Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling. For some people, the symptoms can be so severe that it significantly impacts their ability to work or carry out daily activities. In the United Kingdom, there are several benefits and support systems available to help individuals with rheumatoid arthritis manage their condition and maintain a good quality of life. In this article, we will discuss some of the key benefits that RA patients can claim in the UK, as well as the eligibility criteria and application process for each.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
One of the main benefits available to people with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK is the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP is designed to help those with long-term health conditions or disabilities with the extra costs associated with their condition.
PIP is available to individuals aged 16 to State Pension age, who have a long-term health condition or disability that causes difficulties with daily living or mobility. The eligibility criteria are based on the severity of your condition and the impact it has on your daily life, rather than the specific diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.
Assessment and Components
When applying for PIP, you will need to undergo an assessment to determine the level of support you require. The assessment will consider two components:
- Daily living component – this covers the difficulties you face in carrying out daily tasks, such as preparing meals, washing, and dressing.
- Mobility component – this considers your ability to move around and the challenges you face in doing so.
Based on your assessment, you may be awarded either the standard or enhanced rate for each component. The amount you receive will depend on the severity of your condition and its impact on your life.
As of 2023, the standard rates for PIP are £68.10 per week for the daily living component and £26.90 per week for the mobility component. The enhanced rates are £101.75 per week for the daily living component and £71.00 per week for the mobility component. These rates may be subject to change, so it is important to check the current rates when applying.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If your rheumatoid arthritis affects your ability to work, you may be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA provides financial support to people who cannot work due to a health condition or disability.
To be eligible for ESA, you must be of working age (16 to State Pension age) and have a health condition or disability that affects your ability to work. You must also have paid enough National Insurance contributions or meet the eligibility criteria for income-related ESA.
Work Capability Assessment
When applying for ESA, you will need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment to determine the extent to which your condition affects your ability to work. Based on the assessment, you will be placed into one of two groups:
- Work-related activity group – for those who are currently unable to work but may be able to do so in the future with appropriate support.
- Support group – for those who are unable to work due to severe health conditions or disabilities and are not expected to be able to work in the future.
The amount you receive in ESA will depend on which group you are placed in and your individual circumstances.
As of 2023, the basic rate for ESA during the assessment phase is £67.20 per week for those under 25 years old, and £84.80 per week for those 25 years or older. After the assessment phase, the rates increase, with the work-related activity group receiving up to £84.80 per week and the support group receiving up to £128.85 per week. These rates may be subject to change, so it is important to check the current rates when applying.
Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit designed to help those on a low income or who are out of work. It replaces several other benefits, including Income Support, Housing Benefit, and income-related ESA. If you have rheumatoid arthritis and are on a low income, you may be eligible for Universal Credit to help with living costs.
To be eligible for Universal Credit, you must be aged 18 or over (with some exceptions for those aged 16 or 17) and on a low income or out of work. Your eligibility and the amount you receive will depend on your individual circumstances, including your income, housing costs, and any disabilities or health conditions.
Universal Credit and Health Conditions
If you have a health condition or disability, like rheumatoid arthritis, you may receive additional support through Universal Credit. This can include a work capability assessment, similar to the one for ESA, which will determine whether you have limited capability for work or limited capability for work-related activity. Depending on the outcome of the assessment, you may receive an additional amount as part of your Universal Credit payment.
Additional Support and Benefits
Aside from the benefits mentioned above, there are other forms of support available to individuals with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, such as:
- Blue Badge scheme – this enables people with mobility issues to park closer to their destination, making it easier to access services and facilities.
- Access to Work – this provides support for people with disabilities or health conditions who are in work, including grants for equipment, transport, or workplace adaptations.
- Council Tax Reduction – if your rheumatoid arthritis requires you to live in a larger property or with additional facilities, you may be eligible for a reduction in your council tax.
In summary, there are a range of benefits and support systems available to individuals with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, including Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit, and additional support such as the Blue Badge scheme and Access to Work. It is important to thoroughly research the eligibility criteria and application process for each benefit to ensure you receive the appropriate support for your needs. Additionally, it may be helpful to consult with a healthcare professional, social worker, or benefits advisor for guidance on the most suitable benefits and support options for your circumstances.
Article by Dr. Naveen Bhadauria