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In May 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions commissioned the Social Security Advisory Committee to undertake an independent review of passported benefits and their interaction with universal credit.
The committee has now updated the department on the progress of this review.
To inform its review, the committee undertook a period of consultation and information gathering from May to July 2011. This included:
a public consultation exercise that received over 60 responses from individuals and organisations representing disabled people, housing, offenders, schools and children, medical bodies, CAB, local councils, debt advice, fuel poverty, carers, and the devolved Administrations;a consultation exercise targeted specifically at academics aimed at identifying relevant research evidence in this area; and a small piece of qualitative research including focus groups with welfare rights advisers and a small number of in-depth interviews and focus groups with individuals who are claiming or who have claimed passported benefits.
The information-gathering phase of the Social Security Advisory Committee's review has found that more than 25 different passported benefits are provided by government departments and through local authorities.
The committee's findings to date confirm that passported benefits are viewed by many respondents as fulfilling important needs. The consultation found that:
the value placed by claimants on individual passported benefits differs depending on their personal circumstances;respondents' views on the withdrawal and delivery of passported benefits were mixed. For example, some respondents supported a tapered withdrawal whilst others favoured a timed withdrawal when a claimant moves into work; andthe design of passported benefits should incentivise people to both move into work and stay in work.
The next stage of the committee's work will develop guiding principles for the design of passported benefits in relation to the universal credit. It has been asked to produce an advisory report by the end of January 2012. This report will set out the committee's full findings and the Department for Work and Pensions expects to publish this report and its response in spring 2012.
The Department for Work and Pensions has established a cross-Whitehall senior stakeholders group. This supports the department's ambition for a joined-up and comprehensive approach to passported benefits following the introduction of universal credit.