Impact Monitoring 2018/19
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 sixth 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. 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.
- In 2018/19, Council Tax collection rates remained above the national average rate in all Somerset districts, although rates were generally below pre-welfare reform levels.
- Overall numbers of households subject to the Benefit Cap have continued to fall, 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 continues to account for the highest proportion of expenditure in terms of extra help for households through local authority Discretionary Housing Payments.
- Possession claims issued by landlords declined in 2018/19. Numbers of possession claims issued by mortgage lenders were generally static.
- Numbers of people sleeping rough are estimated to have declined.
- Numbers of individual insolvencies have increased.
- Universal Credit has continued to roll out, but issues of delays in payments remain.
- The out-of-work Claimant Count has stabilised following marked increases in 2016/17 and 2017/18 (linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit and a broader span of claimants being required to look for work).
- Personal Independence Payments (PIP) continue to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), with numbers of PIP claimants now exceeding DLA claimants.
- 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.
- Benefits advice continues to be the most common issue presented to Citizens Advice services.
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’.