finance

Face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits to start again from May


FACE-TO-FACE assessments are set to return in May for benefit claimants with illnesses or disabilities.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that in-person meetings will take place again as lockdown lifts across the country.

Assessments for some benefits will soon take place again in person

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Assessments for some benefits will soon take place again in personCredit: Getty

Assessments for certain benefits have been taking place via phone and written forms since March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic first began.

The DWP has also started rolling out video calls to help assessments for those who are disabled or suffering health conditions.

Work Capability Assessments will take place in-person for those claiming for the additional health amount of Universal Credit (UC) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), as well as for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Face-to face assessments will initially be offered to anyone who can’t use other channels like phone or forms.

What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit

IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:

  • Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
  • Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
  • Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
  • Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
  • Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.

These remote methods for fit-for-work assessments will also continue alongside in-person appointments.

Assessments for industrial injuries disablement benefit will also begin again in person from April 12.

Those who need to attend in-person for an assessment will be notified in a letter, the DWP said.

If you’re asked to attend in person, you should not go if you or someone you are attending with has symptoms of covid or is self-isolating.

And if you are unable to attend an assessment in person because of travel restrictions you should contact the assessment centre to rearrange the appointment.

Assessment centres will have safety rules in place to protect anyone visiting, including social distancing measure and face coverings should be worn, unless exempt.

The full safety guidelines can be found online at gov.uk.

Face-to-face assessments were initially scrapped for three months when coronavirus first hit to protect vulnerable Brits, but remote methods have now been in place for over a year.

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.

But there are big problems – it takes five weeks to get the first payment and this leaves some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working Brits can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront. We’ve heard of families waiting up to six months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

The harsh taper rate also makes it hard for Brits to get back to work.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. Since December 2018, we’ve been calling for the government to:

  1. Get paid faster: The government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop millions from being pushed into debt.
  2. Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4million families.
  3. Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85% of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email UniversalCredit@the-sun.co.uk to share your story.

Work capability assessments for UC and ESA include a questionnaire and medical assessment.

They are used to determine if someone is fit for work and if they are entitled to additional benefits.

For example, the Severe Disability Premium (SDP), which is part of UC, is worth between £66.95 and £133.90 a year.

New claimants of UC need to be assessed if they think they might be eligible because of an illness or disability, while those already claiming may need a fresh assessment if it’s time for a review or if circumstances change.

The Universal Credit payments increase of £20 a week because of covid will continue for a further six months beyond April.

Brits struggling financially can now find out what benefits they could be entitled to with a new online tool – and it only takes a few minutes.

We round up 11 Universal Credit loopholes – including how to apply for extra cash help.

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