Impact Monitoring 2016/17
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced a wide range of changes to the benefits system, implementation of which began in April 2013. A summary report, downloadable below, considers the on-going local impact on Somerset. This report is the fourth produced by Somerset Intelligence. It is based on a range of indicators and findings from external research.
Summary of findings
- Reform of the welfare benefits system continues to impact on thousands of Somerset residents. However, latest annual data indicates a reduction of negative impacts in many issues, offset by some areas of increasing concern.
- As last year, there remain some geographical variations, with some district areas bucking general countywide trends.
- Following dips in 2014 to 2015, Council Tax collection rates have largely returned to pre-welfare reform levels. Numbers of Council Tax Support claimants are in decline.
- Numbers of households subject to the Benefit Cap have increased significantly, following the introduction of lower benefit cap levels in November 2016.
- Numbers of households subject to the Spare Room Subsidy Reduction (SRSR) continue to decline. Nevertheless the SRSR accounts for the highest proportion of expenditure in terms of extra help for households through local authority Discretionary Housing Payments.
- Homelessness applications have increased in the last year, while estimated numbers of rough sleepers have declined.
- The overall size of the Homefinder social housing register remains broadly unchanged although numbers of households categorised as high need (Gold band) have declined.
- Universal Credit continues to roll-out in Somerset. Nationally, Citizens Advice report that delays of payments, of up to six weeks and longer, are continuing to cause people serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt.
- With Universal Credit requiring a broader span of claimants to look for work, the out-of-work Claimant Count is increasing.
- Numbers of sanction decisions made against Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants in Somerset continue to fall sharply.
- Levels of demand for foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust in the South West have remained consistently high.
Note: changes in numbers for some of these indicators are not necessarily entirely a direct result of the Government's welfare reforms, but they will be a contributory factor.
See also the following reports for previous years:
Universal Credit (November 2016)
- From April 2015, the Nomis website has counted the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) plus those who claim Universal Credit (UC) and are required to seek work and be available for work. This revised Claimant Count replaces the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance as the headline indicator of the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed.
- In October 2016, for the first time in Somerset, more than half the ‘claimant count’ of 3,760 was due to UC. Only 1,875 people were claiming JSA.
Benefit Cap (November 2016):
- Changes to the level of the benefit cap to £20,000 (£13,400 for single adults with no children) nationally or £23,000 (£15,410 will be rolled-out across Local Authorities (LAs) from 7 November 2016 to the end of January 2017.
- As a result of this phased implementation, and the way in which LAs return monthly data on capped households to DWP, data showing the major impact of both changes will not be available until May 2017, when data to February 2017 will be published.
- Claimants entitled to Carer’s Allowance or Guardian’s Allowance will also become exempt from the benefit cap when these wider changes are introduced.
DWP 'Universal Support delivered locally' Trials (July 2016)
In July 2016, the DWP published results of their ‘Universal Support – delivered locally’ trials. The DWP say these will inform strategy to “support future design and delivery as the full Universal Credit service evolves and expands”.
- 'The Local Welfare Safety Net' - a publication by the Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee (January 2016), including conclusions and recommendations
- Survey of UK Food Banks - In May and June 2015 the organisation thinkmoney questioned 70 independent foodbanks in the UK to research levels of ‘food poverty’.