Lords looks at welfare regulations

15 February 2013

Members of the Lords discussed a number of welfare-related government regulations on Wednesday 13 February 2013

Universal Credit Regulations 2013

The regulations look at entitlement to, and calculation of, an award of Universal Credit, a new single payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.

Baroness Sherlock (Labour), proposed an amendment to the motion of approval, expressing concern about the impact of the Universal Credit system. She said: ‘Now that we have most of the regulations and some, but not all, of the guidance, what was a pile of canvas on the floor is starting to take shape as a tent. It raises some very significant concerns... There are some major questions to be answered about the way that the regulations operationalise universal credit. Is the IT up and running? Will work pay for all? Will doing more hours always pay? Will claimants be sanctioned for not being able to find decent childcare? Can disabled people afford to work? There is so much more.’

Lord German (Liberal Democrat) followed, saying: ‘The support that we as Liberal Democrats give to the introduction of universal credit is constant, but the architecture now being put in place raises a large number of questions about much of the detail.’

Lord Freud (Conservative), responded about the wording Baroness Sherlock proposed, saying: ‘The amendment implies that the objective of Universal Credit is as a savings measure. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are spending more and have huge ambitions to change people's lives... Implementing a system that is dynamic and responsive is at the heart of these reforms. That is why the Welfare Act contains a provision to enable the piloting of changes to the system that aim to achieve simplification or change claimant behaviour to improve their labour market outcomes.’

The House voted 169 for and 239 against the addition to the wording of the motion that Baroness Sherlock proposed.

Jobseeker’s Allowance Regulations 2013

These regulations change rules to benefits so they are only payable based on a person’s National Insurance contribution record and no longer through the alternative route of means testing.

These regulations were agreed by the House after Lord Freud (Conservative) said: ‘...the rules for the new-style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) will be very similar to the existing rules for the contributory element of JSA. In particular, there have been no changes to the national insurance contribution conditions which need to be satisfied to qualify for entitlement and the fundamental structure of JSA remains untouched.’

Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2013

These regulations are for those of working age who are temporarily or permanently unfit for work. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will also be limited to payment on the basis of National Insurance contributions with claimants who want an income-based benefit claiming  Universal Credit instead or in addition. 

The regulations were approved, although Baroness Turner of Camden (Labour), expressed concern, saying: ‘What will happen under the new system? Will a private firm do the assessments, as happens with Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and how will the government ensure that the private firm doing the assessment is capable of doing the job effectively? I have doubts about the way in which the present system operates when so many people are dissatisfied and so many people are successful at appeal.’

Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013

This instrument provides the legislative detail to support the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). PIP will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged 16 to 64 from 8 April 2013 onwards.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Labour) proposed an amendment to the approval motion, expressing concern about the impact of replacing DLA with PIP, he said: ‘the projected eligible PIP number for 60 to 64 year-olds in May 2018 at 1.6 million will be 600,000 below the number who would have been eligible for DLA. Of the reassessed DLA caseload, some 450,000 out of the 1.75 million will receive no award at all. In total, almost 1 million will receive a reduced award or none whatever. Is it the contention of the government that these individuals who are to miss out on PIP have no significant additional costs associated with their disability?’

His amendment was later withdrawn after Lord Freud (Conservative) responded on behalf of the government, saying: ‘We have developed these reforms in a principled and considered fashion by seeking the views of disabled people and their organisations at every step. We have carried out four major consultations and have listened and acted on each of them. We also know that these regulations are not the end of the journey; they are the start. We will be monitoring and evaluating their operation to ensure that they are working as we intend, and to identify whether there are improvements that we need to make.’

Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013

These regulations cover the administration of Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and contribution-related Employment and Support Allowance.

The regulations were agreed, although Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Labour), raised a number of questions: ‘First, what are the department's working assumptions about the number and proportion of recipients who will require personal budgeting support, both generally and specifically with regard to monthly payments? Secondly, what resources will be made available to the external organisations which will be expected to deliver money advice, according to the guidance, and what discussions has the department had with those organisations about their capacity to provide such advice at a time when the advice sector is under considerable strain?’

Social Security (Payments on Account of Benefit) Regulations 2013

These regulations introduce two new types of payment on account of benefit, and outline the criteria which the secretary of state must use when determining whether or not to make them.

These regulations were agreed by the House after Lord Freud (Conservative) said: ‘The new scheme has been designed to provide an improved and simplified system. The existing budgeting loans scheme works by allowing claimants multiple loans up to the maximum debt limit... This new approach is intended to encourage improved budgeting and personal financial responsibility and should help claimants make the transition to work by preparing out-of-work households for the realities of budgeting on a monthly income. Budgeting advice and other support will also be available to claimants.'

Social Security (Loss of Benefit) (Amendment) Regulations 2013

These regulations amend the Social Security (Loss of Benefit) Regulations 2001 to support changes introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012. They cover the introduction of Universal Credit and punishments that may be imposed following a conviction for a benefit fraud offence.

The regulations were agreed after Lord Freud (Conservative) said: ‘It is clear that we do not have an effective deterrent at the moment. The view from the survey shows that people do not think that there is much to worry about from being caught out. We hope that the new regime will actually make people stop and think before committing a fraud. That is its intention, and I welcome the cross-party support for that.’

What is a statutory instrument?

Statutory Instruments (SIs) are a form of legislation which allow an Act of Parliament to be subsequently brought into force or expanded upon without Parliament having to pass a new Act. They are also referred to as secondary, delegated or subordinate legislation.

An Act will often contain a broad framework and statutory instruments are used to provide the necessary detail that would be too complex to include in the Act itself.

Statutory instruments can also be used to amend, update or enforce existing primary legislation.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

More news on: Parliament, government and politics, Parliament, Social security and pensions, Benefits administration, Benefits policy, Sickness, disability and carers' benefits, Working age benefits, House of Lords news, Lords news

Share this page