This could both provide support for disabled people and people with health conditions on low income and with extra costs, the DWP said
The UK government is exploring the idea of a ‘new single benefit’ for sick and disabled people.
Some 1.4million people claim both Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or its replacement Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – paid to help people with the costs of being disabled – and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or its replacement within Universal Credit (UC).
In a Green Paper published over the summer, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: In future, we could look to create a new single benefit. This could both provide support for disabled people and people with health conditions on low income and with extra costs.
Alternatively, a new benefit could have different priorities or a different set of objectives to our current system, it said. More focus could be put on supporting people with their extra costs, or on helping people to find and stay in work.
This has raised some fears for claimants – as PIP and DLA are paid regardless of wealth, while ESA and UC depend partly on income.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said this month she is not aware of any plans to cut PIP, but did not rule out merging the benefits together.
She told a Tory conference event: I don’t think we’re looking at merging non-means-tested PIP with means-tested UC, and the reform would not be just trying to force-fit different benefits together.
However, she added: Everything is on the table is I think the best way of saying it, because the Green Paper is quite broad and we want to get some focus on genuine innovative thinking. Are these benefits actually working, that’s the question I often ask my officials. Are they having the intended desire, and if not, what are we going to do about that?
Ms Coffey also suggested she was concerned by the number of people claiming PIP for mental health difficulties, saying she wanted to target that even more so to people who really need that support.
She added: PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.
At present, different assessments have to be held for PIP/DLA and ESA/UC – and the DWP reports people find it difficult and confusing to go through the same process repeatedly.
Some have told the DWP that having more than one face-to-face assessment is extremely distressing.
But others are worried that under a single benefit scheme, their finances would depend on the outcome of just one appointment, as also reported by BirminghamLive.
The DWP says keeping all these different existing benefits and having just one assessment wouldn’t work – but a brand new scheme would be a way to make the whole system simpler.
At present, those with health conditions or disabilities who aren’t working or are on a low wage can put in a claim for payments under Universal Credit. Many are still on ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), which UC is replacing.
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