The Budget doesn’t do much for benefits

The main story in the Budget is about Universal Credit, but the measures taken fall rather short of what would be needed to save the benefit.  The  Work Allowances are increased for some, but not for people without children – a high proportion of current claimants, because they went on the system first – and one of the main effects of cutting the Work Allowance has been that they have little reason to remain in contact with the scheme as income fluctuates.    Most of the administrative problems are untouched, and a slightly slower rollout (still continuing, but slowing by a few months) is not going to make much difference to them.

The other part of the Great Plan, which is less noticeable, is a declaration of the intention to continue with the abolition of Housing Benefit by moving to a Housing Credit within the Pension Credit system.  This provision was set up rather a long time ago, in 2011 – I have to admit I’d forgotten about it – and it will take a long time, now planned for late 2023, to be fully implemented.  At the time the government suggested, bizarrely, that combining Housing Benefit into Pension Credit should improve takeup.  It will probably have the opposite effect.  Housing Benefit is more effectively accessed than PC; that’s probably true because social landlords steer their tenants towards an application, and they won’t be able to do the same with Pension Credit.

There’s another issue besides.  We’ve seen in Universal Credit that the effect of transferring Housing Benefit back to the DWP has been to create confusion: DWP officers don’t necessarily know about housing (for example, what a tenancy is) or what they need to do.  (We had the same problem in reverse when the DHSS initially transferred responsibility for rent to local authorities in 1982.)  Killing off Housing Benefit will also finally kill off the expertise of local departments that learned the hard way how to make the system operate despite its arcane rules.

2 comments

  1. Ian Davidson

    Agreed! For benefit claimants (and others) austerity continues and will get worse (before/if it gets better). Hopefully Derek McKay will resist pressure to increased the upper rate income tax threshold to further signal that Scotland is heading in at least a slightly more “fair” direction than the rest of UK.

  2. Andrew (Andy) Crow

    We have a government which is perfectly content with the progress of UC. It’s doing everything it is intended to do, and doing it very well.

    That it achieves the polar opposite of what IBS (sic) said it was supposed to do, ease the transition from benefits to work, is not accidental. He was simply not singing from the right hymn sheet and if he had any intention at all of delivering the system, his ambitions in that direction were shot to pieces by treasury diktat.

    Is it advantageous that all benefits come together in one ‘simple’ package. I should say so. Government can now control poverty at exactly the rate it wishes, all through one agency.

    It ain’t broke. Don’t expect to see it fixed without a change of government and a seismic change of socio-political culture. Would a Labour government provide that ? I couldn’t possibly predict, but I’m not confident.

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