What are the welfare reform plans?

By Kathryn Torney

The SHA report focuses on the following anticipated benefit changes:

Housing Benefit – Local Housing Allowance

Changes to the rules governing assistance with the cost of housing for low-income households in the private rented sector. The new rules apply to rent levels, ‘excess’ payments, property size, age limits for sole occupancy and indexation for inflation.

Housing Benefit – Under-occupation

Changes to the rules governing the size of properties for which payments are made to working age claimants in the social rented sector (widely known as the ‘bedroom tax’).

Non-dependant deductions

Increases in the deductions from Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and other income-based benefits to reflect the contribution that non-dependant household members are expected to make towards the household’s housing costs.

Household benefit cap

New ceiling on total payments per household, applying to the sum of a wide range of benefits for working age claimants.

Disability Living Allowance

Replacement of DLA by Personal Independence Payments (PIP), including more stringent and frequent medical tests, as the basis for financial support to help offset the additional costs faced by individuals with disabilities.

Incapacity benefits

Replacement of Incapacity Benefit and related benefits by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with more stringent medical tests, greater conditionality and time-limiting of non-means tested entitlement for all but the most severely ill or disabled.

Child Benefit

Three-year freeze and withdrawal of benefit from households including a higher earner.

Tax Credits

Reductions in payment rates and eligibility for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, paid to lower and middle income households.

1 per cent up-rating

Reduction in annual up-rating of value of most working-age benefits.

Among benefits which have been omitted from this report:

Universal Credit: It is scheduled to replace just about all means-tested working age benefits and is arguably the single biggest reform of all. It is not expected to result in a net reduction in benefit entitlement and most of the impact will be felt well beyond 2015 with full impact in Northern Ireland unlikely before 2018. Also local-level household data is not available to model the local impact of Universal Credit.

Regional rate rebate: the NI Executive has for the moment chosen not to pass on to claimants the Westminster government’s 10% cut in the value of Council Tax benefit payments.

Income support for lone parents: The lone parent is due to be transferred from Income Support to Jobseeker’s Allowance at the same payment rate.

© The Detail 2013