We think this is a good step forward that we have been calling for over the last few months. We will publish more details when they become available.
The Bedroom Tax is a terrible attack on the lives of people with learning disabilities. Many have taken years to build up friendships and local networks and now face having to move home and lose everything that matters to them.
Duncan, one of our members, has lived in a 2 bedroom flat in a small coastal down in the West of Scotland for the last 7 years. Over time he has learned how to keep the house in good order and to get around in the local area. The property is provided by a housing association that also provides his support but due to peculiarities of Housing Benefit is excluded from the “exempt” supported accommodation definition. If this change comes into effect, he risks being forced to move and having to start all over again n learning how to manage, not only in a new house but also in a new area.
The Bedroom Tax is a change in Housing Benefit for tenants of social housing that takes a very simple definition of “under occupation” and uses it to reduce benefits payments by between 14% and 25%. As a result, tenants will not have enough money to pay the full rent.
The DWP has published the new criteria for Personal Independence Payment today. This is the final draft of the assessment criteria and they will be adopted into law by regulation prior to implementation from April 2013.
There have been some significant changes that will be of interest to people with learning disabilities and in particular those with other conditions. Here is our first summary of the changes of what they might mean.
- There is no change in qualifying number of points – 8 for standard and 12 for enhanced PIP payments
- The Communicating criteria has been split into two new areas – Communicating Verbally and Understanding Signs, Symbols and Words. Both of these new criteria can score highly and as a result it is possible to score 8 points on this. Many people with learning disabilities will find it easier to qualify for the benefit as a result of this change.
- In some criteria, individuals will be able to count using ordinary aids such as “electric can openers” as an aid and therefore qualify for a high number of points.
- There has been a new answer added to the Managing Health Conditions question which gives an additional point to those who use aids to manage medication – so people using dosettes for tablets would qualify under this.
- There have been other important changes in the Washing and in the Dressing/Undressing criteria which will make it easier for people to apply for benefits
Last Friday, the Aberdeen Stronger Together Group went to meet Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central. We had a long discussion with him over the changes to welfare benefits (and how to clean your fish tank!)
We talked about the problems of Universal Credit which will see most people getting monthly payments and having to make applications on line. We suggested that the Scottish Government might help by providing special help at the time the new benefits were introduced to help people fill in the forms and manage any appeals.
Sadie raised the real problem of the Bedroom Tax and how little choice many people often had about where they stayed or what houses were available to them. She said that she thought this change might leave a lot of people homeless for longer as they couldn't afford to take the homes they were offered.
Both of these contain the same