Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills
The UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduces two new benefits: Universal Credit, which will eventually replace a number of in and out of work income-based benefits; and Personal Independence Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance. The introduction of these new benefits will have significant implications for Welsh Government passported benefits and services that currently use or base their eligibility on the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) benefits which are going to be replaced. It will also impact on other Welsh Government legislation that makes reference to those benefits. The changes will also affect the new schemes which the Welsh Government is being required to develop as a result of the welfare reforms.
The list at Annex 1 sets out Welsh Government passported benefits, and other existing Welsh Government legislation, which makes reference to current income-based DWP benefits and will need to be amended.
The Welsh Government is endeavouring to deal with the challenge of amending its own legislation in response to these radical welfare reforms. In summary, as a result of the UK Government’s changes, we are required to develop new eligibility criteria for passported benefits. Details about how Universal Credit will operate are still being developed and we have yet to receive sufficiently detailed data at a Wales level to enable us to assess the impact of new eligibility criteria.
There is currently no confirmation from DWP as to the scale and scope of the Pathfinder for Universal Credit, detailed agreements are yet to be worked through on DWP capacity to support eligibility checks for passporting, and comprehensive information is needed on the final arrangements regarding award notifications for Universal Credit. We understand that the information is not yet available or is under review.
The need for further detailed information from DWP, confirmation of the Universal Credit regulations, which are yet to be laid before Parliament, and demanding timescales make this an increasingly challenging task. Despite this, we will continue our efforts with a view to ensuring that the amendments are in force by 1 April 2013.
As Welsh Government develops its approaches, we will continue to work closely with our partners and take action wherever possible, to mitigate the negative impacts of UK Government’s Welfare reforms in Wales.