Welfare reforms being pushed through by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, will cut into the household budgets of hundreds of thousands of low income families, according to new research.
In total, the switch from tax credits and other benefits introduced by Gordon Brown to the "universal credit" system being pioneered by Mr Duncan Smith is expected to cut the annual welfare bill by £500m. Labour says that is money taken from families in the "squeezed middle".
It has been calculated that 300,000 families where both partners are in low-paid work will be worse off, because they will lose 65p in benefits for every extra £1 they earn, which is 60 per cent higher than under the present system. Up to 100,000 low-incomes families will see the help they get towards the cost of childcare reduced by up to £3,980 a year, taking away much of the incentive to look for work.
Then there is DWP's insistence on an on-line system, ignoring the needs of those without access to the internet. In addition, the move to monthly payments will add its own complications. It is of course possible in certain circumstances to mitigate the effect of these problems but it all adds to the complexity.
The biggest bugbear, however, is the need to underpin the whole arrangement with a new computer system. Is it likely to be ready in time? Has any big government computer system ever been ready on time?