Publication - Research and analysis

The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study

Published: 16 May 2014
ISBN:
9781784124540

The aim of the study is to explore the impact of on-going welfare changes on a range of households in Scotland over time. This report provides a review of the literature and presents the results of the first sweep of interviews which took place from September 2013 to January 2014.

The Impact of Welfare Reform in Scotland - Tracking Study
2 LITERATURE REVIEW: THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM

2 LITERATURE REVIEW: THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM

  • Chapter 2 presents a review of the literature pertaining to welfare reform. It addresses issues relating to welfare reform overall, and more focussed reports on how particular groups are thought to be affected by the changes.
  • Welfare reform is expected to affect a considerable number of people in Scotland; for example 144,000 individuals are expected to be affected by Incapacity Benefit changes and 621,000 households by changes to Child Benefit (Beatty & Fothergill, 2013) (Table 2.1).
  • Some of the impact will occur in the form of a loss of existing entitlement (such as the anticipated reduction in the number of claimants of disability benefits), and changes to uprating procedures may result in a fall in income in real terms for those who do not lose their entitlement.
  • Welfare Reform includes an increased emphasis on the conditionality of benefits, with more severe sanctions applied to those who fail to comply with their 'Claimant Commitment'. For example, under the amended regulations, a Job Seeker's Allowance claimant can be sanctioned for refusing to accept a particular job.[4] These sanctions are also applicable to Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance claimants prior to the introduction of Universal Credit.
  • The impact of welfare reform varies according to household characteristics, and some households will gain financially under UC relative to the current post reform arrangements, but others will lose out, with lone parents forecast to lose the largest proportion of their income.

2.1 The UK Government are in the process of introducing a number of changes to the tax and benefit system. Some of these have already occurred and others are being introduced over the coming months and years. It is not only the amount of benefits payable that is changing, but also their administration, with a proposed move to an online claiming system and monthly payments for Universal Credit (UC). The impact of UC is intended to make some better off, and others worse off, and research to date has suggested that this will depend on household characteristics such as family type, employment status, and type of housing. This chapter explores the literature to date on welfare reform and some of the key issues that may arise as a result of welfare reform.

2.2 This is not a systematic review of the literature, and while all works cited provide credible evidence, the applicability of the findings to different situations should not necessarily be assumed.

The Welfare Reform Act

2.3 The Welfare Reform Act 2012[5], based upon the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) sponsored 'Welfare that Works' White Paper, published in November 2010, suggested a radical overhaul of the UK benefits system.[6] The reform was designed to improve work incentives for families and simplify the current system by combining a number of key means tested benefits such as Income Support (IS), Income Based Jobseekers Allowance (IB-JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit (HB) and Tax Credits into one single entitlement called Universal Credit. This will be paid to claimants on a monthly basis, mirroring the typical situation of individuals who are in paid employment and those receiving Housing Benefit in the private rental sector. Not all of the reforms are part of the Act, with key disability benefits being introduced by the previous Labour government.

2.4 Welfare reform has yet to be implemented in its entirety; however, some elements have been rolled out, with UC being introduced in Inverness in October 2013. In April 2013, the Scottish Government introduced the Scottish Welfare Fund (SWF) as a replacement for the discretionary Social Fund.[7] In addition, the Council Tax Reduction (CTR) scheme was introduced to replace Council Tax Benefit (Scottish Government, 2013). CTR enables local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales the power to run their own CTR schemes. This means that they have the power to decide who is eligible to CTR and who is not. Budgets have been cut by 10%; however, the Scottish Government decided not to pass this cost onto Local Authorities and claimants (Scottish Government, 2014).

2.5 The way benefits are applied for and paid will also change, as the UK Government moves towards using online technology to process applications as opposed to the traditional method of telephone and letter (DWP, 2012d). However, the DWP does recognise that those claiming benefits are currently less likely to use the internet than the general population (DWP, 2012d; 8).

2.6 Against the backdrop of these changes, Citizens Advice have noted that a significant number of claimants wish to be able to speak to someone regarding any enquiries about their benefits (CAB, 2013). To deal with these issues when UC is rolled out, the DWP intend to place the onus on Local Authorities, who, as part of the proposed Local Support Framework scheme, will be 'central to establishing, leading and commissioning partnerships to deliver support for claimants' (DWP, 2013f; 4). The Scottish Government is included as a partner to a Scottish Overarching Partnership Agreement (DWP, 2013f). Local Authorities will be empowered to make their own decisions about whether they elect to participate (DWP, 2013f), which may mean that claimants receive different levels of support with moving onto UC depending on whether their Local Authority has decided to take part in the scheme. Dundee City Council are currently running a pilot project which will end in summer 2014 (DWP, 2013f), and South Lanarkshire Council and Aberdeenshire Council are establishing measures to help claimants prepare for the UC online system.

2.7 The UK Government's Welfare Reform strategy is changing the benefits themselves and who is entitled to them, together with the decision to freeze or uprate benefits at less than the rate of inflation (Improvement Service, 2014). The UK Government acknowledges that the reforms will benefit some groups and disadvantage others. In October 2010, they predicted that 2.8 million households were set to gain financially due to the changes with another 2 million losing out as a result of the shifts (DWP, 2010). A preliminary estimate by the Institute for Fiscal Studies of the impact of UC in Great Britain by 2014/15 suggested that 2.5 million working-age families will gain, 1.4 million will lose out in the long run, and 2.5 million will stay the same. The total gain of the "winners" is £3.6 billion per year; while the total loss of the "losers" is £1.9 billion per year (Scottish Government Welfare Analysis, 2012a). In Scotland, the DWP estimates that the introduction of UC will leave 200,000 households better off (by £25 per week on average), and 170,000 households worse off (by £19 per week on average) (Welfare Reform Scrutiny Group, 2011b). However, the DWP have also estimated that by simplifying benefits, more people who are actually entitled to them will take them up (DWP, 2012e).

The uprating of welfare benefits

2.8 Since April 2011, benefits previously uprated in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI) or Rossi Index have been uprated using the (lower) Consumer Prices Index. In addition, Child Benefit (CB) and selected elements of the Child and Working Tax Credits were frozen for three years from April 2011. The Welfare Benefit Uprating Act 2013 also placed further restrictions on uprating for the two year period from April 2013, limiting uprating to 1% for most working age benefits and tax credits, including: IS, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (IB-JSA), and HB; the basic rate and Work-Related Activity component of ESA; Statutory Sick, Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay; the basic, 30 hour, second adult and lone parent elements of Working Tax Credit (WTC); the child element of Child Tax Credit (CTC); and CB (which remains frozen for the first of these two years) (Bardens & Cracknell, 2013).

2.9 The effect of these changes to uprating is a decrease in claimants' incomes in real terms. For example, the freeze in CB for 3 years from 2011-12 is estimated to reduce the real-terms income of approximately 621,000 families in Scotland, and the greatest relative impact will be on low income households as it is a flat rate benefit (Welfare Reform Scrutiny Group, 2011). As a result of the combination of the CB freeze and its subsequent 1% uprating between 2011/12 and 2015/16, a family with 2 children would receive £1100 less than they would under current RPI uprating (Scottish Government Welfare Analysis, 2013b). The move to uprating Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) by CPI, and 1% for two years, will also have an impact on family incomes; in 2015/16 a mother claiming SMP will be £275 worse off than if SMP had been uprated by RPI throughout this period (Scottish Government Welfare Analysis, 2013b).

The impact of welfare reform in Scotland

2.10 Recent Scottish Parliament-commissioned research into the impact of welfare reform on Scotland was presented to Parliament in April 2013 as part of the 2nd Report of the Welfare Reform Committee (Beatty & Fothergill, 2013). This analysis models the impact of the reforms in Scotland when they have come into full effect - in most cases this is the 2014/15 financial year, although it is later for some changes. Although it considers changes across the board, it should be noted that it omits consideration of UC, the switch to CPI uprating, changes to Council Tax Benefit (CTB), and the transfer of lone parents off IS. Table 2.1 presents selected estimates obtained in the analysis.

Table 2.1: Impact of welfare reform on Scotland by 2014/15

Reform Number of households affected Average loss per affected household (£ p.a.) Estimated total loss in Scotland (£m p.a.)
Incapacity Benefits 144,000[8] 3,480 500
Tax Credits 372,000 810 300
Child Benefit 621,000 360 225
Disability Living Allowance 55,000[9] 3,000 165
Local Housing Allowance 80,000 1,010 80
Size criteria in social housing 80,000 620 50
Household benefit cap 2,600 4,810 15

Source: Beatty & Fothergill (2013)

2.11 The total impact of welfare reform in Scotland is estimated at £1.6bn per year. The largest aspect of this comes from changes to incapacity benefits, which represent an estimated loss of £500m per year, and other substantial elements of this are changes to tax credits (a loss of £300m) and the move to 1% uprating (a loss of £290m). By comparison, some of the most controversial reforms such as the size criteria in social housing are predicted to represent a relatively smaller loss of £50m. The most far-reaching change is the freezing of CB, which will affect over 600,000 households, and this represents a total loss of £225m. The largest average per-household loss is as a result of the household benefit cap, which will cost households an average of £4,810 per year, although it is only predicted to affect around 2,600 households. Changes to disability benefits also represent large per-household losses, with the reform of IB and changes to DLA costing affected households an average of £3,480 and £3,000 per year respectively.

Impacts of the move to Universal Credit

2.12 The current migration of six working age benefits to UC is forecast to be completed by October 2017. Once the move is complete, IB-JSA, IR-JSA, IR-ESA, IS, WTC, CTC and HB will cease to exist. Those who have started or been moved onto UC will find it to be uprated by 1%, in line with plans for existing working age benefits.

2.13 This section considers: both the effects UC will have on particular groups (such as lone parents and people with disabilities)[10]; and also wider issues that affect all claimants, such as the requirement to budget on a monthly basis. Citizens Advice has suggested claimants in general may struggle to budget monthly payments adequately (Kirkpatrick, 2013). Certainly, this is one aspect of UC that should be addressed in research projects that attempt to understand the lived realities of the scheme once it is fully implemented. Clearly, it is impossible to stipulate precisely what the lived impacts of UC are likely to be until after it is fully rolled out; however, research conducted so far suggests there are likely to be a number of areas of concern.

2.14 UC will not necessarily enable households to reach a minimum income standard[11] (Hirsch & Hartfree, 2013). The minimum income standard is argued to be the minimum amount of money a household needs to receive in order to achieve a standard of living which not only allows them to pay for essentials such as food and heating, but also an income which allows people to be able to take part in society. The minimum income standard is clarified by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF): "A minimum standard of living in Britain today includes, but is more than just, food, clothes and shelter. It is about having what you need in order to have the opportunities and choices necessary to participate in society" (Padley & Hirsch, 2014: 9). Research conducted by third sector organisations to date indicate that benefit levels as they are currently provided fail to allow individuals to attain an adequate standard of living, with lone parents especially vulnerable (Harkness & Skipp, 2013, Rabindrakumar, 2013). Lone parents on modest wages will struggle to exceed three quarters of the minimum standard, and the optimum scenario for them is working just ten hours per week; more than this and their gains will be eroded by falling levels of UC and higher childcare bills. For a couple, it might be possible to achieve the minimum standard with both parents working full-time, but second earners working part-time will be worse off than under the present system.

2.15 Analysis conducted on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (2013) suggests that certain groups of individuals will lose out as a result of the combined impact of benefit and tax credit changes and the introduction of UC. The incomes of households with children will be considerably affected. Working lone parents will experience average losses of over £1,300 per year (5.5% of their disposable income), single earner couples with children will lose over £680 per year (2.1% of their disposable income) and dual earner couples with children will lose over £1,250 per year (3.1% of their disposable income). The Trades Union Congress also argue that welfare reform will affect the number of families below the minimum income standard. Their analysis forecasts that as a result of benefit and tax credit reforms there will be 370,000 more households below the minimum income standard by 2015, with an additional 180,000 families pushed below it once the impact of UC is accounted for (Trades Union Congress, 2013).

2.16 One of the intentions of UC is that household incomes will be higher for those who are in employment, thereby providing an incentive to work. However, it has been argued that the rationale does not take into account the macro-level considerations which affect individuals' entry into, and retention in, employment - such as GDP growth, and good employment opportunities which pay a living wage and suit the individual (Welfare Reform Project, 2011). The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that, on average, incentives to work will be strengthened, although not universally; for example, although it strengthens the incentive for couples with children to have one earner rather than none, it also weakens the incentive to have a second earner (Scottish Government Welfare Analysis, 2012a).

2.17 Citizens Advice have stated that although UC provides an opportunity to simplify a complex benefits system (CAB, 2013), it also warns that claimants will need significant levels of support in order to enable them to transfer onto the new benefit, both in terms of making initial claims and subsequent managing of payments (CAB, 2013). The Bureau surveyed over 1,700 of their clients who will migrate to UC, in order to explore their readiness to move onto the new system. Their baseline pilot results suggests that a significant number of claimants are not yet ready to move onto UC (92%) (CAB, 2013). Of this 92%, 85% of people required help with more than one 'capability area' - that is, dealing with managing monthly payments, budgeting, banking, staying informed and getting online. 38% (668) of these people needed help with all five areas.

2.18 Concerns were raised regarding the decision that will see the monthly payment of UC being made to an individual; this decision has been criticized by the Scottish Government for its potential to create an unfair bias against women (Scottish Government, Communities Analytical Services, 2013). In addition, incorporating payments for children into UC may result in a situation whereby child related support would not necessarily be paid to the main care-giver of children. Simply, the concern is that the money may not go towards those it is intended to assist (Tarr & Finn, 2012). Similar problems may occur if monthly payments designed to be budgeted and paid to a landlord are sent to the bank account of someone who cannot spend this money in the way it is intended to be spent, such as someone with drug and/or alcohol problems.

2.19 Tarr and Finn (2012) draw attention to the period of transition to UC itself, suggesting that if no financial assistance will be available to bridge the gap, it is essential to prepare claimants well in advance for the shift to monthly payments so that they can start to make provision for possible shortfalls. If financial assistance will be available, but requires service users to borrow money (through an advance payment, for example), this may lead to many recipients beginning their claim in debt (Tarr & Finn, 2012).

2.20 Early findings from a number of Local Authority led pilots in 16 districts (including three in Scotland) also indicate a number of issues that should be addressed before UC is implemented completely. Benefit and tax administration is mostly undertaken by the DWP and HMRC, whose integrated departments combine policy and delivery functions, doing business from centralised offices and increasingly using the telephone or internet-based services as a preferred method of communication. Thus, the transition to moving welfare benefits to an online system appears to be consistent with the general move to working online as opposed to utilizing face to face or vocal communication. However, not all people claiming benefits have access to the internet, or possess the necessary IT skills needed to make a claim online (Kirkpatrick, 2013), with the DWP acknowledging that claimants are less likely than the average population to use the internet at all (DWP, 2013d). Although the pilot study is far from representative, its findings give some insight into potential issues. One of the local authorities, the borough of Lewisham in London, found that 52% of social housing tenants did not have internet access in the home, and in Birmingham, 50% of social housing tenants did not have an email address. In addition, certain rural areas lacked sufficient broadband coverage (Kirkpatrick, 2013), something which is out of the control of claimants. In Dumfries and Galloway, a survey conducted by the Local Authority 18 months prior to the pilot found that only 2% of users wanted on-line access to services.[12]

2.21 There are some suggestions that once people are given support, they become able to access services unaided. West Lindsay District Council in Lincolnshire installed internet enabled computers at one of their offices and had staff assist people with welfare related services such as claims and job searches. In the beginning, 81% of 318 new claimants required help, but once this was provided, the percentage requiring assistance after this was only 44% (Kirkpatrick, 2013). Despite this reduction, however, there are still significant numbers of people in West Lindsay who need more support to learn to use and access the services. Scottish evidence suggests that many claimants may not have access to the internet at home. Data from the Scottish Household Survey suggests that around a third of households do not have access to the internet, with less than half of households with an income of less than £15,000 having access to the internet (Scottish Government, 2011). Furthermore, Ofcom notes that only one in three Scottish households earning less than £17,500 per annum had broadband access compared with 56% of equivalent households in the rest of the UK (Ofcom, 2012). Pilot information revealed that many claimants who did have internet access in the Dumfries and Galloway area accessed it via mobile telephones, which do not support online systems for filling in the forms needed to claim benefits, thus calling for a greater need for public online access.[13]

2.22 Local authorities are attempting to address these problems by installing internet access points at customer reception areas of council premises, with staff on hand to assist with online claims (Kirkpatrick, 2013). It would seem then, that a number of claimants will struggle during the transitional period towards making claims online. As well as actually having access to the internet, some claimants were wary about going online to make claims, citing a lack of understanding about the availability of new services, and the associated benefits of using online services (Kirkpatrick, 2013), and also fears about using a public service to input sensitive information (CAB, 2013).

2.23 The introduction of UC also brings with it new sanctions for non-compliance with rules, for example failing to keep records of job search activities up to date. Such failure can lead to sanctions being imposed for at least three months, rising to six months and subsequently three years (Welfare Analysis, 2013). The strict regime appears to have had a hard impact on claimants in Scotland; initial analysis suggests that approximately £1 million per month is lost in benefit income as a result of sanctions being applied (Improvement Service, 2014). In 2011/12, clients at Citizens Advice Bureaux in Scotland sought advice on over 1,850 new issues relating to JSA conditions, sanctions and hardship payments; an increase of 25% from 2010/11. Current estimates indicate that the number of clients seeking advice from Scottish bureaux is continuing to increase. Citizens Advice Scotland report that many of these clients have reached a crisis point where the disruption in their income as a result of the sanction has left them in a desperate situation (Citizens Advice Scotland, 2012).

Benefit Cap

2.24 As part of the reforms, the Government has introduced a cap on the total amount of benefit that households up to working age can receive so that broadly, households on out of work benefits will no longer receive more in welfare payments than the average weekly wage for working households (DWP, 2012b). This means that if a household is affected, the amount of HB they receive will be reduced, in order to take their total payment to the level of the cap. If a household does not receive enough HB to achieve this, the cap will not be applied in its entirety; HB will not fall below a minimum of £0.50, in order to ensure that claimants can still access support for which eligibility depends on HB receipt (Ibid.). The cap is set at the average earned income of working households, which is £350 per week for a single adult with no children, and £500 per week for a couple or lone parents. It is set at the same level regardless of how many children are in the family.

2.25 The cap system was introduced in April 2013 across four Greater London local authorities (Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey). Other local authorities applied the cap between 15 July 2013 and the end of September 2013 (OPFS, 2013). The cap applies to the combined income from benefits, although some people are exempt, such as those who are currently claiming DLA, PIP, Attendance Allowance (AA), the support component of ESA or Industrial Injuries benefits. The exemption also applies to people in receipt of war widow/ers pension and armed forces compensation scheme payments (OPFS, 2013). Households where one person is entitled to WTC are also exempt.

2.26 Data from the four pilot local authorities indicates that, as of June 2013, across the four local authorities, 2,700 households had their housing benefit capped (DWP, 2013b).[14] The same data also shows that 85% of the capped households had between one and four children, and 74% of the capped households were headed by a lone parent. What this suggests is that, especially in high housing cost areas of the UK, it would seem that people with children, and lone parents in particular, are most vulnerable to a reduced income as a result of the cap. Thus, future work may look to explore the ramifications of the benefit cap for these families. Some local authorities in Scotland and the rest of the UK have introduced policies to mitigate the effects of these changes, but there is currently no comprehensive data on their effects. Broadly speaking, according to the information website Turn2Us, the cap is most likely to affect large families with several children, who are potentially in receipt of higher than average amounts of CTC, and are more likely to live in large homes and thus obtain higher levels of HB. Smaller households may also be affected if they are living in high rent areas, due to the amount of HB they may currently be in receipt of.[15]

Changes made to the payment of housing benefit relating to under-occupancy

2.27 Referred to as the 'spare room subsidy' by the government and the 'bedroom tax' by the media, this aspect of welfare reform relates to an identified need to address under-occupancy in social housing (DWP, 2012a). Prior to this reform, private and social housing tenants were treated differently, with private sector tenants only receiving HB in relation to the accommodation needs of their household. Social housing tenants were not subject to these restrictions, which meant that such tenants would receive a set maximum amount of housing benefit, regardless of the number of rooms in the house and whether they were being occupied (DWP, 2012a). The purpose of imposing a size criteria for working age household benefit claimants is argued by the DWP to be fairer, (DWP, 2012a) by making the rules that have applied to private tenants the same as those occupying social housing. The change is also argued to enable the freeing up of accommodation for households who do require additional rooms and are currently living in overcrowded accommodation - or allow the accommodation to be offered to other people on the social housing list. The DWP argue that these measures will address growing housing benefit expenditure, encourage greater mobility in the social rented sector, make better use of available housing stock and provide greater incentives to obtain work amongst working age claimants (DWP, 2012a).

2.28 The Government estimates how many rooms are required depending on how many individuals occupy a household and compares this to how many bedrooms are presently in the house/flat. If a house contains 'additional' rooms, HB will be cut by 14% of the claimant's rent if they have one spare room or 25% if there are two. UK Government rules stipulate a room should be allocated to accommodate each circumstance as detailed below:

  • Each single adult
  • Each adult couple
  • Each child aged 16 or over
  • Two girls or two boys under the age of 16
  • Two children of either gender under the age of ten
  • A carer who stays overnight

2.29 Affected groups will have two options available to them. Firstly, they can continue to live in their present social rented accommodation, and make up the shortfall in housing benefit through their own income; this could be savings, moving into work, increasing working hours and so on. Alternatively, the affected household could move to an alternative form of accommodation which is better suited to the size and composition of their household (DWP, 2012a).

2.30 The DWP has estimated that the new occupancy rules will affect 80,000 HB claimants in Scotland, with an average weekly loss of £12 per claimant (DWP, 2012a). The Scottish Government has estimated that 80% of these households include a disabled adult and 15,500 are households with children (Scottish Parliament, 2013).

2.31 As it stands, there is little research that explores the impact the changes will have on the behaviour of social housing tenants, however subsequent evaluations from the DWP and work conducted by other researchers should unveil the actual lived impact this section of the reform bill will have. DWP have stated they intend to publish a review of housing benefit caps in autumn 2014 (DWP, 2012b). Currently, there is some evidence from the Housing Futures Network who found that under-occupying tenants would be quite likely or very likely (approx. 25%) to move into smaller accommodation, thus not having to cover any additional rent. Nearly 30% said they would be quite or very likely to move into work or increase their hours and 10-15% would offer out their spare room to a lodger or family member (DWP, 2012a).

2.32 As noted (DWP, 2012a), the amount of people in a household affects HB. Single people and couples without children are more likely to be found to be over-occupying. This also means that older people are more likely to be affected, as they are more likely to have children who have left the home. Younger people are more likely to have a family still living with them, and are more likely to have recently been placed in social housing, so there is less likely to be a change in their household requirements when they first applied to when the HB changes are applied. Women are also more likely to be affected than men; this is due to their greater likelihood of being single parents and therefore greater likelihood of being in receipt of housing benefit. In December 2011 there were approx. 1.1 million more single female housing benefit claimants of all ages than single males - with the majority of these women being lone parents (DWP, 2012c).

2.33 In some cases, households containing a disabled adult and a non-resident carer will be deemed to have a reasonable requirement for an additional room, and will not be impacted by the change (DWP, 2012c). Although DWP have stated individuals who give a 'reasonable requirement' for a spare room (Wilson, 2014) will not be penalized, others have argued that this is not the case.

2.34 Citizens Advice Scotland noted that the changes made to the payment of HB relating to under-occupancy has created some very difficult situations for clients (Dryburgh, 2012, 2013a), for example:

  • Households with disabilities who rely on Discretionary Housing Payments to pay for medically necessary extra rooms, who may have to leave a property that has been adapted for them;
  • Children with disabled siblings, who may face considerable disruption having to share a room;
  • Separated parents with childcare responsibilities, but whose children are officially housed elsewhere (this could even result in them losing access altogether);
  • Those who are in the 'right' size of property according to housing association rules (and not eligible for downsizing), but the 'wrong' size according to the new under-occupancy rules;
  • Those who have rent arrears or chargeable repairs that they cannot afford to pay, but must do so before they move;
  • Those who have tried to move into private rental, but are rejected by landlords because they receive HB.

The impact of welfare reform on people living with a disability or a health condition

2.35 The transition to PIP is one of the biggest changes affecting disabled people. The transition began on 08 April 2013. As of January 2014, a number of Scottish claimants will be invited to claim PIP. The affected areas are Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh, Galashiels and Motherwell (DWP, 2013d). The gradual transition from DLA to PIP is likely to terminate disability benefits for some individuals, due to the fact that PIP is provided over two categories rather than the three provided by DLA. PIP is awarded based on how an individual's condition affects them, rather than being awarded purposefully on the basis of them being diagnosed with a condition. The award system under which PIP operates does not rely on self-assessment, but rather, generally involves the assessment of an individual by an outsourced agency (known as an assessment provider) (DWP, 2013c).

2.36 To be eligible for PIP, claimants must score 8 points or above on one or both of two categories, that of Daily Living and Mobility. There are a number of criteria on which claimants are assessed. One which has caused particular anxiety is the 'Moving Around' component, which requires an individual to be able to move independently for 20 metres as opposed to the 50 metres stipulated under DLA.[16] The Disability Rights Group We Are Spartacus note that under PIP, physically disabled people of working age who can move more than 20 metres - safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and in a timely fashion and without a wheelchair - are not entitled to the enhanced rate mobility component of PIP which replaces the higher rate mobility component of DLA (We are Spartacus, 2013). The organization argue this is problematic due to the fact the previously used benchmark of 50 metres is widely used as a measure of significant mobility impairment - notably in relation to other disability benefits, the blue (disabled) parking badge and in official guidance on creating an accessible built environment, including the location of disabled parking spaces in relation to public and commercial buildings. The group note that because most wheelchair users can walk a little, the use of 20 metres as the benchmark distance runs the risk that disabled people with significant mobility difficulties lose essential adapted cars or specially converted wheelchair accessible vehicles supplied via the 'Motability' scheme. This is because the move from DLA to PIP will also affect those who use their DLA payments to cover the hire costs of a Motability vehicle. Existing recipients of the Higher Rate Mobility Component of DLA who are reassessed and not awarded the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of PIP will not be eligible to use the Motability Scheme (Motability, 2013), meaning they will either lose their access to a vehicle completely, if they are unable to afford a car and the related costs independently. In turn, this would result in a significant group of disabled people, estimated to be 428,000 according to the UK Government (DWP, 2013e), not qualifying for the Enhanced rate and thus potentially losing independent mobility which may lead to social isolation and worsening health (We Are Spartacus, 2013).

2.37 Disabled people are likely to receive lower awards under UC than under the current system (Wilson et al., 2013). Under the new regime, a number of key benefits claimed by disabled people will be reallocated as part of UC, including income-based ESA and the disability elements of CTC and WTC. This reallocation will mean some disabled people will receive less under UC; for example, families with a disabled child, at the moment, may be entitled to receive support through the disability element of CTC, at £57 a week. Under UC, this support will be provided through 'disability additions' within household benefit entitlements, but the proposal is to cut the financial assistance in half to £28 a week. This change will affect all families with a disabled child unless the child is receiving the higher rate of the care component of DLA or is registered blind. This is equivalent to a loss of around £1,500 per year for most families with a disabled child (Royston & Royston, 2012).

2.38 In addition, UC sees the abolition of the SDP which accounts for the costs incurred by those who are severely disabled and there are new criteria for disability benefits not included in UC. Eventually PIP will completely replace DLA for people aged 16 to 64, with a 20 per cent reduction in projected expenditure. This means that many disabled people (estimated to be 500,000) currently entitled to DLA will not be entitled to PIP (Royston & Royston, 2012). These and other changes have made disabled people one of the groups of claimants who will be particularly at risk as a result of welfare reform (Kaye et al., 2012).

2.39 A disabled person who is not in work will typically receive ESA as their wage replacement benefit. There are two types of ESA; those considered (by assessors) to be able to find work will be placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), and those deemed unable to work are placed in the Support Group. Those in the latter group receive a higher payment and are not obliged to participate in activities at the Jobcentre. Disabled individuals may also receive DLA due to their condition; this is paid regardless of income or employment status. DLA is paid at either a lower, middle or high rate for care and at either a lower or higher rate for mobility.

2.40 Issues have been raised with regard to proposed cuts to support provided to working disabled people. Under the current system, the disability element of WTC recognises the difficulty disabled people can have in earning an adequate income (Berthound, 2011). This support is not provided for under UC, unless the claimant is deemed unfit for work (Royston & Royston, 2012). Furthermore, those claiming CB-ESA and who are in the WRAG category will only be able to receive this for one year. This means that these people are essentially given a 'deadline' by which they must obtain work, unless at the end of the period they are found to be eligible for Income related ESA (IR-ESA). IR-ESA is one of the benefits covered under UC, however, CB-ESA will continue to be awarded separately.

2.41 UC will also impact on people who are only able to work part-time due to their condition, who will, according to Citizens Advice, lose £40 per week (Royston & Royston, 2012). These changes make work less attractive to disabled people, as take home pay would be so low. Concerns were expressed as to how essentials such as food and help around the home would be paid for without the additional support currently present in the form of WTC and Severe Disability Premium (SDP) (Royston & Rodrigues, 2012). At the moment, disabled people who work more than 16 hours a week are entitled to the disability element of WTC, worth £54 per week and currently claimed by 116,000 families. The extra support is considered important as it recognises the fact that many disabled people face additional costs which are not covered by the Access to Work Scheme. This scheme is in place to support those people whose disability affects the way they can work, and gives claimants and employers advice and support pertaining to extra costs which may arise due to need. However, it would appear that this benefit alone is not sufficient without tax credits. One example is the need to pay for taxis for travel to work related social events and items such as protective clothing and the replacement or repair of wheelchairs.

2.42 As previously noted, DLA is not included as part of UC, but instead will be replaced with PIP for claimants of working age. The changeover involves all existing working-age DLA claimants to be reassessed and invited to claim PIP - even those who have been informed they have been awarded DLA for life. Medical conditions need to have existed for more than six months before a claim for PIP can be made, and it is predicted that by the time PIP is rolled out in its entirety, 500,000 people will be removed from this form of disability benefit (Jackson & Nixon, 2012) due to the different eligibility criteria for PIP.

2.43 However, there are some benefits that may come about as a result of the introduction of UC. There is provision for carers to retain a carer premium on top of paid work - even when that paid work exceeds the stipulated earning limit (Royston & Royston, 2012). This means that couples where one person works and acts as a carer for their partner will benefit from changes. Also, families with disabled children where someone can work full-time (thus incurring no childcare costs) will be better off under UC - despite the reduction in the child disability addition (Royston & Royston, 2012).

2.44 Couples who are both disabled are likely to be disadvantaged by UC, if they are claiming at least the middle rate of DLA. As the situation currently stands, such couples can receive SDP. The termination of this will mean that these couples will be £100 worse off per week under UC - even when one of the partnerships is in work and earning up to £300 per week. The reason for this considerable drop is due to the fact there is no equivalent replacing SDP in UC reforms (Royston & Royston, 2012).

The impact of welfare reform on lone parents

2.45 In Scotland, there are 157,000 lone parent families (Office for National Statistics, 2012). Lone parents are argued to be a vulnerable group in society as they more likely to be living below the poverty line (Royston & Davies, 2013; McQuaid et al., 2013). The Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of the impact of welfare reforms shows that single parents, especially lone mothers, are particularly badly affected by the reforms; lone mothers are forecasted to lose the biggest proportion of their income, at 8.5%, with lone fathers losing 7.5% and couples with children 6.5% (Fawcett Society, 2011). This section explores the impacts of two aspects of welfare reform on lone parents: JSA conditionality and changes to the child maintenance system.

2.46 Since May 2012, lone parents whose youngest child has reached the age of five years are expected to look for work in order to be eligible for benefits. This means they are no longer entitled to IS upon their child turning five, but rather, JSA. In addition, the Baby Element of CTC, an additional payment of £545 per year made to those in receipt of CTC with a child aged 0-12 months, was removed from April 2011 (Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services, 2013). Campaigners have expressed concerns about the impact of increasing conditionality on lone parents in the absence of adequate childcare, effective employment services and jobs (One Parent Families Scotland, 2011a).

2.47 The Single Parents Action Network (SPAN) have noted that the information provided to lone parents with regard to the Work Programme is inadequate, as parents were often unsure about what was expected from them with regard to the minimum standards and services offered on the programme, and a lack of clarity around rules they are expected to abide by as part of their being on the Work Programme. Jobcentre Plus locations were found to adopt inconsistent practices in relation to the needs of children (Dewar, 2013). A similar situation appears to be the case regarding disabled people - only 22% of people in the "Holes in the Safety Net" study were receiving help via the Access to Work scheme, with other people either unaware or thought the hassle of obtaining it was not worth the benefit (Royston & Rodrigues, 2012). Therefore there is the potential that different people will have different obligations, with no form of consistency across the board. A reliance on the discretion of a singular individual under UC may further exacerbate this situation. For example, despite having young children who still required some form of childcare, SPAN found that some of their service users were still forced to agree to look for any work, including in some cases work involving full-time hours, as part of their Jobseeker's agreement (Dewar, 2013; Graham & McQuaid, 2014). Furthermore, there has been an increase in the number of people, including lone parents, working part-time since 2008, as a result of the economic recession which has minimised the number of full-time positions available (Alakeson, 2012, Campos et al., 2011).

2.48 Lone parents also face barriers such as the cost and availability of suitable childcare (which can be additionally problematic if the child is disabled), access to flexible jobs which can fit around children, and on average, lower skill levels that can be taken into the labour market (Royston & Davies, 2013). Access to affordable childcare was cited as the principal problem which prevented lone parents in Glasgow not only being in employment, but finding that employment in the first place (Graham & McQuaid, 2014; Save the Children, 2012), with problems presenting themselves when parents were invited to interviews, as there were no childcare options available. The same situation was reported by claimants in Newham, East London, who found it hard to combine employment with the lack of affordable childcare (Coleman et al., 2011, Horwitz, 2013).

2.49 In Scotland, childcare is more costly than the national UK average. Rutter (2013) notes that weekly childcare costs in Scotland average £120.23 per week (in the School/Local Authority Sector) and £101.05 per week in the Private/Voluntary Sector. The UK average is £101.97 and £109.23 respectively. For a lone parent claiming JSA, affording such sums of money may be unattainable, even when working full-time in a minimum wage job (Lloyd, 2013; Simpson, 2013). Aside from this, there is also a question mark over where lone parents might find the money required in advance of obtaining their first pay-cheque; this is especially problematic for those who have no outside sources of financial support, such as family members.

2.50 Previous research conducted across the UK on the impact of changing the age threshold for claiming JSA to seven years old (which occurred in 2010) has raised a number of concerns about the impact of JSA conditionality on lone parents and their children, and the adequacy of the Jobseekers regime for lone parents. A survey of lone parents who had moved onto JSA as a result of their IS entitlement ending reported mixed experiences; 63% found signing on and attending meetings fairly easy, and 62% said looking for work was fairly easy, but only 45% said they felt their personal circumstances had been taken into account, and were more likely to agree than disagree that they felt pushed into things they didn't want to do (Coleman & Riley, 2012). Although lone parents are supposed to be entitled to flexibilities around their work requirements, neither lone parents themselves nor their advisors may be fully aware of these entitlements, and they are not applied consistently across the board (Gingerbread, 2012; Lane et al., 2011). Qualitative research has suggested that lone parents furthest from the labour market find the JSA scheme the least helpful, which is perhaps unsurprising as the early stages of support are designed for those who have just lost a job (Casebourne et al., 2010).

The relationship between claiming benefits and stigmatising attitudes

2.51 The stigma of being on benefits has a long history in the UK (Baumberg et al., 2012). There is an acknowledged relationship between personal, social and institutionalised stigma and being in receipt of welfare benefits (Bell, 2013). 43% of Britons surveyed in the 2000 British Social Attitudes survey felt that those on benefits were considered to be 'second class citizens' (Baumberg et al., 2012). Lister (2004) notes the historic link between poverty and stigma; however, in recent years an increasing sense of stigmatisation has been attached to those in receipt of welfare benefits (Bell, 2013). Certainly, the content of media stories pertaining to benefits has become increasingly negative against claimants, with a particular focus on fraud (Bell, 2013). Clery et al. (2013) note that support for Government spending on welfare benefits by the public has reached a historical low (Clery et al., 2013). There has also been an increase in the number of media accounts which concentrate on claimants' apparent lack of effort in moving away from benefits (Baumberg et al., 2012), thus painting an image that claimants are quite happy to remain on benefits on a long term basis. Bell argues that the media's focus on the negative fails to portray a true picture of welfare claimants and the circumstances that have led to their reliance on state assistance (Bell, 2013). Clery et al. (2013) also note that attitudes to claimants may also be influenced by which political party is in power at the time; their research found that Labour party supporters felt more strongly that the cause of poverty was the result of individual as opposed to societal factors when Labour was in power. They argued that the party had adopted a more right-wing approach to the way they considered benefits and this new approach had apparently impacted on the opinions of their supporters.

2.52 The negative focus of the media may also contribute to the stigma felt by claimants - the idea that the media has played a principal role in applying stigmatising labels to claimants has been observed (Dorey, 2010; Sage, 2012). It has been argued that there has been a rise in the 'scrounger' discourse in the media, with disdain generally afforded to people who are considered to be 'undeserving' of support (Baumberg et al., 2012), although the recorded public discourse on the 'undeserving poor' is well over a century old. In 2011, 47% of disabled people in Baumberg et al.'s (2012) study said that attitudes towards so-called 'undeserving' people and their benefits status over the last year had grown worse. Disabled people also felt that the process for actually claiming the benefits was especially humiliating (Baumberg et al., 2012). Negative attitudes have also been reported by claimants who use the services required to make a claim for benefits, such as the Jobcentre, with one participant believing staff considered service users to be 'second-class citizens' (Bell, 2013), and others feeling they were looked down on by DWP staff (Finn et al., 2008). However, it appears that the service received can depend on who the claimant encounters when using a service, as there is a strong sense that how one is treated depends on their individual worker (Baumberg et al., 2012). This means there may be no standard 'good practice' for dealing with claimants. Lone parents are found to be most stigmatised, with negative attitudes being most common towards those who are seen to be somehow responsible for the situation they are in (Baumberg et al., 2012) (i.e. sentiments around single parenthood being a 'choice' and so on).

2.53 Welfare Reform may go some way to minimizing the stigma that claimants face. Bell (2013) notes that the introduction of UC may serve to minimise the stigma that is attached towards welfare benefit claimants. Bell argues that this is due to the fact that those in receipt of tax credits, seen as less stigmatised than other benefits, will instead be awarded UC, as will others on more stigmatised benefits. Simply, Bell (2013) suggests the distinction between people claiming tax credits (often seen as the in-work poor and thus more 'deserving of state help) and 'undeserving' recipients such as unemployed Jobseekers will be harder to maintain as everyone's payment will awarded and paid using the same method.


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Email: Franca MacLeod