An increase in the State Pension rate and extra financial support for disabled people in the workplace are among a number of welfare reforms that have come into effect from April 2018.
Access to Work grants
Delivering on the government’s commitment to support disabled people into work, Access to Work grants have increased by over £15,000 so people can now claim up to £57,200 a year. Access to Work can cover workplace adaptations, assistive technology, transport and interpreters and is one of the ways the government is helping disabled people to enter and thrive in employment.
The increase ensures that more disabled people, particularly from the deaf community, are able to benefit from the grant and achieve their career aspirations.
Funeral Expenses Payment
For people on qualifying benefits, Funeral Expenses Payments contribute towards the cost of arranging a funeral. From 2 April, it has been made simpler for people to claim a Funeral Expenses Payment. Changes include extending the period in which a claim can be made and allowing recipients to receive contributions from friends and family without them being deducted from the payment.
Sure Start Maternity Grants
Sure Start Maternity Grants are a one-off payment of £500 for people on certain income-related benefits to help with costs when they have their first child, for example to buy baby equipment. Sure Start Maternity Grants are now available to kinship carers, foster carers and adoptive parents who then have their own first-born child.
Automatic enrolment into a workplace pension
To help workers to save for their future, the automatic enrolment pension contribution rates also increased from 2% to 5% on 6 April 2018.
Automatic enrolment was created to help people with their long-term pension savings and works by requiring employers to enrol all eligible staff into a workplace pension. An estimated 10 million people will be newly saving or saving more later this year and the increase in minimum contribution rates will build on this success.
Support for Mortgage Interest
People on certain benefits can get help towards the interest on their mortgage through Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI). To make the system fairer and ensure a safety net remains for the future, from 6 April this has been replaced with an interest-bearing loan that is only repayable after the property is sold if there is enough equity after the mortgage is paid off. The loan is optional and claimants who accept the loan will see no change in SMI payments.
Universal Credit work allowances
The amount which families with children and disabled people can earn before their Universal Credit is gradually reduced (work allowances) has been increased by 3%, helping families keep more of what they earn.
The State Pension has also increased from 9 April, in line with the ‘triple lock’. The full basic State Pension was put up by 3% to £125.95 a week. This means that the government will have raised the full basic State Pension by £1,450 a year since 2010. The full rate of the new State Pension also increased by 3%, to £164.35 a week.
Other changes from April
Housing costs and Universal Credit
People in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive an extra 2 weeks’ support with their rent when they move onto Universal Credit.
In addition, new Universal Credit claimants will be able to claim Housing Benefit for support with their temporary accommodation costs. This will enable local councils to recoup more money they spend on temporary accommodation directly from DWP, protecting more than £70 million in 2018 to 2019.
Disability and carers’ benefit rates
Benefits for the additional costs of disability and benefits for carers have been increased by 3% in line with prices. The main rates for most working-age benefits in addition to Child Benefit, and certain elements of Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, will remain the same.
National Living Wage
The National Living Wage increased by 4.4% to £7.83 an hour from 1 April, benefitting over a million workers.
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