Universal Credit is a payment which a person may get if they are on a low income or are out of work. The system is set to replace six legacy benefits, which are Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Working Tax Credit. A pilot scheme for the switching of those on the existing benefits onto Universal Credit is taking place in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. Some people may be entitled to free NHS prescriptions, and this includes those who get Universal Credit, provided they meet certain criteria.
However, according to Birmingham Live, the prescription forms do not currently include an exemption option for these people on the new benefit.
The publication reported that one man, who is entitled to free prescriptions, faced a £45 penalty charge on top of the £9 prescription charge.
It came after the Universal Credit recipient ticked the box for those on Income Support, rather than Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
The 48-year-old has since had the fine revoked, having contacted the NHS England helpline.
A spokesperson from NHS Business Services Authority explained that, at the moment, Universal Credit claimants should tick box K for Jobseeker’s Allowance, rather than box H for Income Support.
NHS Business Services Authority’s director of citizen services, Brendan Brown, said: “At the moment there’s no tick box on the prescription form for patients to declare that they are exempt from charges because they receive Universal Credit and meet the prescribed earnings thresholds.
“Current guidance states that the patient should tick the box on the prescription form to state that they are on income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance instead, which is box K.
“This has been agreed with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and communicated to all pharmacies in England.
“We appreciate that this can be confusing and we’re working with DHSC to get a box added to the back of the prescription form to make it clearer for those UC claimants who meet the eligibility criteria.
“These changes are expected to happen by the end of the year.”
He added: “If someone thinks they’ve been incorrectly sent a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) they should follow the instructions on the letter to challenge it straight away.
“People can challenge their PCN if they were entitled to claim free prescriptions at the time, or if there is an exceptional reason why they should not pay the penalty charge and they can show that they did not act wrongfully or with any lack of care.
“The easiest and quickest way to challenge a PCN is online at www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/PCN.”
Mr Brown continued: “People can also challenge their PCN by emailing us, calling us or writing to us. Our contact details are all on the back of the PCN.
“We understand that the process can sometimes be confusing.
“Rather than ignoring or worrying about a PCN, we encourage customers to get in touch with us and we can work with them to find a solution.”