Small area benefits measures from DWP: What has changed and what does it mean?

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There have been a number of changes in the local level benefits measures that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) publish on a regular basis. Here’s a short guide for anybody navigating the changes, detailing what the new data shows, what it replaces and what it can be used for.

All of the datasets below are available in Local Insight, alongside more than 1,100 other socio-economic datasets, aggregated to the areas and communities that you care about.

Read our guide on unemployment data for more information on understanding the data.

Universal Credit Conditionality Regime:

What is it?

The following set of indicators reflect the six levels of conditionality under Universal Credit.

Conditionality means work-related things an eligible adult will have to do in order to get full entitlement to Universal Credit. Each eligible adult will fall into one of six conditionality regimes based on their capability and circumstances. Different members of a household can be subject to the same or different requirements. As circumstances change claimants will also transition between different levels of conditionality.

The distinctions in levels of conditionality reflect the fact that Universal Credit has been introduced to replace several legacy benefits payable to people with different types of needs from unemployment (Jobseeker’s Allowance) to poor health (Employment and Support Allowance/Incapacity Benefit) to low income (Income Support/Tax Credits) to caring responsibilities (Income Support/Carers Allowance).

Conditionality Regime Description
Searching for work Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit who are not working, or with very low earnings. The claimant is required to take action to secure work – or more / better paid work. The Work Coach supports them to plan their work search and preparation activity.
Working with requirements Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit who are in work but could earn more, or not working but has a partner with low earnings.
No work requirements Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit who are not expected to work at present. Health or caring responsibility prevents claimant from working or preparing for work.
Working no requirements Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit whose individual or household earnings is over the level at which conditionality applies. Required to inform DWP of changes of circumstances, particularly if at risk of decreasing earnings or losing job.
Planning for work Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit who are expected to work in the future. Lone parent / lead carer of child aged 1 (Aged 1 – 2, prior to April 2017). The claimant is required to attend periodic interviews to plan for their return to work.
Preparing for work Refers to claimants receiving Universal Credit who are expected to start preparing for future even with limited capability for work at the present time or a child aged 2 (Aged 3 – 4, prior to April 2017), the claimant is expected to take reasonable steps to prepare for work including Work Focused Interview.

How does this differ from previous measures?

The new conditionality regimes do not map perfectly onto the legacy benefits, but there is some overlap – for example, the majority of those in the ‘Searching for work’ category would have been previously eligible for Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance while those in the ‘no work requirements category would have been previously eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). However, the relationship is not completely straightforward, with some former ESA claimants now also in the ‘Searching for work’, ‘Planning for work’ or ‘Preparing for work’ categories.

What does the data show?

There is not much regional variation among the six categories of Conditionality Regime. The areas with the highest proportion in each category tend to reflect the areas with the highest proportion of working-age people receiving Universal Credit. These tend to be in areas where the rollout of Universal Credit is more advanced and which previously had high levels of people claiming legacy benefits (Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Carers Allowance). The highest claimant rates are generally found in deprived coastal areas throughout the North West, North East, East and South coasts.

There is a slight variation between the Searching for work category and other conditionalities, Birmingham and Wolverhampton have a higher proportion in context to this category.

Most of the higher proportion areas have experienced Universal Credit rollout during 2016 and 2017.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP):

What is it?

Data on people receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has been published down to neighbourhood level for the first time. To receive PIP you must be aged 16 to 64 and have a health condition or disability where you:

  • have had difficulties with daily living or getting around (or both) for 3 months
  • expect these difficulties to continue for at least 9 months (unless you’re terminally ill with less than 6 months to live)
  • You can get PIP whether you’re working or not.

PIP is not based on the condition you have or the medication you take. It is based on the level of help you need because of how your condition affects you. You’re assessed on the level of help you need with specific activities:

  • preparing and cooking food
  • eating and drinking
  • managing your treatments
  • washing and bathing
  • managing toilet needs or incontinence
  • dressing and undressing
  • communicating with other people
  • reading and understanding written information
  • mixing with others
  • making decisions about money
  • planning a journey or following a route
  • moving around

How does this differ to previous measures?

Personal Independence Payments were introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as the primary benefit for people aged 16-64 with disabilities to cover the cost of their care. The roll-out of PIP began in April 2013 on a regional basis (initially for new claims of people with disabilities in the North West and North East). The rollout is now nationwide for new claims but not all existing working age claimants have been migrated from DLA to PIP.

Therefore, to get a true picture of the total number of people with Disabilities receiving benefits for social care needs you need to look at the PIP, DLA and Attendance Allowance (payable to people who acquire long-term health conditions after they reach retirement age) figures in combination.

However, while PIP replaces DLA, there are some important differences between the two benefits. These are outlined in the table below:

Similarities Differences
  • Those with disabilities and long-term illnesses with social care requirements are eligible.
  • Both benefits are not means tested (unaffected by income or savings)
  • Both benefits have a daily living component and a mobility component. Awards will be made up of one or both of these components. Each component has two rates of payment, a standard and an enhanced.
  • Special Rules for people who are terminally ill will still apply
  • Neither benefit are subject to sanctions  
  • PIP is for those aged 16-64. New claims for DLA are for under 16s only.
  • PIP eligibility requires an expectation that your disability or health difficulties will continue for at least 9 months (beyond the 3 months it has already affected you). For DLA it was 6 months.
  • PIP isn’t based on your diagnosed condition but on how it affects you. So the amount you get depends on how your condition affects you, not the condition itself. Consequently nearly all claims for PIP will be assessed by a health professional – usually in face-to-face assessments.
  • PIP is assessed on different criteria to DLA – it has a score based system that relates to help you need with a list of daily living and mobility activities.
  • The care component of DLA has 3 rates of payment and the daily living activity in PIP has 2.
  • Awards will be subject to more systematic reviews and will normally be of fixed duration. There are no automatic entitlements for specific conditions within PIP or lifelong awards  (even if your condition is permanent).
  • When someone’s award comes to an end, they must make a further claim to PIP, if they still have needs arising from their health condition or disability.

DWP Benefit Combinations:

What is it?

The DWP have introduced a new combined benefits indicators to replace the working age client group indicator (the previous combined count of working age people receiving DWP benefits).

Claimants are included in this measure if they are of working age in in receipt of one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB), Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA), Income Support (IS) where Carer’s Allowance (CA) not also in payment, Pension Credit (PC) where Carer’s Allowance (CA) not also in payment.

How does this differ to previous measures?

The new combined benefits indicator differs from the measure it replaces in two key ways

  1. It incorporates those in receipt of Universal Credit
  2. There are separate measures for those who are of working age and those of pensionable age.

This includes measures that capture worklessness, poor health, low income and caring responsibilities and as such provides a broader conception of deprivation or need that can be determined from using any individual benefit.

Each category is mutually exclusive and therefore can be summed without double counting.


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