Charities hit out at flaws in welfare reform plans

Neil Puffett
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Campaigners have criticised the government for a lack of detail and apparent flaws with welfare reforms outlined today (17 February).

Launching the Welfare Reform Bill with the Prime Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it would be the biggest shake-up of the system for 60 years.

The bill aims to simplify the benefits system by, among other things, introducing the universal credit and capping benefits at around £26,000 per family.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said ministers are right to aim for much better back-to-work support and a benefits system that makes it pay to work.

But she said "scant detail" and "funding shortfalls forced by the Treasury" leave it in major doubt whether it will help claimants gain work.

"The Treasury is wrecking the plans from the outset by enforcing funding shortfalls that will make work pay less for millions of people, scrap access to back-to-work support for hundreds of thousands of claimants and slash the childcare funding that helps many parents work," she said.

Helen Dent, chief executive of Family Action, warned of the risk that while the universal credit will make work pay for some families, others will lose out.

She added: "Changes to help with childcare costs could mean some low-income parents are likely to lose out if they return to work compared to the current system. That cannot be right or sensible and simplifying the benefit system should not be at the expense of making work pay."

Fiona Weir, chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread, said it is wrong that provisions have been included in the bill to amend legislation on child maintenance. "We believe it is premature to include measures in the bill that radically change the child maintenance system, when these measures are still under consultation," she said.

"This makes a complete mockery of a so-called consultation process. The government must take this consultation process seriously rather than present the changes proposed as a fait accompli."

Announcing the bill, Duncan Smith said: "The publication of the Welfare Reform Bill will put work, rather than hand-outs, at the heart of the welfare system.

"It will ensure that we continue to provide appropriate support for those genuinely unable to work, as we must and as we should. And it will provide a fair deal for the taxpayer."

Centrepoint, the charity for homeless young people, welcomed the government’s decision not to introduce measures to cut housing benefit by 10 per cent for people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months.

Centrepoint chief executive Seyi Obakin said: "Our evidence shows that most of the people we support need longer than 12 months to enter sustainable employment.

"The government’s change of heart means that they will now have more time to access the training and support they need before entering the world of work and achieving their full potential."

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