Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Academic to lead review of housing benefit cuts

A top housing academic will lead a review of cuts to housing benefit, the government has announced.

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud told peers that Ian Cole, professor of housing studies at Sheffield Hallam University, will lead an independent consortium of academics and research organisations to inspect the impact of the cuts to housing benefit, which started last month for new claimants.

Other members include Peter Kemp from the Oxford Institute of Social Policy, Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, and Ben Marshall from Ipsos MORI.

The consortium will spend two years monitoring the impact of the caps to local housing allowance and a change from calculating the benefit using the median of local rents to the bottom third of rents in an area. It will also set up 19 case study areas which will concentrate on London and the south east where the cuts will hit hardest. There will also be case study areas in Scotland and Wales.

The consortium will survey claimants and landlords over the two year period to examine the effect of the changes. It will also map housing and labour markets across Britain using housing benefit caseload data.

It will report initial findings early in 2012, with a full interim report in late spring, and a final report in 2013.

Professor Cole said: ‘The changes to local housing allowance are central to the government’s welfare reforms and I’m delighted to be leading this independent assessment which will look at the initial impact they will have on both landlords and claimants over the next two years.’

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Freud said: ‘We expect that a very small proportion of people may have to move as a result of the housing benefit reforms, with a minimal impact on the geographic distribution of low income families.

‘My department has commissioned a consortium of leading research organisations to comprehensively evaluate the effects of recent local housing allowance changes.’

MPs working on the reforms said they were pleased with the DWP’s selection of academics. Jenny Willott, co-chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary group on work and pensions, said: ‘We really need to make sure that the changes are closely monitored, and this independent group will be able to inspire confidence in their robust analysis. I look forward to seeing their interim report next year.’

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