Thursday, 05 March 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.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • Arthur Brown

    It's a shame that these same academics cannot use their wisdom to give advice to the government now, about the anticipated effects of the housing benefit changes on the more vulnerable members of society.

    It won't take a team of professors to measure the fall out in two years time. The poverty & people living on the streets will be all too obvious.

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  • Chris Webb

    So the poor only have to tighten their belts for two years before the assessment is complete - about the same time it took for the State to realise it had unlawfully killed a G20 protester, although the scale of potential harm is considerably higher this time - something for the Blue Parties to be proud of.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Stable door, bolted, horse?

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  • Alpha One

    Why are we frittering away money on a pointless indepedent study in to the effects?

    The figures in two years will tell us the answer. I.e. how many more people ended up homeless because of changes.

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  • Janine Jarvis

    It's a bit off-piste for this thread, but (PSR) the state didn't unlawfully kill a G20 protestor - the unfortunate Mr Tomlinson was simply a passer-by, trying to get home, and seems not to have been involved in the protest at all. So in fact, the state unlawfully killed a random citizen going about his lawful business.

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  • To return to the article I do hope the academics have the bottle to roundly criticise the procedure involved.

    To undertake an investigation and what amounts to an impact assessment after a policy has come into force is hugely irresponsible governance. Yet this is the reality.

    Set aside the huge emotive arguments of who this will affect - this is naive decision making and hasty policy decision making; yet it is becoming the norm with this governments social policy.

    Now we see leading academics given a so-called independent review of such inept governance (and please can we have a published ToR so we can see how independent this is?) and so seemingly giving this some credibility.


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  • Chris Webb

    I both acknowledge and appreciate the correction Janine.

    (note - had he been a G20 protester he would still have been going about his lawful business though)
    (thought - if the matter gets to caught and a guilty verdict arises I wonder how the sentance will compare with, for instance, that given to the student who dropped the fire extinguisher off of Tory Central Office and managed to kill or injur anyone)

    Meanwhile - I think the answer to Alpha's observation is that the outcome can be used to justify whatever the party in power wants it to in two years time.

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  • This is a government that is making policy on the basis of a toxic mix of ideology, prejudice and bigotry. Evidence, facts and experience count for nothing. The impact of its policies, so long as they do not in any way disadvantage the top 10% and keep the next 20% content, are of no consequence to the Con/LibDem/NewLabour Coalition. And ideally those policies should, from what is now becoming increasingly clear is government dominated by a nasty, vindictive, bullying mindset, make life harder and more unpleasant for people the further down the ncome and social scale they are.

    The only substantive change in policy since May 2010 was that of the privatisation of the Forestry Commission and associated woodlands. The reason that one fell by the way side was because many in that top 30% were opposed.

    No matter what this academic survey says, the policy direction set out in the Welfare 'Reform' Bill will continue. Indeed, it will accelerate as the demand for and thus potential cost of welfare rises as more people join the welfare lines. To maintain downward pressure on the cost of welfare, eligibility, conditions and payouts will all be tightened. All of which will hasten the day, a glorious one for the likes of Tax-me-Not Osbourne and Ian Demento-Smith, when there is no discernible welfare system in Britain.

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