The latest reform of social security decision making and appeal arrangements took place over the period 1997 to 1999 through a combination of primary legislation, new regulations and internal administrative changes. The aims of the reforms were to improve the processes for decisions and appeals, to produce a less complex, more accurate and cost-effective system for making and changing decisions, and to preserve claimants’ rights to an independent review of decisions in appropriate cases. This article looks at the evidence base for evaluating the effects of the reforms and for assessing whether they have delivered their promise of improved decision making and appeals.
The conclusion is reached that the evidence base for evaluation is actually weak. What information does exist is not sufficiently transparent. There is a major gap in knowledge about the experiences of social security claimants and tribunal appellants after the reforms, which needs to be seriously addressed.
This article draws on an interview with Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform since May 2010, and explores the origins of Universal Credit and how it was turned over the course of five years or so from an aspirational idea into a detailed blueprint for change and finally into legislation in the form of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. What emerges is an intriguing case study in British policy making. At the time of the interview in July 2013 the implementation of Universal Credit had just begun in a small number of pilot areas. Lord Freud also discusses the objectives of Universal Credit and when and how we will know whether these are being met.