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Type: Journal Articles
ISSN: Prin 0143-5671 Online: 1475-5890
Published in: Fiscal Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, March 2012
Volume, issue, pages: Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 39–71
JEL classification: I38
Keywords: welfare reform, income distribution, work incentives
Alongside a series of cuts that will reduce welfare spending by £18 billion per year by 2014–15, the UK government announced in November 2010 plans to integrate and simplify means-tested welfare benefits and in-work tax credits for working-age adults into a single programme, to be known as Universal Credit and to be phased in from October 2013. The aims were to make it easier for claimants to claim benefits, to make the gains to work more transparent and to reduce the amount spent on administration and lost in fraud and error. More households will see entitlements rise from the move to Universal Credit considered in isolation than will see entitlements fall; in aggregate, entitlements will rise by nearly £1.1 billion a year. Low-income families will see their entitlements rise by more than high-income families, on average, and couples will gain more from the reform, on average, than single-adult families, especially if there are also children in the family. In general, those facing the weakest incentive to work at all, or the weakest incentive to increase earnings, see their incentives strengthened, including those with very low earnings and hours worked per week and those who at present experience simultaneous withdrawal of multiple means-tested benefits and tax credits. But a Council Tax Benefit that operates separately from Universal Credit, and that has rules that vary across English local authorities, could easily undermine many of the supposed advantages of Universal Credit.