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Citizens Advice response to the Welfare White paper

Citizens Advice Head of Welfare, Lizzie Iron said:

“We welcome the government’s commitment to simplify the benefits system and to make work pay. One universal benefit managed by one Government department will be much simpler. People can be sure that they will improve their income from moving into work or from working more hours. However it’s vital that the government doesn’t make work pay by cutting out-of-work benefits.

“The Government has also announced a tougher set of sanctions, which will be toughest for those deemed capable of work (those currently claiming JSA). Yet this group includes many people with disabilities or poor health. So it is vital that the Government ensures vulnerable claimants are supported and protected from inappropriate sanctions.

“We also have grave concerns about the unintended consequences of forcing people to undertake work for benefits, and benefits being stopped if people don’t comply.

“People who struggle to find employment, due to a lack of jobs or because they face disadvantage in the labour market should not be penalised if it takes them longer to find work. The proposal to cut 10per cent of housing benefit for people who have been unable to find a job within a year is therefore unfair.

“The new system will provide less support for single people who will not get earnings disregards. This will affect their ability to make work pay once extra costs, such as travel, are taken into account.

"The paper still leaves many of the difficult questions unanswered. It is not clear how help with Council Tax and childcare costs will be covered.

“The new system represents fundamental reform and comes on top of numerous complex changes and cuts already announced in the Budget and the CSR. The Government needs to produce clear and transparent information on how the new system will work and robust safeguards for people who will need support. Some of our most vulnerable clients could find themselves in debt and hardship, and it may take them years to recover. It is vital that the government invests to make the transition as smooth as possible and to ensure that the end product is worth the disruption and confusion which are bound to arise.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information in England and Wales see www.citizensadvice.org.uk
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality. For online advice and information see (New window) www.adviceguide.org.uk
  3. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 7.1 million problems from April 2009 to March 2010, an 18% increase on the previous year. For full 2009/2010 service statistics see: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20100517
  4. Out of 22 national charities, the Citizens Advice service is ranked by the general public as being the most helpful, approachable, professional, informative, effective / cost effective, reputable and accountable. (nfpSynergy’s Brand Attributes survey, May 2010).
  5. Most Citizens Advice service staff are trained volunteers, working at around 3,300 service outlets across England and Wales.
  6. Volunteer hotline 08451 264264 (local rate)

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