Citizens Advice response to the Welfare Reform Bill
18 February 2011
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“This Bill heralds the biggest change to the welfare state since it began. We support the principles behind the radical new Universal Credit, which aims to simplify the welfare benefits system and make work pay, but we are concerned that the details are still to come and a great opportunity for reform could be permanently lost if the government does not invest enough money from the start in making it work.
“Some people will undoubtedly be better off under the new system. However, if the Government doesn’t carefully consider the cumulative impact of their proposed changes, a number of people - particularly sick and disabled people, and parents needing formal childcare - are likely to suffer significant disadvantages.
“If the Universal Credit is to make work pay for everyone, it must include comprehensive support for childcare costs. Under the new system, manylone parents on the lowest incomes will not be able to work their way out of poverty as is possible under the present benefits and tax credits system.
“The proposal to cut contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after 12 months will betray people who have worked hard and paid national insurance contributions, only to find that they do not get the support they need if they become sick or disabled before pension age.
“And if the Government is serious about protecting the most vulnerable, people who suddenly become ill or disabled should not have to wait six months – double the current waiting time – before gettingthe new Personal Independence Payment due to replace Disability Living Allowance. The result will be enormous hardship and serious debt for many people at a time when they most need support.
“We are, however, delighted the government has listened to ours and others’ concerns and withdrawn proposals to impose a 10% cut in housing benefit on people who have been on Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) over a year, regardless of how hard the individual has tried to get work. This would have had a devastating impact on some of the most vulnerable people, who are at a disadvantage in the jobs market.”
Notes to editors
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see www.adviceguide.org.uk
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.9 million problems from April 2011 to March 2012. For full 2011/2012 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
- Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,500 service outlets across England and Wales.