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22 November 2017

Government pledges reforms to Universal Credit in autumn budget

Epilepsy Society welcomes the Government's recognition in its autumn budget that Universal Credit could work better for those it sets out to support.

Philip Hammond in a blue jacket and patterned red tieChancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that there would be significant reforms to the operational delivery of the benefit, at the same time emphasising the value of the benefit which has been designed to make sure work pays.

Mr Hammond told a packed House of Common he would be investing £1.5bn to improve Universal Credit.

We will have to wait until tomorrow for full details from Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke,below, but Mr Hammond has outlined the reforms to the benefits:

  • Households in need who qualify for Universal Credit will be able to access a month’s worth of support within five days, via an interest-free advance, from January 2018. This can be repaid over 12 months.
  • Claimants will be eligible for Universal Credit from the day they apply, rather than after seven days. Housing Benefit will continue to be paid for two weeks after a Universal Credit claim.
  • Low-income households in areas where private rents have been rising fastest will receive an extra £280 on average in Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

Epilepsy Society reacts

Clare Pelham, chief executive at Epilepsy Society said: 'Every day we get calls from people with epilepsy who are anxious about their benefits.

'Universal Credit has always promised to  ensure a smoother transition from benefits into work, so it has been disappointing to find that in reality, the system has not yet been fully delivering on that promise.

'It is good to hear Philip Hammond recognise and address drawbacks with  the system and we very much look forward to hearing the detail of the plans when David Gauke addresses the House of Commons tomorrow.

'People with epilepsy have a tough enough time as it is finding a job when employers can be less than accommodating to people who live on amber alert, never knowing when a seizure is likely to happen.

'It is fundamental that the welfare system should be on their side and we hope that David Gauke will deliver tomorrow.'

Helpline call fees scrapped

Mr Hammond's budget announcement follows last month's decision to scrap charges for the Universal Credit helpline  and make all calls free. Calls were previously costing up to 55p oper minute.

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