Income enhancement welcome

Disabled people and their carers are being
helped by a new benefit, writes Neil Bateman.

What is the enhanced disability
premium and who can qualify?

Yet another of those social security phrases
which is sure to confuse, the enhanced disability premium (EDP),
was part of a package of improvements introduced last April for
people with disabilities and their carers.

That package included a significant increase
in the carers’ premium for income-related benefits as well as a
long overdue increase in the earnings limit for invalid care
allowance and a reduction in the lower age limit for disability
living allowance mobility component.

Together they represent a massive increase in
benefits for many disabled people and their carers. And, as Gary
Vaux pointed out in this column recently, we can expect more
improvements to carers’ benefits in the near future (Welfare
Rights, 22 August). After many years of neglect, benefits for
carers have been upgraded.

One group in particular, families with
disabled children, experienced a significant increase in their
incomes as a result of the April changes. Research shows that such
families are the group at most risk of long-term poverty, so
anything that improves their living standards is consistent with
the pledge to abolish child poverty.

Of course, the downside of this is that –
immensely welcome as improvements are – the emphasis on delivering
anti-poverty measures through means-testing has some real
paradoxes: the inevitable complexity, high administrative costs,
poor take-up, high error rate and poverty trap effect all undermine
the wider agenda of tackling child poverty.

The EDP is specifically aimed at people under
60 who receive the higher rate care component of disability living
allowance. This means that not only those with disabled children
qualify; indeed, anyone under 60 who receives the higher rate does,
and there are none of the hopelessly complicated rules associated
with the severe disability premium (which, incidentally, can be
paid as well as the EDP).

You may query why pensioners are excluded.
This is a for a number of reasons. First is the general policy
desire to simplify means tests for older people – watch this space
as pension credit develops. Second is the fact that the pensioners
minimum income guarantee has already succeeded in putting their
income support level way above that of any other group, and that
gap will grow as the MIG increases in line with earnings each year.
At some stage action will have to be taken to bridge that gap.

Like all the premiums, EDP is not a separate
benefit but simply an addition to the formula for working out
means-tested benefits. It adds £11.05 for single people and
children and £16 for couples where either one or both get
higher rate DLA care.

The effect of this adjustment to the formula
is that people would have seen an increase in their income support
last April and people with incomes which were up to £11.05 too
high for income support may now qualify. One group in particular
who could gain are single people on incapacity benefit, which at
the higher long-term rate will usually put them above the income
support level.

An award of DLA care could get them onto
income support through the severe disability premium if they live
alone but if they live with someone else, they might now get income
support because of the EDP. It’s worth checking income support
entitlement for people you work with who fall into this

Finally, a question: why has there been so
little publicity about this change? Might it be the policy tension
between tackling poverty by improving the benefits system but not
wanting to increase expenditure?

– More details about the EDP are on page 822
of the current Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Benefits
book. For a copy go to the CPAG website at and click on

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