From April this year, the government is bringing in a sweeping set of changes to social benefits, with new names, new rules and – the Department of Work and Pensions has just launched a consultation - new statistics.
The government is calling the new scheme Universal Credit. The original idea had been to roll together the cash support offered poor households, but that has proved too difficult: separate benefits for pensioners, the disabled and children will remain. But households with adults of working age, in and out of work, will experience a major rationalization of state support, and tougher eligibility rules.
The most high profile of the changes is a cap, an upper limit, in the total amount of benefits a working-age household can receive – in theory it will be no more than the average weekly wage for working households. But the benefits system was and remains complicated. The administration of support for rents and housing costs is moving to local authorities and councils may choose to administer systems in different ways – though all are under pressure to cut costs.
In line, it says, with the government’s broader aims of opening up data and making government more transparent, the DWP says it will put out more data on benefits, showing in detail the characteristics and location of households making claims on social security.