The government has announced that Universal Credit (UC) will be available in jobcentres across the country by Spring 2016, and has most recently been implemented in Richmond, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Stornoway. Over 64,000 people have already made a claim fo

4 May 2015

A list drawn up by civil servants in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “very, highly or extremely controversial” potential cuts to benefits has been leaked to journalists at the Guardian.

Suggestions were listed by officials in response to warnings that the next government would find it difficult to keep welfare spending at just below £120bn a year; as predicted in our blog on the welfare cap, which stated that it was likely to fail to address the structural drivers of higher benefits spending.

The legal cap, which places an absolute cash limit on welfare spend, with the exception of the state pension and unemployment benefit that was approved by an overwhelming majority of MPs in March 2014. However, the leaked documents also claim that the programme of welfare reform introduced by Iain Duncan Smith in 2010 “has not realised its goals” of saving money, or limited spending on incapacity benefit, disability benefit and housing benefit.

The proposals, which are reported to have been outlined in spring 2014, include barring under-25s from claiming incapacity benefit or housing benefit, abolishing statutory maternity pay or getting employers to contribute more to its cost and increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of renter. In addition, freezing benefit payments at current levels across the board, limiting welfare payments by family size, making single parents on income support seek work when their youngest child reaches the age of three instead of five and making it harder for sick people to claim benefits when they are out of work, by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility were also considered by officials.

In response to claims, a Conservative spokesperson stated that the options were “produced by civil servants over a year ago and were never seen by the prime minister or the chancellor. If we wanted to implement policies like these, we would have, but we didn’t.” Whereas Rachel Reeves, work and pensions spokesperson for Labour argued that the party would “save £1bn by cutting housing benefit fraud and overpayments and control housing benefit spending by tackling rip-off rents, getting 200,000 homes a year built, increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour and giving tax rebates to firms who pay a living wage.”
The full article is available here.