Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith will present his Welfare Reform Bill before the House of Commons today for its first major debate. Here’s why it matters to social workers:
- Disabled people will be hardest hit by the bill’s cuts. Of £3.9bn in annual cuts earmarked for 2014-15 from the bill’s measures, at least £2.5bn will come from the pockets of disabled people, through the replacement of disability living allowance (DLA) by personal independence payment (PIP) and by limiting employment and support allowance (ESA) for a year for some claimants. Disabled people are already twice as likely to be poor as non-disabled people – this means more misery for families and more pressures on the social care system.
- The cuts will take money directly out of social care. Councils’ recoup charges from social care users on the basis of their eligibility for DLA. As fewer will be eligible for PIP, this means less charging income for councils.
- Your clients are angry about it as the campaign launched this week by online disability group Broken of Britain makes clear (see image above). You will feel this anger.
- Social Fund reform looks set to both deepen poverty and put social workers in the firing line of clients’ anger. The government intends to scrap the national payment of Social Fund community care grants and crisis loans for vulnerable families in need and give councils the power – though not the responsibility – to provide this service locally. There is a real fear from experts that this will result in more hardship for families and put social workers in the invidious position of having to grant – or refuse – cash requests from clients.
- The creation of the Universal Credit is a massive reform of the benefits system that all in social work need to know about. The credit will replace most income-based benefits payments for working-age adults and is designed to simplify the welfare system, increase take-up of benefits and improve work incentives (by enabling people to keep a bit more of their benefits when they move into work). This is the centrepiece of the bill