Response - No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility

By: Francesca Albanese  Published: October 2008


Shelter welcomes this opportunity to respond to the Department for Work and Pensions consultation, No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility. The consultation sets out very ambitious plans to reform the welfare system.

Summary

Overall, Shelter is concerned with the Welfare Reform Green Paper’s emphasis on the use of punitive sanctions, particularly the focus on work as a condition for the receipt of benefits. A number of barriers still exist for benefit claimants trying to make the transition into work that are not fully or appropriately addressed within this consultation.

For many households the interaction of different benefits and tax credits means that marginal deduction rates can be greater than 90 per cent when they enter work. The costs associated with entering work, such as childcare and suitable clothes, mean that moving people off benefits and into work cannot be achieved through the use of a principally sanctions based approach. In the current economic climate, with unemployment levels set to rise, it is crucial that we support people to return to work by breaking down the work disincentives that they face. Only in this way can progress towards the Government’s ambitious target of 80 per cent employment be achieved.

In particular, we would like to draw attention to the huge problems that the current housing benefit system creates in terms of preventing people from moving back into work. Despite this, there are very few references made in the Green Paper to housing benefit. Given that most claimants who are in receipt of Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will also be claiming housing benefit, we feel that this is a major limitation. We are therefore using this response as an opportunity to set out some of the key changes that need to be made to the housing benefit system to support the Government’s welfare to work agenda.

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