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The General Election result meant a lot of things but it also ensured the continuation of Universal Credit.
Campaigners had been hoping for an end to the controversial scheme, with Labour promising to scrap Universal Credit altogether.
However, there will still be a number of changes to the benefits system this year – some of which will be good news for claimants, reports BirminghamLive .
Here’s the timetable of what will be happening – see how it will affect you.
1. April 2020 – End of benefit freeze
The end to the benefit freeze would mean Universal Credit and other working age benefits rising by 1.7 per cent from April 2020.
The freeze was brought in by the Tories and came into effect from April 2016. It has meant that most benefits and tax credits have not gone up in line with inflation for four years.
Other benefits that have been frozen but are now set to rise are Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), income support, housing benefit, child tax credits, working tax credits and child benefit.
The increase means someone on £1,000 a month in benefits will get an extra £17, equivalent to £204 over a year. Those receiving £500 a month get an extra £8.50.
But according to think-tank the Resolution Foundation, families will still be hundreds of pounds a year worse off due to the past five years of bills rising while benefits have remained at the same level.
The Resolution Foundation’s Adam Corlett said: “While the benefit freeze is over, its impact is here to stay with a lower income couple with kids £580 a year worse off as a result.”
2. April 2020 – Pension changes
The Government also said the state pension – which has not been frozen – will increase by 3.9 per cent.
This is expected to be announced in the Budget.
It means retired Brits are in line for £5.05 a week extra on the ‘old’ basic state pension and £6.60 a week on the ‘new’ state pension.
The bad news is that the adult dependency payment is being stopped in April, which could mean thousands of pensions cut by £70 a week.
In addition, the qualifying age for men and women will rise to 66 in October 2020.
It means anyone born after October 5, 1954, will have a state pension age of at least 66.
And there will be further rises too. The Conservatives have set out plans to increase the state pension age to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2039.
3. April 2020 – Disability benefit changes
The Scottish Government is taking on responsibility for disability benefits from April 1 and will implement changes after that.
In summer 2020, Social Security Scotland will open to claims for the brand new Disability Assistance for Children and Young People, which is Scotland’s replacement for Child Disability Living Allowance.
By the end of 2020, Social Security Scotland will also open to claims for the new Disability Assistance for Older People. This is the Scottish replacement for Attendance Allowance and is for people over the state pension age who need someone to help look after them because of a disability or long-term illness.
Also by the end of 2020, children who receive the highest care component of Disability Assistance will be entitled to Winter Heating Assistance.
Further changes will come in 2021, including PIP being replaced by Disability Assistance for Working Age People and Carer’s Allowance being replaced by Carer’s Assistance.
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville says the system will have a redesigned application process and significantly fewer face to face assessments.
There will be rolling awards with no set end points and those with fluctuating health conditions will not face additional reviews due to changes in their needs.
She said: ““Since the Social Security Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament in June , progress has been swift.
““Our next priority is delivering payments for disabled people, as this is where we can make the most meaningful difference for the largest number of people.
“We have a duty to quickly reform the parts of the current system which cause stress, anxiety and pain. And I have been moved by the personal stories I have heard, many of which criticise the penalising assessment process.”
Around half a million cases – the equivalent of around 10 per cent of people in Scotland – will transfer from DWP to Social Security Scotland in 2020.
Ms Somerville added: “This is not simply a case of turning off one switch and turning on another. For the first time in its history, our agency will be making regular payments, direct to people’s bank accounts and our systems need to work seamlessly with those of the DWP.
“It is therefore essential we have a system that is fully operational for those making new claims and ensure we protect everyone and their payments as their cases are transferred – that is what those who rely on social security support have told us they want. We must work to a timetable that reflects the importance of moving quickly but not putting people’s payments at risk.”
During the transfer no-one will have to reapply for benefits, no claims will be reassessed and payments will be protected.
She added: “The timetable I have set out is ambitious but realistic and at all points protects people and their payments. I have seen the mess the DWP has made when transferring people to PIP and introducing Universal Credit, and we will not make the same mistakes.
“There is much hard work to be done but the prize is great – a social security system with dignity, fairness and respect at its heart and which works for the people of Scotland.”
4. June 2020 – TV licence changes
Free TV Licences, funded by the Government, for all those aged 75 and over will come to an end in June. So you can get a free licence up to May 31, 2020.
From June 1, a new scheme means you can only carry on getting a free licence if you – or your partner – are receiving Pension Credit.
If not, you’ll have to fork out the cost of a TV licence – which is £154.50 per year for a colour TV, and £52 for black and white. You can choose to pay monthly (£12.87 a month), quarterly (£39.87 every three months) or yearly.
So it’s worth checking if you can get Pension Credit to avoid the licence fee.
Pension Credit is a top-up benefit payment available if you or your partner have reached state pension age, or if one of you is getting housing benefit for people over pension age. You get more if you’re responsible for a child or young person who lives with you and is under the age of 20.
There are two elements to Pension Credit. Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it’s below £167.25 (for single people) or £255.25 (for couples), while Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who saved some money towards their retirement and is up to £13.73 for single people and up to £15.35 for couples.
The Pension Service helpline is available on 0800 731 0469. Call Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm. Calls to 0800 numbers are free.
5. July 2020 – Universal Credit transition protection extended
From July 22, claimants are to get an additional two weeks of income-related Jobseekers Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or Income Support if they receive one of these benefits when moving across to Universal Credit.
Universal Credit is intended to replace six existing benefits in total.
People are transferred on to UC if their circumstances change – such as moving home or having a child. This is called natural migration.
Everyone else on the six old benefits will have to move across in a managed migration scheme by the DWP that is set to be completed by December 2023 and is currently being tried out in Harrogate from July 2019 to July 2020.
Normally, existing benefits are terminated when a Universal Credit claim begins but the Government has amended the rules to allows a “two-week run-on” of the three benefits named above.
6. September 2020 – Universal Credit change for self employed
The DWP works out Universal Credit for self-employed people using what’s called a Minimum Income Floor (MIF).
This is roughly equivalent to the national minimum wage for each hour the claimant is expected to work.
It can mean Universal Credit is calculated on a higher level of earnings than you were actually paid.
However, this Minimum Income Floor is not applied to those who started a business within the past 12 months .
And from September 2020, this 12-month exclusion period will also not apply to “those who are naturally migrated in self-employment and all those existing UC claimants who become new gainfully self-employed.”
‘Naturally migrated’ means switched across to Universal Credit because of a change in circumstances.
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