Work and Pensions Committee

Welfare safety net inquiry

Inquiry status: open

Scope of the inquiry

The Committee is conducting an inquiry into the current state of the UK’s welfare safety net, prompted by the evidence of debt, hunger and homelessness it has heard across several recent inquiries.  The inquiry, launched as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty makes an investigative visit to the UK, will consider how effectively our welfare system works to protect against hardship and chronic deprivation.

The UK’s welfare system is currently undergoing fundamental reform, in the transition to Universal Credit alongside other major and largely untested reforms like Benefit sanctions and the Benefit cap. The Committee’s latest work on Universal Credit looks at how Government will safeguard some of the most vulnerable members of our society as it implements this huge programme of change. After the recent Budget Members from across the House expressed concerns on this issue, including some senior MPs telling Government that continuing the freeze on benefits in place since 2010 was “immoral”.

The previous Work and Pensions Committee inquired into the Local welfare safety net in response to changes in the Welfare Reform Act 2012—which replaced several centrally administered schemes with locally run provision—and further changes in the Summer 2015 Budget.

It looked at whether these changes represented “localism in action” or rather created a postcode lottery of service provision, with people falling through the gaps or “holes” in the welfare safety net and the costs shunted on to local authorities, services and charities.

The Committee concluded that Welfare reforms risk leading people into severe hardship and called on Government to:

  • Ensure reforms such as the benefit cap do not inadvertently penalise groups who cannot actually adapt to it or offset its effects, and that appropriate mitigation strategies are in place
  • For example, some claimants cannot find or move to cheaper housing, because none is available, or cannot move in to work because they are a single parent and there is no appropriate childcare in their area.
  • Conduct robust, cross-departmental evaluation on the impact of local schemes on the most vulnerable households
  • Co-ordinate with local government better to ensure more consistent quality of provision
  • Since then indicators suggest chronic deprivation is on the rise. These include numbers of households in temporary accommodation, rough sleepers, and people referred to foodbanks.

Send us your views

The Committee is now inviting evidence, whether you are an individual, group or organisation, on any or all of the following questions. Please send us your views by 14 December 2018.

  • How should hardship and chronic deprivation be measured?
  • What do we know about chronic deprivation and hardship in the UK?
  • Is it changing? How?
  • Why do some households fall into poverty and deprivation?
  • What factors best explain the reported increases in indicators of deprivation like homelessness, rough sleeping and increased food bank use? 
  • What about the local variations in these markers of deprivation?
  • Do Jobcentre Plus procedures and benefit delays play a role?
  • What role does Universal Credit play in in relation to deprivation, or could it play in tackling it?
  • Is our welfare safety net working to prevent people falling into deprivation?
  • If not, how could it better do so?
  • What progress has been made on addressing the issues identified in the Committee’s 2016
    Report, (described above / link)?
  • What are the remaining weaknesses, how should these now be addressed?

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