Published On: Tue, Jan 2nd, 2024

DWP Universal Credit shake-up could see families lose access to free prescriptions | Personal Finance | Finance

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, outlined changes to benefits in order to incentivise those on Universal Credit to get into work during his Autumn Statement.

Around nine million Britons of working age are currently unemployed.

If a claimant does not find work within 18 months of receiving support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), their benefits will be pulled.

This means that those in receipt of Universal Credit will also lose access to other freebie benefits, such as free prescriptions and legal assistance.

Mr Hunt insisted there must be fairness for hard-working taxpayers and anyone shirking employment must face the consequences.

Under the scheme benefit recipients who don’t look for jobs risk losing access to free NHS prescriptions, dental care, legal aid and energy bill support.

And sick notes will be approved by civil servants instead of doctors in a trial where patients will be treated by therapists working for DWP.

New mums will still get the 12-month free prescriptions and dental care.

Digital technology will be used to track claimants’ attendance at job fairs and interviews as part of the beefed-up regime.

The Chancellor said the changes are the biggest set of welfare reforms since the introduction of Universal Credit back in 2012.

Reforms also mean that no claimant should hit 18 months out of work on full benefits if they’ve not taken all reasonable steps to comply with Jobcentre demands.

Last month, Benefits Minister Mel Stride outlined the Government’s “Back to Work” plan which will rollout in three phases throughout 2024.

In the statement, Mr Stride claimed some unemployed people “resolutely refuse to engage in job seeking activities and continue to receive benefits”, despite “being able to work”.

He added: “No claimant should reach 18 months of unemployment in receipt of their full benefits if they have not taken every reasonable step to comply with jobcentre support.”

Latifa Patel, the chair of the representative body at the British Medical Association, believes that the Government should not “hold people’s health to ransom especially when their poor health may be the very reason they are unable to work in the first place”.

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