A recent study by the Bevan Foundation has called for the establishment of a “ Welsh Benefits System”. It found that over £400 million in welfare type payments are distributed by devolved bodies but that the system  lacks coherence and does not operate in a strategically focused way.

Just over half of all public expenditure in Wales is undertaken by devolved bodies e.g. Welsh Government, NHS, housing, and local government. The bulk of the remainder is through welfare payments which constitute over one third of all Welsh public expenditure. While the overwhelming bulk of these these payments are administered and delivered by the Westminster government a relatively small element is delivered by via devolved Welsh public bodies. However in terms of Welsh social protection payments, the sum is not insignificant and it operates to complement the main welfare benefit system.

These payments cover twelve different schemes which were included in the study. They include Council Tax Reduction Scheme, Free School Meals, Disabled Facilities Grants, Education Maintenance Allowance and Discretionary Assistance Fund. They all operate under their own rules with varying eligible criteria and administered through a range of separate organisations who have their own way doing business.

In view of this the Bevan Foundation calls on the Welsh Government to review all of these payments with purpose of establishing a new “Welsh Benefits System” which would have a clearer strategic focus, be less complex, easier to access and be more consistent in its operation across Wales.

It sets out five principles on how the system should operate:-
• It should focus on households on low incomes, defined as being eligible for Universal Credit, and use the same criterion across all schemes.
• It should provide cash or in-kind help that is sufficient to make a real difference to household incomes
• It has a single point of access for several benefits, using online, phone or postal methods.
• It is based on eligibility for and an entitlement to assistance, not discretion.
• Applicants are treated with dignity and respect.

At a time when we are facing into a period of increased unemployment and financial hardship these proposals need serious consideration. In addition they provide an important stimulus to a wider debate on whether other social protection payments should be devolved to allow the Welsh Government and other devolved bodies to develop a more coherent anti-poverty strategy in Wales.


https://www.bevanfoundation.org/publications/a-welsh-benefits-system/


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