The Government has consistently stated its belief that “modelling difficulties” prevented the production of a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform which is sufficiently robust to be published. In particular, the outcome of medical assessments – used in migrating claimants to reformed disability-related benefits – cannot be inferred from the survey data upon which the Government’s modelling is based.
The Government has implemented a programme of welfare reforms that have impacted on households in a variety of ways. Some households have been hit with cuts from more than one change in welfare law. The government have not carried out an assessment of how many people are affected by multiple cuts.
The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) said they find it difficult to assess the cumulative impact of the reforms, but have recognised a number of the concerns raised by the currently available evidence.
They note that there are methodological challenges that are compounded by the need to assess impact longitudinally – over time – and in various locations around the country.
Although some overall assessments of impact are available – this report looks to summarise their findings – it is clear that the evidence is incomplete.
The SSAC report contains three key conclusions:
- some overall assessments of impact already exist, in particular for impacts across the income distribution, and across geographic areas. These impacts are largely negative, as they focus on the direct and immediate effect of reforms upon incomes, rather than any employment or behavioural effects, and because the potentially positive effects of UC are yet to be introduced on a national scale;
- qualitative analysis can provide a more detailed understanding of the impacts felt by households with particular characteristics (for example by employing illustrative case studies). Case studies have been produced by a range of organisations focusing on areas of particular concern. However these case studies do not show the full range of impacts arising from welfare reform across different types of household; and
- particular focus has been drawn to the cumulative impact of welfare reform on disabled people. This is because they are both more likely to be claiming multiple benefits, and less likely to be able to change their behaviour to mitigate the impact of reforms.
And four key recommendations:
- that the Government produces further secondary analysis of the datasets behind Charts 1 and 2, bringing together the cumulative impact of welfare reform on vulnerable groups such as disabled people, and with the findings published within six months.
- that DWP provide a range of case study examples of the cumulative impact of welfare reform, to sit alongside further quantitative analysis. Such examples, based on model households, would illustrate how the effect of individual reforms might accumulate for particular claimant groups (in terms of their income and in influencing their behavioural choices).
- that DWP consider extending its forthcoming evaluation of Universal Credit so as to also evaluate the impact of its wider programme of welfare reform.
- that, following further analysis of the impact of welfare reform, the DWP consider whether there have been any cumulative impacts on vulnerable claimant groups that need to be mitigated.
Full report here.
Lord Freud has responded, on behalf of the Government, in a two page letter rejecting the SSAC’s recommendations.
Lord Freud missed the purpose of cumulative impact assessments, which is to study the consequences of the policies by studying notable impacts on communities, social groups and individuals, and this is particularly important since the “reforms” target the most vulnerable for cuts to their income. Freud’s response was that “Her Majesty’s Treasury produces an “analysis” of the welfare “reforms””, and he discussed only the anticipated savings in costs. He also said:
“More generally, we believe that cumulative impact analysis should be treated with some caution, as it will be based upon a comparison with the previous government’s policies, which were unaffordable”.
That all depends on what your priorities are, Mr Freud. The Coalition will leave more debt than all Labour governments since 1900. The current government is now responsible for £517 billion of the trillion-plus-pound UK public debt, compared to £472 billion accrued during the 33 years Labour led the country since the turn of the twentieth century.
But the Coalition don’t meet the needs of the vulnerable, yet remarkably, we can afford a tax cut of £107,000 each per year for millionaires, and we can afford to throw money away on private Tory-donating companies that don’t deliver a service. Surely, Mr Freud, it’s Iain Duncan Smith’s very expensive welfare “reforms” that we cannot afford.
It’s costing us millions to save money, curiously, yet those needing welfare support are not getting adequate State provision, and many are now experiencing absolute poverty as a consequence.(See Welfare Reforms and Poverty, Hansard).
Labour invested in public services, the Tories have bled them dry. So, what have this government done with the money?
Because the poorest have seen only austerity cuts, persecution and suffering since 2010.
We cannot afford this Government, Mr Freud.
Thanks to Robert Livingstone