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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

South East Conference news - Welfare Reform - minority problems exploited to justify deep cuts


The government is pursuing a high risk strategy driven by savings and cuts, housing professionals were told today.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at CIH, described some of the changes being brought in by welfare reform as ‘unnecessary’ and accused the government of making certain changes simply to appear radical.

Speaking at CIH’s South East Conference, he said: “Work incentives are a mixed bag. There’s been a lot of government rhetoric that they will solve the problems of benefit dependency but they won’t.

“Some of the measures will help – for instance the real time assessment of income will be a positive change - but there are some measures that are currently working that they are changing, such as extended payments.

“By ditching these, they’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Extended payments are a great incentive for people to return to work and in some cases where people are paid four weeks in arrears, they’re necessary to aid the transition back into work.

“The government feels like it has to rubbish everything that was done before but their claims about the positive impact work incentives will bring are overblown.”

However, Mr Lister welcomed the flexible framework of the Welfare Reform Bill and said that the introduction of Universal Credit should lead to a better take up of in-work benefits by those who did not previously realise they could claim them.

Andrew Parfitt, head of housing policy at the Department for Work and Pensions, said that change was necessary in order to manage the rising cost of Housing Benefit, which currently costs £21 billion a year – a figure which has doubled in the last 10 years.

He said: “The changes the government is making are in place to deal with rising costs, to deliver fairness, increase employment.

“Our vision is to reduce workless households and help end child and adult poverty. There will be some cultural changes brought about by welfare reform but ultimately we are looking at empowering tenants. Universal Credit will perform like a salary and it’s up to claimants to manage their own money.”

He added that in the event of rent arrears, payments would be switched back to landlords.

The Welfare Reform Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent today.

CIH is committed to supporting housing professionals and the sector to address the challenges arising from housing benefit and welfare reform changes, as well as other policy and practice changes being introduced.

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CIH’s welfare reform service provides a range of services designed to help housing providers get to grips with the changes arising from welfare reform. The Housing Benefit Calculator is a tool to help organisations assess the impacts of housing benefit changes for tenants and businesses. It enables users to estimate the number of tenants at risk of losing housing benefit; estimate the possible impact on future arrears; support business planning and informed decision making; and is regularly updated to ensure users are kept up to date with latest intelligence. Click here for more details.


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