The Welfare Reform Bill 2011 (WRB11) is a controversial shake up of the British Welfare State currently at the committee stage in the House of Commons. Initial reforms started by the incumbent Labour Government have been radically carried forward by the Conservative- Liberal Democrat (ConDem) coalition Government and have been the subject of immense controversy ever since.
Outlined below are the key elements of the WRB11, which shall be discussed further within this project.
In summary the main changes are:
- Introduction of Personal Independence Payments to replace the current Disability Living Allowance
- restricts Housing Benefit entitlement for social housing tenants whose accommodation is larger than they need
- up-rates Local Housing Allowance rates by the Consumer Price Index
- amends the forthcoming statutory child maintenance scheme
- limits the payment of contributory Employment and Support Allowance to a 12-month
- caps the total amount of benefit that can be claimed (Parliamentary Copyright,2011)
The Secretary of State, Work and Pensions Minister, Iain Duncan Smith MP believes that taxpayers need to see that the Government is spending their ‘hard-earned money... responsibly’ so that they can receive support as well as supporting welfare recipients. (Duncan-Smith,2011)
The WRB11 has not yet received Royal Assent, and as such is still a work in progress. The aim of this project is to explore welfare reform past, present and future, and the effect it will have on the most vulnerable people in our society.
I shall discuss the Government’s position insofar as it has responded to certain concerns, look at the critical response to changes already in force and consider public opinion as expressed in public forums. I shall use mainly internet resources, as they are the most up-to- date resources. I also acknowledge that some resources may not be academic or fully reliable, but I believe that unconfirmed and speculative responses are valid in this discussion as they also reflect public perception of how the reforms will change the lives of people involved.
The WRB11 can be considered the most radical shake-up of the Welfare System since its inception in 1944. (w4mp.org,2011) The Coalition Government has taken the notion of welfare reform to radical lengths (ibid.) and has been using the current fiscal situation to justify bigger and deeper cuts than any other Government since Beveridge. I shall explore this reasoning against a backdrop of political ideology and discuss whether budget deficit is merely a smokescreen for change that would always have been the bedrock of Conservative policy.
Initially, I will define ‘poor’ and ‘vulnerable’ under current legal guidelines. Then I shall look at changes to welfare from Thatcherism to Brown due to political ideologies. Finally, I will look at how the WRB11 develops these changes further.
My conclusion will pull together all the arguments discussed in this project and will look at how these reforms compare to a pre-Beveridgean welfare system. It will consider the future for vulnerable people in the UK.