Welfare Reform Bill published today

The Government’s Welfare Reform Bill is being published today and its measures are mostly as previously trailed. The big policy in it is the Universal Credit – a major simplification to a horrendously complicated benefits system – and a very Liberal Democrat policy.

Because of the heavy previous trailing of the Welfare Reform Bill’s measures there are no major surprises in what it proposes but there are three respects in which it shows the outcome of the at times very lively debate within government – mostly, though not always, Liberal Democrat versus Conservative – about its contents. In that respect, there are two significant omissions and one significant inclusion in the Bill.

First, the proposal to cut housing benefit by 10% for people on Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year has been dropped. Though Liberal Democrats in government are not officially calling this a “Lib Dem win”, it’s no secret that this was a policy pushed by the Conservatives and argued vigorously against by Liberal Democrats in government. Whilst Iain Duncan Smith is certainly right to say in the media today that both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in government agree on dropping this from the Bill, that wasn’t the case in the months leading up to the decision to do that.

Second, the controversial proposed changes to the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those in residential care are going back to the drawing board. The Government still wants to reform these rules so that the mobility component varies to better reflect the different living circumstances of different people, so there will be a consultation later this year. Again, Liberal Democrats in government have been pushing the case vigorous to get the original proposals altered, though in this case it’s an issue that is still open for decision rather than, as with the 10% cut, one that has been won.

Third, the Bill contains the plans for a £500 cap on benefits and a £400 cap on housing benefit. This has also been the cause of much debate within government both because the £500 cap looks very different depending on how many children there are in a family and also because having only £100 between the two caps means some families face either having very little to live on after housing costs or having to move, with disruption to schooling for their children.

In this case, the debates within government have not resulted in the plans as put down in the Welfare Reform Bill being altered, but it is one where the details of how the system will work are still to be finalised and leave plenty of scope for further debate to ensure there is fairness in the details. It will be the cause of vigorous debate in the next few months.

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  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 9:57am

    Good that they have binned the more eccentric and vicious poor bashing.
    Some Lid Dems were clearly vocal behind the scenes and the bravest said it loudly in public that they should be dropped as you say, but even the Conservative Ministers were taking flack from their own MPs as the reality of some of these ‘reforms’ hit their MPs surgeries and email inboxes/postboxes.

    “Central to the plan is the creation of a universal credit, a process which will begin in 2013 and continue into the next Parliament.”

    This is the part I can’t get my head round.
    Everything about the welfare reforms is prefaced by how IDS is going to make it all better with the new universal credit but it’s so far in the future it’s still a pipe dream. We’re talking well into the next elected government of 2015 before it may be fully implemented if it ever is.

    What’s being implemented right now are the draconian measures with promise of IDS cake far into the future.
    These massive reforms are so complex and far reaching they need copper bottomed guarantees that they will be implemented and preferably all Party agreement to most of them. Because all this looks very different if in the end all we have is IDS sanctions against the poor and disabled on welfare with none of the counterbalancing help the new credit was supposed to bring.

  • There has been a lot of comment about housing benefit, much of it totally missing the point. Somehow it is now common currency that people on housing benefit or in social housing pay too little for their housing. That is to look at the issue through the wrong end of the telecscope.

    The problem is not that people on HB pay too little – it is that everyone else pays too much.

    An entire generation has grown fat on house price hyperinflation and rent-seeking whilst objecting to any house-building in places where people might acutally want shelter. We no longer talk about NIMBY – now it is BANANA: build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything. For as long as there is a need to suspend the housing market on thin air, these problems will continue.

    And as much as I would like to blame Labour, it has to be said here that the Conservatives are the ones behind the 1989 Rent Act and the right to buy, and I can’t remember any Lib Dem really talking about the need to reign in house prices, still less do some house*-building.

    That housing is a part of a bill on welfare at all speaks volumes about the lack of vision for housing on the part of all of our politicians.

    * – Note that word. House. Not Flat, not BTL investment, not unit, not residence, not dwelling – a house.

  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 10:15am

    You have to remember that a huge proportion of Buy To Let is now owned by… the (almost) nationalised Banks.
    Nobody is going to touch the housing price hot potato because all the Parties want another housing boom to grow them out of trouble and into some nice pre-election tax cuts for the middle classes

    Back on topic, I hope people appreciate the sheer magnitude of the new welfare I.T. system that will have to be implemented and paid for, and how successful those have been in the past.

  • Simon McGrath 17th Feb '11 - 10:41am

    Great news that the 10% HB cut for the long term unemplpyed has been dropped, due to Nick Clegg’s intervetnion. Imagine how much the Guardian must have hated running this story:


  • Simon – “Guardian in fair headline including the name “Nick Clegg*” shocker!”

    * – this, of course, must be some different Nick Clegg, not the (deputy) Anti-Christ “we” all love to hate.

  • Quite a lot of good news about today.

    Paul Waugh sums it up quite well in the first para of his daily memo on Politics Home:

    “David Cameron is the man in the limelight, but today undeniably belongs to the Lib Dems. Basking in last night’s AV Bill victory, the junior Coalition partners are getting their way on gay marriage, forcing a U-turn on housing benefit and keeping the British Bill of Rights firmly in a long-grass “Commission”. Heck, even the felling of the forests sell-off has delighted those Libs who always thought it was bonkers.”

    He also mentions another piece in The Guardian in which Allegra Stratton reveals “how Clegg and Chris Huhne are fighting hard to persuade the Treasury to strengthen a green investment bank.”

  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 11:41am

    “Imagine how much the Guardian must have hated running this story”

    No need to sound bitter. They ran it. How many of the right wing press did ?

  • ISNI – that’s not bitterness, that’s amusement.

  • Scott Walker 17th Feb '11 - 2:32pm

    But will the BBC run it referring to ‘Welfar Changes that the Government Describes as Reforms Bill” – seeing as we’re not allowed to use ‘reform’ unless everyone likes it.
    This does seem to be a more sensible approach though. It will still have it’s critics, but it’s fairer than the first plans we heard about.

  • I see no Iceberg 17th Feb '11 - 4:52pm

    @Tabman – Amusement that your friends in the right wing press didn’t run it ?
    That is pretty funny now you mention it. 😀

  • Simon's Dad 18th Feb '11 - 3:43pm

    To Mark Pack:
    Regarding: “Second, the controversial proposed changes to the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those in residential care are going back to the drawing board.”
    I can find no evidence for this statement Mark. Please could you give more details of where you information has come from. I have read through the Bill and Explanatory Notes and spoken to Mencap today (Friday 18th). Despite what IDS said in the press conference yesterday mobility allowance WILL be removed for care home residents, the only change is that implementation delayed 5 months to 2013. I would be pleased if it were true, even better if the whole disgraceful idea were dropped. My son is severely learning disabled in a care home. Pleased if you could help on this.

  • Simon's Dad 20th Feb '11 - 3:02pm

    To Mark Pack:
    Thank you very much for prompt reply to my post regarding the proposed changes to the mobility component (of DLA/PIP) for those in residential care.
    I sincerely hope LibDem MPs and MPs of all parties work together to persuade the government not to discriminate against disabled people in residential care. From my knowledge the argument about ‘overlap’ of funding is mistaken, in practice there is little, if any, overlap. Unlike woodlands and school playing fields people with severe learning disabilities do not attract headlines in Press and TV but if the Coalition government is to have credibility on protecting the most vulnerable they must put these people, the innocent and helpless, before any embarrassment at reversing policy. Once again, many thanks.

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