Duncan Smith argues universal credit will simplify the system, making it easier for people on benefits to make the leap into work. According to the government, a third of the 8 million households it covers will be better off. But about 450,000 disabled people will lose financially, according to Disability Rights UK, while 400,000 of the poorest households – such as single parent households with children – will be worse off by 2015, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing.
This latest phase of benefits reform will bring to 42 the bewildering number of social security cuts introduced by the coalition since May 2010. Collectively, these cuts mean households will cumulatively receive £16bn less than in 2010-11, says the CPAG. By 2015, ministers are aiming to save £18bn a year from the welfare budget, and they have signalled a further £10bn cut from 2016. The spending review in June is expected to set out further measures to contain the growing welfare bill.
Social analysts are concerned that deprivation levels are going back to those of 30 years ago, with the poorest families worse off than they were under Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.Debt and food poverty are growing, homelessness is increasing, and demand on food banks is soaring – a sign of more people falling through the welfare net. The social impact of this impoverishment of Britain's poorest families – with more than 60% of such households in work – will unravel recent achievements in tackling poverty, say campaigners. According to Alison Garnham, chief executive of the CPAG, the coalition "is on course to leave behind the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation".
Others see the welfare agenda as presaging a profound shift in the relationship between the state and its most vulnerable citizens. "Last year I warned that we risk a decade of destitution. Some thought I was being over-dramatic," says Julia Unwin, head of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. "I am more convinced than ever that we have a perfect storm brewing; the reforms to welfare, the economic slowdown and spiralling costs, together with an increasingly spiteful tone in how we describe people in poverty, risks the UK becoming a nation where people face destitution."
Patrick Butler, The Guardian