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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2008): Social security - UK

Couple penalty 2007/08: second annual review of the disposable incomes (after housing costs) of families on low and modest incomes living together and living apart

D. Draper

CARE, 2008

Research shows that a typical couple on a low to middle income would be 69.00 per week better off if they lived in separate homes because the benefits system favours single mothers. On average, couples are 10% worse off compared to single people than they were 12 months previously. The study found that out of 98 theoretical couples, with incomes ranging from basic benefits to 46,000 per year, 75% would get more money if they separated. The worst affected families were those with one parent working and one remaining at home to care for a child. In such cases, the family would receive 95.62 per week more in benefits if it broke up.

Deafblind people and families' experiences of direct payments

S. Shaw

London: Sense, 2008

This six-month study of 71 dafblind people and their families shows that councils are not properly implementing Department of Health guidance on direct payments. It found that hourly rates were insufficient to cover the cost of specialist staff. One person in the study was given 6.00 per hour to employ a carer for an epileptic deaf blind child. When the parent complained, the council manager's advice was to reduce the hours of care in order to pay a higher rate. Three-quarters of participants in the study were negative about the quality of information provided by councils on direct payments, and just under half said that they did not get enough support services. Moreover, 70% of respondents said it was difficult to find qualified or experienced staff to employ.

Tax credits and PAYE

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08; HC300)

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has overpaid 6bn in tax credits in the first three years of the scheme which was introduced in 2003. By the end of March 2007 it had collected 2bn of this debt and written off 0.7bn. It is unlikely to recover a further 1.6bn of the debts. The Committee concludes that there is little evidence that HMRC has brought the scheme under control. Many claimants cannot understand tax credits and there have been many complaints about the process of recovering overpayments. Tax credits continue to suffer from the highest rates of error and fraud in central government.

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