Welfare reform: what’s happened and what’s next? Hampshire Advice Network, 20 June 2013 firstname.lastname@example.org
Reaching more people in 2011/12 6.9 million advice issues dealt with 2 million individual clients advised 13.4 million visits to our self-help website www.adviceguide.org.uk Almost 3,500 locations where the service provides free and independent advice
The welfare reform agenda • Reduce spending on the welfare budget • Improve work incentives • Reduce welfare dependency • Simplify the system
Key elements of reform £20b package of cuts planned 2011-2014, inc. housing benefit budget Localisation of responsibility for social fund & council tax benefit equivalents Total benefit cap More rigorous sanctions regime Two key new benefits: universal credit & personal independence payment
Housing benefit cuts • Bedroom tax, from April 2013. • V. early CAB evidence highlights RSL tenants’ concerns about ability to pay, often combined with cuts to council tax support. • Cuts to Local Housing Allowance, most from April 2011. • CAB evidence shows PRS tenants experiencing rent arrears, pressure to move & potential or actual homelessness, other types of debt and cutting down on essentials. • Recent DWP study: early days, but many claimants affected by the cuts are “hanging on” and trying not to move home, at least in the short term. (DWP Research Report no. 838, May 2013.)
Localised welfare schemes • Welfare assistance • Early CAB evidence shows in some areas confusion about responsibility and some difficulties accessing adequate support. • Council tax support • Early CAB evidence shows in some areas claimant confusion and concern about ability to pay, esp. when combined with bedroom tax.
Sanctions • Bureaux advice queries for sanctions increased by 43% in the 6 months to March 2013 (against 6 months to March 2012). • Coincides with changes to JSA and ESA sanctions regimes. • Increase appears to be driven mostly by new 4 week minimum sanction. Whilst claimants may have been able to cope with a 1 week sanction, a 4 week sanction is more likely to lead to the exhaustion of their support network or community options, leading to hardship. • Anticipate number of applications for hardship payments to have risen significantly.
Personal independence payment • Introduced in N.W and parts of N.E for new claims in April, nationwide for new claims from 10 June. Most DLA claimants won’t be reassessed until after Oct ’15 unless condition changes. • Fairly small numbers affected & too early to really assess how it is going. • Early feedback on processes: some concern about travel distance to assessments; some DWP/PIP Helpline confusion about who should be claiming what. • Stockton & Hartlepool bureaux conducting in-depth monitoring work. • Citizens Advice reporting back to DWP regularly. • Progress on solution for implicit consent for advisers.
Universal credit • Biggest challenges and opportunities lies in payment and delivery. • Paid in one monthly sum, inc. housing element directly to claimant, all paid into one account per household. • Claims made and accessed online. • Trials, research & previous experience show that many claimants will need support to benefit from the change, or for some, at the very least to cope.
Past experience of challenges 2007 Local Housing Allowance changed to direct payments toclaimants in PRS: followed by increases in number of advice problems in bureaux
DWP research into benefit claimants • Around a quarter of surveyed housing association tenants said would need support to manage with payment changes. 43% of these wanted a great deal of support, and 70% wanted face to face support. • 41% of all claimants thought getting benefits paid monthly would make budgeting harder, 10% said it would be easier 40% said it would be no difference. • The most common source of advice that was sought, by housing associations tenants, about money management, bank accounts or debt problems was Citizens Advice Bureau. No other source came close. • Sources: RR 822 Direct Payments Demonstration Projects: • Findings from a baseline survey of tenants in five project areas in England and Wales • RR 800 Work and the welfare system: a survey of benefits and tax credits recipients
DWP research (2) According to Iain Duncan Smith 30% of current claimants would be able to make online claims without support, 33% with some support and 37% who need significant support. 36% said they would not be willing to claim online A significant proportion are likely to turn to their library, council or CAB to access a computer.
Lessons from local authority pilots • Pilots are showing some very innovative approaches to support • Shropshire LA is working closely with its local CAB & proactively contacting people who are likely to be affected by benefits changes. • Hammersmith and Fulham CAB working with local authority & with DWP to run a very successful budgeting club pilot.
Lessons from demonstration projects • Trial of direct payments of HB in social housing showing that more people are getting into arrears • Lord Freud said the most “interesting” finding is that it is going to be “quite resource intensive to support tenants”. • Good quality money advice can help overcome this.
Lessons from DWP UC Pathfinder • Pathfinder v. early days and only the very simplest cases trialled. • Large amount of support for claimants. Tameside CAB have had very good support from their local authority. • However, it would take significant extra resources from DWP to scale up the support given to the very few claimants to all 8 million households.
Local support services framework • Plan for delivery of support to help claimants manage transition to universal credit: • Money advice • Support with online claims • Triage and explaining new system • Delivered through local delivery partnerships & funding through local commissioning • Revised plan to be published in October. Start talking to partners now!
Survey of places people say they would seek advice and support Base: 1,000 adults, 16+, Source: Charity Awareness Monitor, Nov 2012, nfpSynergy
How Citizens Advice is preparing to support UC claimants • Updated information systems & training. • Sharing best practice amongst CABs. • Working with Local Government Association and National Housing Federation. • Monitoring impacts of welfare reform. • Act as the canaries down the welfare reform mineshaft….