Impact Monitoring 2017/18
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced a wide range of changes to the benefits system, implementation of which began in April 2013. This is the fifth annual snapshot report produced by Somerset Intelligence looking at the impact in the county. It is based on a range of key indicators, sourced largely from government statistical releases.
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.
• Council Tax collection rates declined in three of five Somerset districts in 2017/18, however, rates in all districts remain above the national average.
• Overall numbers of households subject to the Benefit Cap have fallen, following significant increases in 2017 (after the introduction of lower threshold levels).
• 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 acceptances declined in three of five district areas in the last year.
• Numbers of possession claims issued by landlords and mortgage lenders have increased.
• The overall size of the Homefinder social housing register continues to decline, although numbers of households categorised as high need (Gold band) increased in the last year.
• Universal Credit continues to roll-out in Somerset. Nationally, Citizens Advice report that delays of payments, of up to six weeks and longer, are causing 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 continues to rise. Somerset’s Claimant Count rate exceeded the national average rate for the very first time in February 2018.
• Levels of demand for foodbanks run by the Trussell Trust in the South West have remained consistently high.
• Low income, benefit delays and benefit changes are cited as the most common reasons for foodbank use.
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:
- '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’.