Benefit cap: Homelessness threat or success story?

Today the Government lays regulations to bring the overall benefit cap into force from April 2013. This measure – which restricts the total amount of benefits an out-of-work family can receive to £26,000 a year –  proved to be one of the biggest flashpoints of recent welfare reform.

The Government lost a crunch vote that amended the cap to remove child benefit, although Ministers overturned it by citing financial privilege. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was forced to … Read more

Myth busting round two: Is the cap hurting or working?

Yesterday I went to the DWP to hear the first findings [PDF] from the project monitoring the impact of changes to the Local Housing Allowance – the housing benefit for private renters.

It was interesting but ultimately inconclusive.  The researchers summarised very clearly ‘the results of the two surveys do not lend themselves to a concise or straightforward summary of the main effect so far’.

The report itself warns the results are an indication of ‘emerging trends and early signs … Read more

Is it better to invest in bricks or benefits?

The Housing Minister recently tweeted that the housing benefit debate is “misinformed” by claims the budget is being cut, when spending is in fact forecast to resume its upward trend after next year’s cuts have bitten.

This may be a deeply disingenuous argument – the Minister knows full well that the amounts paid out to individual households are falling – but it does highlight an important point: despite a £2 billion package of cuts the overall housing benefit budget will … Read more

When family isn't there the state must step in

Last month’s budget revealed the Treasury’s intention to cut a further £10 billion from the welfare budget. The first reaction in the Shelter office was – how? Housing benefit has already been cut by over £2 billion in the Emergency Budget, in a high risk move that has prompted concerns of rising homelessness. But now the Prime Minister has indicated the Government is prepared to take a wholly more radical approach to welfare cuts.

Downing Street has floated the … Read more

A simpler benefits system – unless you're a social tenant

One of the Welfare Reform Act’s intentions, and one Shelter was happy to support, was a pledge to simplify the benefits system. In light of this it is surprising that one particular measure was allowed to survive the bill unscathed, despite being overturned twice by the Lords.

The Act will cut housing benefit for council and housing association tenants if they are judged to be occupying a larger property than they need. The definition of this is incredibly strict … Read more

Making sense of welfare reform - what does it mean?

Today the Welfare Reform Bill receives Royal Assent, almost 21 months since its measures were announced in the June 2010 Emergency Budget. Throughout, our top priority has been to ensure that housing benefit retained a link to the rents people actually pay. The power itself was buried in the middle of the bill as an opaque clause that gave the Secretary of State sweeping powers to change the way housing benefit is calculated.

Currently Local Housing Allowance – the housing … Read more

Reflecting on the Welfare Reform Bill

The Welfare Reform Bill finally broke its parliamentary impasse this week, as peers failed to wrestle additional concessions out of the Government to protect tenants in social housing. Of all bills this parliamentary session, only those to enact fixed term parliaments and radically re-shape constituencies have caused more dispute; proof of both parliament’s love of introspection and the extent of opposition created by the bill.

The bill is one of the Government’s flagship pieces of legislation and the public – … Read more