The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC) has today announced the launch of a new inquiry into the effectiveness of the welfare system in protecting vulnerable people from poverty.
The Committee’s new inquiry, launched as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty makes an investigative visit to the UK, will consider how effectively the welfare system works to protect against hardship and chronic deprivation.
Some of the issues included in the scope of the inquiry include the introduction of Universal Credit, the benefit cap, benefits freeze, and the controversial use of benefit sanctions. The Committee’s latest work on Universal Credit looks at how Government will safeguard some of the most vulnerable members of our society as it implements this huge programme of change.
It comes after some MPs described policies like the benefits freeze as “cruel” and “immoral”, after concerns were ignored in the Autumn Budget.
A previous WPSC inquiry looked into the effectiveness of local welfare safety nets, and concluded that welfare changes risk leading people into severe hardship and called on Government to ensure reforms such as the benefit cap do not unfairly penalise people who cannot escape it.
For example, some claimants cannot find or move to cheaper housing, because none is available, or cannot move in to work because they are a single parent and there is no appropriate childcare in their area.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are now seeing the grim, if unintended, consequences of the Government’s massive welfare reforms across several major inquiries.
“Policy decision after policy decision has piled the risks of major changes onto the shoulders of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and then onto local authorities, services and charities scrambling to catch them if and when they fall.
“The welfare safety net ought to be catching people before they are plunged into debt, hardship and hunger. Instead it appears to be unravelling before our very eyes.
“The Committee now wants to find out whether the Government’s policies are sufficient to save people from destitution—and, if not, what more needs to be done.”