Citizens Advice responds to the Spending Review
Further cuts to DCLG could wreck Government’s welfare reform programme
Seven day delay on benefits could make it harder for families to cope
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy comments on the Government’s Spending Review.
On a cap to Annually Managed Expenditure (AME):
“Imposing an artificial cap on some welfare spending is a huge gamble. The Treasury is capping its ability to respond appropriately to changes in the economic situation, which removes Government’s ability to provide a strong and fair safety net.
“People’s legitimate need for support should decide spending levels, not the other way round. Forcing ministers into a situation where they choose between political embarrassment, or meeting vulnerable people’s living costs, may mean that people with a disability, or who are struggling to meet housing costs, do not get the help they need.
"We need to see further specific details about how the cap will work, but deciding whether to increase support for people struggling to pay rent or who have a disability should be based on people’s need, not on political calculations."
On a seven day delay before receiving benefits:
"Seven days is a long time to wait before being caught by the safety net. This could mean families who have fallen on hard times being unable to eat or heat their homes, relying even more on food banks which are already breaking under the strain of demand, or turning to payday lenders.
"The Chancellor must explain if people moving in and out of temporary or low paid work, or on zero-hours contracts, will be penalised if their work dries up and they face seven days with no income. The uncertainty this creates for people in precarious employment completely undermines the stability Universal Credit is intended to provide."
"The Spending Round 2013: Policy Costings document shows there is great deal of uncertainty about the effect these policy changes will have on the time that people will spend off benefits. Now that the Social Fund has been abolished, and with food banks running dry, the Government must explain how it will support families through this time to cope without any income.
On cuts to local government budgets:
“Council budgets are already on a knife-edge and the Chancellor is taking an enormous risk by cutting them even further. In 2015-16, Universal Credit will be at a critical stage and massive cuts to council budgets will limit the support that councils can give to people as new benefits are rolled out.
“Restricting councils’ ability to help implement welfare reforms is short-sighted and could have long-term damage if councils are unable to provide the backstop that is so desperately needed at a time of policy upheaval and cash shortage.
“Citizens Advice has long argued that welfare should be simpler, but the blizzard of changes that ministers are making cannot succeed without a strong safety net to help people affected.
“More than a third of enquires to Citizens Advice Bureaux are about benefit problems, and cutting local government's budget even further will pull the rug from under the very people the Government is relying on to make a success of its flagship welfare reforms.
“People are having to absorb a raft of benefit changes which could cost more in the long run if poorly implemented, and cutting councils’ budgets so severely risks undermining Universal Credit and other new policies.”
On further cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget:
“Cutting the Ministry of Justice’s budget by a further 10%, increases the likelihood of the emergence of a two-tier justice system. The Government’s plans to cut legal aid will dramatically reduce people’s access to legal support and could create a two-tier justice system, with a fair hearing available only to people with high enough incomes.
“Citizens Advice campaigns for fairness, and the unprecedented cuts to justice put at risk the fundamental principle of the rule of law. Ministers’ reforms and the additional cuts announced today will narrow access to fair treatment and undermine the UK’s renowned justice system.”
On capping universal pensioner benefits:
"Reducing universal benefits for over-65s, such as winter fuel payments, may be uncomfortable but is right. When people, especially low paid families and those struggling to find work, are feeling the squeeze in these tough economic times, this is a discussion that can't be side-stepped. Britain needs a sustainable welfare budget that continues to be a safety net for vulnerable people in real need, whether young or old.”
Notes to editors:
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service 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 see the Citizens Advice website.
- 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.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.