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Housing and debt helpline for Northern Ireland – 028 9024 5640

Changes to disability benefits and housing impacts

It's now been over a year since Personal Independence Payments (PIP) were introduced in Northern Ireland. With this in mind, and in light of the ongoing programme of transferring existing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants over to PIP, we wanted to highlight some of the ways in which an invididual's housing situation could be impacted by this change. 

Differences between DLA and PIP

DLA and PIP differ in a number of ways, including in the eligibility rules, the manner in which a claim is made, the way in which a person's disability is assessed and scored and in the rates of payments.

To apply for DLA, a claimant will complete a form, and then gather relevant medical evidence from GPs, consultants or other relevant professionals. This form and evidence will then be assessed by a DLA decision-maker. The process for PIP is different: claimants must complete an application and also attend a medical examination, where they are awarded points depending on the severity of their disability. The number of points received by an individual will determine whether they receive an award of PIP. 

The focus of PIP is somewhat different to DLA. This means that some claimants will be entitled to more points under the new system, but invariably means that others may lose their entitlement to additional financial support to help them manage a disability. The Citizens Advice website has a useful table of the key activities, descriptors and associated points for PIP claims.

The amounts paid for each component or allowance are largely similar, but there are no longer three rates of payment for the care or daily living component. 

  DLA Rates (2017/18) PIP Rates (2017/18)
DLA Care or PIP Daily Living

Lowest: £22 per week

Middle: £55.65 per week

Highest: £83.10 per week

 

Standard: £55.65 per week

Enhances £83.10 per week

Mobility

Lower: £22 per week

Higher: £58 per week

Standard: £22 per week

Enhanced: £58 per week

For more detail on Personal Independence Payments, see the Law Centre (NI) website.

Moving from DLA to PIP and the implications for Housing Benefit/Universal Credit

There are a number of ways in which a person's Housing Benefit or, in the future, Universal Credit claim can be affected by an award of DLA or PIP and by the loss of the same. Although mitigations have been put in place to protect people from certain elements of welfare reform, there is no protection for individuals who lose some of their Housing Benefit as a result of moving from DLA to PIP. 

Under 35s who rent privately

The majority of single people aged under-35, who rent privately will have their Housing Benefit calculated with reference to the shared accommodation rate. This is the lowest rate of Local Housing Allowance and is generally only enough to allow the recipient to rent a room in a shared house. There are several exceptions to this rule, which will allow a single person aged under 35 to claim the "one bedroom" rate of LHA instead. One of these exceptions is for young people who receive a Severe Disability Premium. This premium is paid to people who receive high or middle rate DLA or who receive any rate of PIP Daily Living Allowance and who live alone. A young person who was receiving the care component of DLA at middle rate and who then does not receive enough points to qualify for the daily living allowance component of PIP could also lose up to £40 of Housing Benefit each week depending on where that person lives. 

Non-dependant deductions

Where a non-dependent adult lives in a Housing Benefit claimant's household, an amount is usually deducted from that Housing Benefit payment. This is known as a non-dependant deduction and the level of the deduction depends on the personal circumstances and the earnings of that non-dependant. No deduction will be made where the claimant receives the care component of DLA at any rate or the Daily Living Allowance of PIP. 

Housing Benefit claimants with non-dependent adults living in their homes, who are moving from DLA to PIP should be aware that the amount of Housing Benefit they receive will change if they are not awarded the Daily Living Allowance of PIP.  Non-dependent deductions will start to apply as soon as the claimant loses his or her entitlement to the care component of DLA. These deductions range from £15 to £95 per week.

Loss of DLA for Housing Benefit claimants in work

Housing Benefit is an income related benefit. This means that people who work, but who are on a low income can still receive financial assistance with their rent. The amount that a working household will receive in Housing Benefit depends on that household's individual circumstances.  The government sets a certain income threshold for particular types of household and as the household's income rises above this threshold the amount of Housing Benefit they receive starts to drop until the income is too high for the household to receive any Housing Benefit. This income threshold will be higher if individuals in the household receive certain disability benefits. So, where a working claimant had been receiving DLA but subsequently is found to be not entitled to PIP,  the amount that that person receives in Housing Benefit is also likely to reduce. 

Increased Housing Benefit due to need for overnight care or inability to share a bedroom

Finally, there are circumstances where being in receipt of disability benefits can help claimants to demonstrate entitlement to additional bedrooms.

The Local Housing Allowance system and the social sector size criteria, or bedroom tax, mean that Housing Benefit and the housing costs element of Universal Credit are worked out in reference to the number of bedrooms a household is seen to require.  Additional bedrooms are permitted where a household member is unable to share a bedroom due to disability, and where a household member requires regular overnight care.

In order to demonstrate that a household member is unable to share a bedroom, that person must be receiving DLA middle-rate care or PIP Daily Living; individuals do not have to be receiving DLA middle-rate care or PIP Daily Living to be awarded an extra bedroom for a regular overnight carer, but this is still a useful way of demonstrating the need for care.

Training on welfare reform

Housing Rights is delivering training on Universal Credit and its housing impacts in Derry/Londonderry on 24th August, and in Belfast on 30th August.  As with all Housing Rights courses, members will be entitled to discount when they book. 

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform

Author

Stephen Orme