It's about to happen, the signs are there that the Coalition is considering a PR attack on Income Support claimants or gearing itself up for one if that decision has already been made, just as what has happened with Incapacity Benefit, ESA, DLA and Jobseekers Allowance claimants. Income Support comes just behind Jobseekers Allowance in the IFS estimate of welfare spending for 2010.
It is as I mentioned earlier in the case, the only other benefit an unemployed claimant can live on. The claimant will either be a person on income-based JSA or ESA and with a low income, or they will be ineligible for them but otherwise not able to work either because they are pregnant, a carer or only able to work part-time. It's not the hardest benefit to claim(the honour held by Disability Living Allowance), but it is possibly the most complicated. It's ripe for plundering and there are few who understand it well enough to challenge what might happen to it. It's one thing to confess ignorance, but another entirely to confess defeat and I am loath to. It's simply not possible to become informed just by reading.
This investigation will just look at the data. All I can do is warn everyone to beware any solid claims of fact about who can and can't claim Income Support.
As of this point the only thing the Coalition have announced is that lone parents will have to look for work when their youngest child reaches the age of 5 rather than 7 which the IFS estimates will save £180 million. I do not know if the IFS factors in that once lone parents are expected to look for work that they are then eligible for and almost certainly will claim for Jobseekers Allowance on top of their Income Support. As they're more likely to do part-time work because they still have to actually look after their children for most of the day, they will still be claiming some Income Support. I don't know how the IFS came up with their figure but I'm guessing the Coalition will save no money unless they go much further than this and I don't put it past them.
For them, given their misrepresentations of other benefits I suppose Income Support claims just weren't falling fast enough.
You'll spot the big drop if you look closely(snark). It's caused by the over 60s being transferred to Pension Credit so let's have a look at that too.
The blue line is Pension Credit and Income Support combined and by the looks of it, most Income Support claimants prior to 2003 were over 60 and the number was set to rise suddenly as the first of the baby-boomers reached retirement age. Well that's cynical of me; the advantage of Pension Credit over Income Support is that pensioners with low incomes but some savings can receive it, the means-testing is set higher. But it still appears Labour were worried about the projected rise in Income Support claims and if so split the benefit by introducing a new one(remember that for a future post). Claimants under 60 however have only ever fallen in recent years; the downward trend on the green line begins with the introduction of Pension Credit even if the drop is disregarded. A downward trend: there is no reason for the Coalition to get pissy about Income Support at this time.You'd almost swear that all these graphs were the same one in different forms, a very familiar kind of shapeshifter.
The Chancellor's original plan was to cut welfare spending by £11 billion by 2014-15 when these figures were available and the IFS analysis was published. Since then he has indicated an extra £7 billion in cuts to welfare are on the table. That's each year, not over a period leading up to 2015, bumping that figure up closer to £28 billion. Osbourne made this decision in order to score a political point, that he would be cutting certain budgets less than Labour would have because he's shifting the cost to the poor, jobless, sick and disabled claiming benefits. Cheers for that Gideon. The 2010 Spending Review doesn't go into specifics on how this will be achieved and little had been heard from since then. Maybe it was just bluster from the Chancellor to grab headlines at the time for securing a paltry one percent less than Labour's cuts plan for departments. I don't think we can take that risk though.
Case file #4 finds that the Coalition's next step on it's welfare policy must be anticipated before they have a chance to act on it. There is no substantial cause for concern for the costs of any unemployment benefits on the basis of time series data. Case file #4 has run out of leads on unemployment benefits and will turn its attention next to the misuse of data in other areas. New case files will be opened to examine other matters relating to unemployment benefits and anticipate possible future misdemeanour by the Coalition.