Welfare Benefits

At the close of 1942, the wartime coalition government commissioned a report entitled 'Social Insurance and Allied Services'lxvii, written by Sir William Beveridge, a highly-regarded economist and expert on unemployment problems. The Beveridge Report quickly became the blueprint for the modern British welfare state, aiming to provide all citizens with a comprehensive life-long system of social insurance. In return for a weekly tax contribution, benefits would be paid in times of unemployment, sickness, retirement or spousal death. Beveridge wanted to ensure that there was an acceptable minimum standard of living in Britain, below which, nobody fell.

Today, the welfare state of the United Kingdom comprises expenditures intended to improve health, education, employment and social security of British citizens, with £29.7 billion spent on housing related benefits between 2014-15lxviii. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 – the largest reform the welfare system has seen since its inception introduced a wide range of revisions to financial benefits and tax credits, with changes aiming to reduce welfare dependency and patronage working householdslxix.

The implementation of Universal Credit - a single monthly payment for people in or out of work, which replaces singular benefit payments with a combination of housing related benefits and allowances made for living expenses – was found to have left 60% of its initial claimants in severe financial hardshiplxx. With media attention focused heavily upon claimants facing serious financial deprivation, on 18th October 2017, MPs supported - by 299 votes to 0 - Labour’s motion for a pause in the roll-out in order for problems in the system to be fixed.

Whilst not without major obstacles and serious challenges to overcome, the welfare benefit scheme is generally inclusive to people experiencing homelessness or those who are at risk of homelessness, and it is evident that the private rented sector is adapting and largely responsive to meeting demand: The number of households receiving support to pay rent to private landlords rose 42% between 2008 and 2016. Annual expenditure on Local Housing Allowance rose to £9.3bn during this period, nearly double the amount paid 10 years previouslylxxi.

Shelter state that the ‘Housing First’ model presents a particularly innovative use of the private rented sector at a time when increasing emphasis is being placed upon its viability for households in housing needlxxii. The House of Commons, Communities and Local Government Committee, however, stated in their 2013-14 report entitled ‘The Private Rental Sector’lxxiii that if the private rented home market is to become more mature, it is important that all parties are aware of their respective rights and responsibilities.

In January 2016, Crisis launched their ‘No Home, No Less’ campaign, recognising that private renting helps people escape homelessness and calling on the government to ensure the right support is available for landlords – as well as the people they are willing and able to provide with a homelxxiv.

Citations

lxvii. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2560775/
lxviii. https://visual.ons.gov.uk/welfare-spending/
lxix. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/contents/enacted/data.htm
lxx. https://www.boltoncab.co.uk/Global/Waiting%20for%20Credit%20PDF%20final%20(003)%20Nov%202015.pdf
lxxi. https://www.housing.org.uk/press/press-releases/private-landlords-double-takings-from-public-purse-to-9-billion/  (Web version unavailable)
lxxii. https://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/145853/GP_Briefing_Housing_First.pdf  (Web version unavailable)
lxxiii. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmcomloc/50/50.pdf
lxxiv. http://community.crisis.org.uk/home---no-less-will-do/home-no-less-will-do-campaign (Web version unavailable)

Copyright © by Amy.F.Varle, January 2018.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.

The views and opinions expressed in this report and its content are those of the author and not of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which has no responsibility or liability for any part of the report.

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