Plans to move Iain Duncan Smith is hardly reassuring for housing associations
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
Plans to move Iain Duncan Smith is hardly reassurance to housing associations
It's ironic that Prime Minister David Cameron's first reshuffle became almost more telling for the one minister that blocked a move from his post than for the several other ministers that got the boot or swapped their day jobs.
Speculation is rife as to why Downing Street felt the need to move Iain Duncan Smith – one of the architects of the biggest welfare shake-up since Beveridge and the man in charge of reducing welfare expenditure through unpopular policies like the benefit cap and the under-occupation reforms to social housing.
According to reports, IDS was offered the Ministry of Justice role, with the Government keen on the hard-line approach of Chris Grayling to spearhead its further assault on the welfare bill.
One school of thought is that chancellor George Osborne – not content with getting booed at the Paralympic Games over disability benefit cuts – wants to make a further £10bn of cuts to welfare by 2016 and IDS, the secretary of state for Work and Pensions, says it’s impossible to do without targeting no-go areas like benefits for the elderly such as winter fuel payments, free TV licences and bus passes.
Further speculation also suggests that senior Whitehall officials are getting cold feet over the implementation of Universal Credit – ironic, since there is a work and pensions committee holding its first evidence session on the reform’s progress next week – and fear IDS could put a block on any tinkering to the new system.
Either way, it is unsettling information for housing associations who are busy preparing their tenants for the introduction of Universal Credit next year which will see a single monthly directly-received benefit, replacing the welter of means-tested benefits from October.
The housing associations I’ve spoken to are already preparing for an extra £10bn cut in welfare spending.
The Government has already planted the seed of cutting the automatic right for Under 25s to claim housing benefit – something which landlords are bitterly against, particularly those running supported housing schemes for under 25s who have, for example, fled their homes over domestic violence. The reform, in a nutshell, would render those schemes unviable overnight.
It’s also conceivable that extra savings can be achieved by the DWP accelerating the roll-out of Universal Credit, where any sort of change in a claimant’s circumstances could trigger a switch to the new benefit.
It’s also easy to see that it will extend both the ‘bedroom tax’ in the social sector to the elderly and bring in the shared accommodation rate age extension (SAR) to the Under 35s to the social sector, citing that the reform will “bring the social sector more in line with the private sector”.
It’s something of a strange position that the housing sector could now be hoping that the man who has battled to push through housing benefit cuts keeps his job and fends off yet further cuts to the welfare bill.
Ross Macmillan is the deputy editor of 24housing magazine.