Independent report

SSAC Occasional Paper 12: The cumulative impact of welfare reform: a commentary

The cumulative impact of welfare reform: a commentary - summary and report (April 2014).


The Social Security Advisory Committee produces Occasional Papers to support the advice offered to the Secretary of State in accordance with the Committee’s remit.

The focus of this report (April 2014) is on working-age benefits and tax credits.

Since coming to power in May 2010 the government has pursued a programme of welfare reform which can be expected to impact on claimant households in many and varied ways. We have found it difficult to assess the cumulative impact of these reforms, but have recognised a number of the concerns raised by the currently available evidence. We note that methodological challenges are compounded by the need to assess impact over time and in different parts of the country. Indeed reforms which have an immediate and negative impact on claimant income might at a later stage be considered to be positive if they are subsequently shown to have brought about behavioural change such as finding secure employment. Some overall assessments of impact are available, and this report looks to summarise their findings. However, clear gaps in the evidence base remain.

We made 4 recommendations. These included a call for further secondary analysis, based on HM Treasury’s published distributional analysis, bringing together the cumulative impact of welfare reform on vulnerable groups such as disabled people.

We also called for DWP to produce a suite of case-study examples to illustrate the cumulative impact of welfare reform for particular claimant groups, and to extend the forthcoming evaluation of Universal Credit so as to also evaluate the wider programme of reform. Finally, we recommended that following further analysis, DWP consider whether there have been any cumulative impacts on vulnerable claimant groups that need to be mitigated.

The government responded to this report in a letter from Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform to Paul Gray, SSAC chairman on 25 July 2014.