Elements of the Government’s planned housing benefit reforms are “under review”, according to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
MPs were told a proposal to cut housing benefit payments by 10% when claimants have been on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for more than a year would remain under consideration until legislation is finalised early next year.
But Mr Duncan Smith said there was international evidence the plan would achieve its aim of getting people back into work.
Ministers have come under pressure to rethink the package of housing benefit changes – which also includes a £400-a-week cap and reducing Local Housing Allowance rates – but David Cameron has vowed to press ahead.
Last month the Prime Minister dismissed reports there could be a climbdown, telling Labour leader Ed Miliband: “We are going forward with all the proposals we put in the spending review and in the Budget.”
The changes are intended to save £1.8 billion a year by the end of the parliament and are an attempt to crack down on the “out of control” housing benefit bill, which the Government says had almost doubled in the past 10 years to £20 billion.
But Labour has branded them “potentially devastating”, saying they risk displacing families and increasing homelessness while actually costing the taxpayer money. Liberal Democrats have also voiced concerns.
During Commons question time, Labour’s Anne Begg (Aberdeen South) urged Mr Duncan Smith to reconsider the JSA proposal – particularly in light of plans to evict new social housing tenants if their financial circumstances improve.
“If we take that proposal along with what the Housing Minister was saying this morning…people in social rented housing will be kicked out of their homes if they go into work, and under this proposal people will be kicked out of their home if they don’t go into work.”
Mr Duncan Smith replied: “We certainly keep all of this under review and we intend to keep it under review all the way through to the (Welfare Reform) Bill (due to be published in January)”.