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Welfare Reform on the Web (December 2011): Social security - UK

300m benefits paid without health checks

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 11th 2011, p. 2 Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that 94% of new Disability Living Allowance claims in 2010 were approved without a face-to-face assessment of claimants' needs by officials. Some 16% of the claims were approved solely on the basis of a form without supporting evidence. Another 42% of claims were approved on the basis of a GP's report. A further 36% went through on the basis of evidence that included telephone conversations with claimants and information from social workers and therapists. Ministers argued that these figures justified their decision to scrap DLA and replace it with a tougher system based on compulsory medical examinations.

Childcare in Universal Credit: will work pay for single parents?

C. Davey and D. Hirsch

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol.19, 2011, p. 289-294

Despite the widely acknowledged importance of childcare to the coalition government's plans to make work pay, at the time of writing (July 2011) it had not announced firm proposals for the amount of childcare support to be covered within its new Universal Credit. It had indicated, however, that the amount was likely to be significantly lower than support available through tax credits. This was because the government was proposing to retain the then spending envelope for childcare support, but extend this to those working under 16 hours thereby significantly reducing the amounts for those working over 16 hours. This article presents an analysis of the most likely childcare support options and models their impact under different scenarios.

Cutting social security and tax credit spending

C. Grover

Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, vol. 19, 2011, p. 235-247

This paper examines one aspect of the coalition government's cuts to public spending in the UK: those related to spending on social security benefits and tax credits. The reforms announced in the Emergency Budget of June 2010 and the Comprehensive Spending Review of October 2010 will make substantial savings in such spending by restricting the rate at which benefits will be increased in the future, by tightening eligibility criteria so that benefits are more difficult to claim, and by capping the total amount of benefits any one family can receive. All of these strategies to control expenditure have been used in social security policy in the past. Their consequence will be a long term erosion of the scope and value of social security benefits and tax credits, leaving claimants even poorer than they are now.

Government's reforms could force 600,000 off benefits

L. Elliott

The Guardian, Nov. 8th 2011, p. 7

The government's tough new welfare reforms will force over half a million people off incapacity benefit and cause widespread poverty in some of Britain's most disadvantaged communities, according to a new study. In the first independent attempt to quantify the impact of more stringent medical tests and the greater use of means testing, researchers from Sheffield Hallam University said Scotland, Wales and the north of England would suffer most from the changes to be introduced by 2014. The study found that 600,000 people would disappear from the benefits system altogether and would often have to rely on family members for financial support.

Inflation for low-income families and benefit uprating

The Children's Society, 2011

Low-income working families and their children face being pushed into greater hardship by soaring inflation and a proposed benefits shake-up, warns a new report by The Children's Society. The analysis shows that low-income working families spend a disproportionate amount of their income on food and heating, driving higher rates of inflation. On average, a low-income family with children spends 20% more on fuel than a household on a higher income. In the past year alone, fuel costs have risen by 18.9%.


Localisation issues in welfare reform

Communities and Local Government Committee

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1406)

The report examines the implications of the Government's welfare reform plans for the localism agenda. Under new plans Council Tax Benefit will be abolished and replaced by localised schemes run by councils. However, restrictions placed on local authorities in designing their own schemes for council tax support will produce only the illusion of local discretion. Combined with a planned 10% cut in spending on support for council tax, the MPs argue these restrictions are likely to squeeze the funds available to support working-age unemployed people. The Committee also expresses concerns about the timetable for change, with local authorities having little time to design their council tax support schemes before they are due to be introduced in 2013. The Committee welcomes plans to localise elements of the discretionary Social Fund but warns ministers that they need to fund the new schemes adequately. Collecting information about how these funds are used would allow residents to hold local authorities to account for how effective their local schemes are. Housing Benefit, which is currently administered by local authorities, is to be incorporated into the centralised Universal Credit system under the Government's plans, an incongruous move for an administration committed to decentralisation. Finally, the Committee urges the Government to think carefully about the proposed system of paying housing costs support directly to tenants under Universal Credit, as this could seriously hamper the ability of social landlords to borrow to invest in their current or new properties.

Surge in youth unemployment in honest figures

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 15th 2011, p. 6

Under the New Labour Governments, only young people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance for more than six months were classed as long-term unemployed. After 10 months claiming the benefit, most youngsters were automatically transferred to a training allowance and not classed as unemployed. Consequently, between 1998 and 2008, the number of 18-24-year-olds claiming Jobseekers' Allowance for more than six months fell from 120,000 to 35,000. However, under the Work Programme introduced by the Coalition Government to give young people work experience or training, participants continued to claim Jobseekers' Allowance. Therefore the number of young people classed as long-term unemployed rose sharply in 2011 to 120,000.

What will Universal Credit mean for working families?

K. Groucutt and N. Smith

Working Brief, Autumn 2011, p. 12-13

Since April 2011, the childcare costs which working families are able to reclaim through Working Tax Credit have been cut by 10%. It remains unclear how childcare costs will be met under Universal Credit, with strong indications that support is likely to be far less generous than at present. For those who want to work more than a few hours a week, employment may no longer pay. A consortium of organisations is calling on the government to increase the budget available for childcare, in order to provide a childcare element within Universal Credit, covering up to 80% of childcare costs.

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