Iain Duncan Smith moots plan to reshuffle benefits staff
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Finance, Housing, Local Government
20,000 Housing Benefit staff jobs threatened under Universal Credit
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has said that some of the 20,000 Housing Benefit staff under threat by the forthcoming Universal Credit (UC) system could be found new roles dealing with Council Tax Benefit, which is due to change in April 2013.
Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne raised his concerns about the jobs during a Commons debate yesterday. The implementation of UC will see six income-based benefits brought 'in-house' at the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP), potentially leaving 20,000 country-wide Housing Benefit staff jobless.
The MP for Hodge Hill, Birmingham asked: "We are still no clearer about what will happen to the 20,000 housing benefit staff who work for local councils and will no longer have to process housing benefit claims once the DWP takes over the task. Are they going to be sacked or made redundant? Who will pick up the bill? Is it yet another bill that will fall on the shoulders of hard-pressed council tax payers?"
Iain Duncan Smith - one of the driving forces behind the welfare shake-up - said that he thought some of the affected staff could be offered new positions working on Council Tax Benefit claims.
The Government is abolishing the current Council Tax Benefit scheme where councils receive rebates on the financial support they provide. Instead, it has told them to come up with their own local schemes from next April, cutting expenditure by 10% and handing them the money to administer it and prioritise those who need the support.
Mr Duncan Smith said: "The right hon. Gentleman asked what was to be done with the 20,000 housing benefit staff. We are dealing with this matter sensitively. We recognise that staff across the country will have concerns about the impact of the new benefit, which is why we are consulting local government right now.
"Although housing benefit will be absorbed into Universal Credit, we must not forget that that will not happen overnight. I am sure that any impact on job roles will be counterbalanced by, for example, changes to localised council tax benefit, which will require a number of staff."
IDS also suggested that "the administration of the social fund is also being moved down to local authorities, and there will be other work, too."
The minister reiterated his point that the issue would be dealt with sensitively, but said that he didn't think it was something to be "too concerned about" and that it was a matter that should be discussed with councils.