The Welfare Reform Bill has received royal assent and will become law, meaning that in 2013 most means-tested benefits will be merged into one universal credit, and disability living allowance will be replaced by the personal independence payment (PIP). From October 2013, Universal Credit will replace means-tested benefits such as income-based jobseeker's allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, housing benefit and child tax credit, with a single benefit system.
The Government said the new system will be simpler for people to navigate, harder to defraud and will "make work pay". While the move to PIP has also been confirmed, the government is still consulting on the assessment process and eligibility criteria for it. The consultation is open until April 30. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: "This Bill reforms virtually every part of our welfare system and I look forward to implementing the changes our country badly needs. "The Universal Credit will mean that work will pay for the first time, helping to lift people out of worklessness and the endless cycle of benefits. Whilst those people who need our help and support will know they will get it without question."
Learning disability charity Mencap gave a cautious welcome to the news. "Aspects of the Act - such as maintaining the mobility component for disabled people living in residential care - are welcome. However, there are a great many elements that are of concern to disabled people," said Jane Alltimes, Mencap's senior campaigns and policy officer. "Mencap will be continuing to work hard to ensure that as the details are worked out, including the assessment for the new personal independence payment, the needs of people with a learning disability are taken into account."
The Department for Work and Pensions will be contacting claimants over the coming weeks and months to prepare them for the changes ahead. For more information on the Welfare Reform Bill, click here.