With universal credit in the headlines with the extended rollout and the many issues this will cause recipients, I have sadly not seen much in any news coverage of late about how this benefit will impact on a specific group in society, of which I count myself.
As a severely disabled person who lives alone, I’m currently in receipt of employment support allowance, with the added severe disability premiums that apply because of that. However, at some point, when I am switched over to universal credit, I stand to lose over £2,000 a year because, unlike ESA, universal credit has no single-person disability premiums, leading to a cut in weekly income of £60 or more.
The last time this very serious issue was covered in any detail was back in 2012 when Tanni Grey-Thompson headed a campaign to raise awareness of the problem that universal credit will cause for disabled people living alone.
The government and the DWP have attempted to nullify this concern by pointing out that there will be transitional payments to “protect” those being switched from ESA to UC. But, as always, the problem with this approach is that it effectively freezes the recipient’s income over the period of however long it takes for the transitional payment to be eroded away by increases in benefit rates. Other claimants may receive 1% a year, while over the perhaps many years it takes to erode that £2,000-plus difference, the likes of myself will receive no increase. Meaning that all the transitional payment does is delay the situation, the end result being the same, an income loss of more than £2,000 over a period when all other costs and benefits may have risen.
Some in government also attempted to point out that the loss of the severe disability premium for those living alone will be compensated for by personal independence payments. Except, of course, that many disabled people currently in receipt of ESA who face being switched over to UC are already in receipt of PIP (or its previous form, DLA), so in truth that’s no compensation at all.
So, for me and many other severely disabled people who live alone, the thought of being transitioned over from ESA to UC in the near future, with the hefty cut in income that will result, is a truly worrying one. It is a real problem that, since Tanni Grey-Thompson mentioned it in 2012, the government has not addressed at all (or doesn’t care to).