The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has raised eyebrows with its recent travel warning aimed at benefit claimants, as the new rules face allegations of discrimination.
A petition demanding changes to these guidelines has garnered over 2,000 signatures, with claimants arguing that they are being treated unfairly.
Overseas travel regulations have become more stringent for individuals receiving state benefits.
This applies to a range of benefits, including Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and Carer’s Allowance.
Of particular concern is the updated official handbook for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a benefit designed for those with chronic health conditions and disabilities.
According to the handbook, claimants must inform the DWP if they plan to leave the country for four weeks, even for a holiday.
Details such as the departure date, duration of the trip, destination, and the purpose of travel are required.
Critics argue that the four-week rule needs to be more consistent and discriminatory.
They point out that the general PIP guidelines on the official GOV.UK website states that individuals must notify DWP staff when traveling abroad without specifying any timeframe.
Angela Hamilton has launched a petition denouncing the confusing guidance and demanding uniformity, suggesting that individuals should only inform the DWP if they are overseas for more than four weeks.
Hamilton further highlights the perceived injustice, as individuals receiving tax credits must only notify Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they are away for over eight weeks.
The petition contends that “disabled people should have the same right to travel abroad for holidays, work, family, and other reasons as non-disabled people. Traveling does not affect a person’s care or mobility needs. Disabled people should not have to inform the DWP of trips abroad lasting less than four weeks. This unequal treatment of disabled people is discriminatory.”
To report any changes in circumstances, such as plans to travel abroad, individuals can contact the PIP inquiry line between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday. The relevant contact details are as follows:
PIP inquiry line
- Telephone: 0800 121 4433
- Textphone: 0800 121 4493
- Relay UK (for those who cannot hear or speak on the phone): Dial 18001 followed by 0800 121 4433
Calls to 0800 numbers are free from both landlines and mobile phones.
The DWP has warned that failure to report changes or provide inaccurate information promptly may lead to legal action, penalties, or even repayment requests for PIP benefits.
According to the DWP’s guidelines on overpayments, individuals may be required to repay their benefit money under the following circumstances:
- Providing incorrect information.
- Failing to report changes in circumstances immediately.
- Providing inaccurate details when reporting changes.
- Errors were made during the payment process.
The petition requesting amendments to the travel rules is set to close on November 15, 2023.
If it garners 10,000 signatures, the UK Government will provide an official response.
If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.