The New Policy Institute’s (NPI) latest research into the impact of the “localisation” of Council Tax Benefit reveals that local authorities that started charging benefit claimants saw a significant increase in arrears in the first year of their schemes.
NPI’s researchers found that arrears increased by at least a quarter in 84 per cent of councils with a high “Minimum Payment”, compared to just 32 per cent of councils with a low Minimum Payment (8.5 per cent & under). They also found that court and admin costs was nearly two-thirds higher in those authorities that cut support by more than £1 a week. In other words, many councils are generating a lot of extra income by charging those who can’t afford to pay. Continue reading
Hidden amidst the drama of the Scottish independence referendum, last week saw the welcome news that the Department for Communities & Local Government had agreed to look again at its outrageous decision to end funding for the Local Welfare Assistance schemes that replaced the Discretionary Social Fund Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. The move followed an application for Judicial Review of ministers’ decision by Christian Jump, a disabled Cheshire resident, who was represented by Doughty Street Chambers and Public Law Solicitors, and backed by the Child Poverty Action Group.
The Discretionary Social Fund had many problems, but like many others, Z2K always feared that the devolution of responsibility to local authorities would make those problems even worse. The last Labour Government consulted on very similar proposals to those implemented by the Coalition last year, but backed off after intense lobbying by anti-poverty campaigners. It was little surprise to see them resurface when the Coalition took office. But even the most cynical observers were shocked by the Government sneaking out news of the £178 million cut in the fine print of the local government funding settlement over Christmas break. Continue reading
It is no secret that Universal Credit is behind schedule and battling set-backs. However, with an election looming, it seems the government is determined to generate some positive press for its flagship benefits reform.
Lord Freud, the Minister for Welfare Reform, recently announced a series of pilot projects designed to help claimants prepare themselves for Universal Credit. In reality, the implementation of these schemes over the coming months will do little to support poorer residents. Why? Continue reading