Welfare Reform for All Fools Day

This is a brief overview of the Con-Dems welfare reforms from April 1st of this year.

They are part of Ian Duncan Smith’s (IDS) quest for the Holy Grail of a Universal Credit system but reek heavily of the shirkers versus strivers argument and the deserving and undeserving poor views of a period I thought consigned to the dustbin of history. It is estimated that 60% of those affected are strivers; i.e. those in working families!
Well someone did say IDS sounded like an infectious disease.

I’ve split the changes into seven areas but don’t forget you can be hit by more than one and probably will be if you are affected. Whilst campaigning for the County elections I met a person with lymphatic cancer who had been moved from Employment and Support allowance (ESA) to Job Seekers allowance (JSA) as fit to work but is single and lives in a two bedroomed property provided by Yorkshire Coast Homes She is therefore also going to be hit by the bedroom tax as well as having to pay council tax (see below).At least a triple whammy!

1. Council Tax Support
Council Tax benefit is replaced by council tax support, a local scheme in each Council area. Please note the changes do not affect people of pensionable age.
Just like the poll tax it means every person liable to pay council tax will from April 1st have to pay something regardless of income.
In the Scarborough Council area this works out the average loss will be £1.61 per week and the highest loss at the moment is £4.17 per week.
According my calculations this means two or more people in a Band A property will be liable to £1.67 a week; Band B £1.95: Band C £2.23 and so on up the bands. This is based on a 8.5% liability.
The single person’s discount of 25% still applies.

2. The Bedroom Tax
Working age adults living in social housing, i.e. in property provided by Yorkshire Coast Homes or Sanctuary or other housing association could be hit by what has become known as “the bedroom tax”. This means if you are considered to have one room more than you are considered to need you’ll lose 14% of your housing benefit, two or more rooms this rises to 25%,a quarter of your benefit. This applies to existing tenants as well as new.
This is estimated to affect 1000 households in the Scarborough area of which 700 are Yorkshire Coast homes properties.
For details regarding the rules you can contact me, i.e. regarding children and other adults.

3. Single people
Though not a new rule, the coalition government introduced it from January 2012, most single people under 35 are only entitled to what is known as the shared accommodation rate so if you rent from a private landlord you have to share facilities and at this moment in time, January 2013, the rate is £53 per week.
So, the return of houses in multiple occupation which were such a blight in seaside resorts?

4. Social Fund
From 6th April Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans are abolished and replaced with a Local Welfare Assistance scheme, the responsibility of the North Yorkshire County Council which on 30th January their website produced 0, zero results using their search engine for that phrase.
The day to day running of the scheme will be undertaken by Charis, a national charity.
Jobcentre Plus will continue to look after funeral payments and budgeting loans but nobody knows what is happening to other DWP benefits!

5. Overall Benefit Cap
Tales abound of people on benefit getting £1000s a week. This is a popular Daily Mail and Daily Express horror story largely supported by ancient figures which government supporters still quote. If these stories were true, despite caps introduced last year, it would mean that the government cannot even implement its own regulations.
But from April 2013 the limit will be £500 per week for couples and £350 for single households and does not apply to DLA/PIP (see below), Attendance allowance, ESA with a support component, Industrial injuries benefit ,War /widows or widowers pensions and working tax credit, plus a 39 week period  of grace if a person has been in work for the past 52 weeks.
It is estimated that in the Borough 17 families could be affected.
Well at least it was a good headline which will be no doubt trotted out again in some red tops and Tory Clubs, where they haven’t gone bust through financial incompetence, up and down the country.

6. Universal Credit
Don’t hold your breath. Government cock-up writ large. All claims of course intended to be made on line.
Minimal impact expected in Yorkshire and the Humber until March/April 2014 at the earliest. I should start inhaling again.

7. Personal Independence Payment
If you are affected you should be contacted for reassessment and this process could take until 2016.
The reassessment will be delivered by a contracted provider and no doubt after their success with the fitness to work assessments ATOS are rubbing their hands!
From June all new claims for DLA for people aged 16-64 are intended to be dealt with under the PIP rules and reassessment of existing claimants will commence in October.

Help and Advice

If it involves services provide by the Borough or County Council contact your local councillor as appropriate.
The CAB provides a first class advice service but is overwhelmed as you can see from the people spilling outside onto the street by their Scarborough office -a sign of the success of the Con-Dems austerity policy.
You can also access the DWP website online. The easiest way I’ve found is simply to Google the benefit you are interested in.
I will do my best to signpost people but I am not a benefits adviser and certainly not able to give more than general advice which would be gleaned from the available online sources. If you live in Central Ward or the Woodlands Division of Scarborough where I hope to be standing for the County Council I will do my best to support you if you are facing problems but I will not give detailed advice.

It is estimated that £2 billion in benefits are unclaimed. Make sure you are getting what you are entitled to, particularly relating to council tax support if you are a pensioner or a working family.

I can be contacted on Scarborough 361415, mobile 07813139130 or at cllr.david.billing@scarbough.gov.uk  .


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