A British Minister is concealing reports detailing the impact of Tory welfare reforms. That isn’t good enough
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY PEXELS
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey has stated that she will not publish papers – comprising five reports and extensive research – detailing the impact of Conservative welfare reforms. Importantly, these findings outline research on the impact of the benefit cap, universal credit, deaths of benefits claimants and benefits sanctions.
Coffey’s predecessors previously committed to publishing the findings of these reports after a perceived erosion in public trust in the Department for Work and Pensions, with her subsequent refusal to release this information deemed dangerous by the likes of Disability Rights UK. Ken Butler, Policy Adviser, states: “We’re not talking about just one report and one subject. We’re talking about a whole swathe of reports about important aspects of. The system. The DWP are operating behind a wall of secrecy.”
The reports, firstly, evaluate the reduction in the benefit cap which has notably remained the same since 2016 despite concerns over the cost-of-living crisis: this ranges from £13,4000 for individuals outside of London to £23,000 for families living in the capital. 1.3 million children in London alone come from families which struggle to afford basics including food and nappies.
The various papers also report on the accessibility of the Department for Work and Pensions’ websites and apps used to issue and update benefit claims by disabled people, the deaths of benefit claimants and research into the effectiveness of support for claimants of universal credit deemed vulnerable. In 2021, a BBC investigation uncovered that 82 claimants – including Philippa Day, Errol Graham and Jodey Whiting – died after alleged DWP activity such as a termination of benefits. Cases like these have led to more than 150 government reviews since 2012.
A worrying outcome, these concealed statistics are likely to evidence the implications of these reforms on LGBTQI people across the UK. LGBTQI people are disproportionately impacted by poverty, with research conducted by PSE on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation finding that gay men are more likely than their cis, heterosexual counterparts to receive income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit. Stonewall reports that one in five LGBTQI people – 18% – have experienced homelessness for a period of their lives.
Similarly, trans people globally are at risk of poverty: one-third of respondents to a US study stated that they were living in poverty, further reporting an unemployment rate of 15%. Stonewall finds that, in the UK specifically, one in four trans people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
In London specifically, Trust For London found that, in exploring LGBTQI Londoners’ unmet needs, over one third of respondents reported earning less than £15,000 per annum. This figure is lower than the London Living Wage and includes both university-educated and non-university-educated individuals. This suggests that amongst LGBTQI Londoners, education has little to no bearing on income levels.
Further, youth homelessness disproportionately impacts LGBTQI people: akt finds that 59% of young people experiencing homelessness have undergone some form of harassment or discrimination when accessing services, and 24% were not aware of any support services available to them. The system isn’t set up adequately for LGBTQI people, despite the community being significantly impacted by poverty and homelessness.
It comes as little surprise that, under the direction of Thérèse Coffey – who voted against equal marriage in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to publish this information. The findings are likely to be brutal, evidencing the sustained impact of Tory welfare reforms on vulnerable people – LGBTQI people, disabled people, low-income people and more – across the UK. We need transparency, but most of all, we need change.
If you’re in the UK and currently experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the following organisations can provide immediate support:
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