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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2000): Social Security - UK

APPROPRIATION ACCOUNTS 1998-99. VOL. 12, CLASS XII DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SECURITY

London: TSO, 2000 (House of Commons papers. Session 1999/2000; HCII)

Report by the National Audit Office reveals an underspend on disability benefits, and levels of benefit fraud and monetary error in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance high enough to give cause for concern.

BENEFITS MOVE FROM WALLETS TO PURSES

R Bennett

Financial Times, Mar. 8th 2000, p. 6

Describes the new Integrated Child Credit. This will bring together the child support components of the Working Families Tax Credit, income support/jobseekers' allowance, and the planned Children's Tax Credit due to start in April 2001. It will be paid direct to the primary carer, normally the mother, and families earning up to £30,000 per year could qualify. Child Benefit will stay outside the new regime.

BROWN TO EASE HOUSE BENEFIT RULES

J Hibbs

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 7th 2000, p. 2

Reports that the Chancellor is planning changes to the Housing Benefit rules that would allow people on income support to take low-paid jobs without losing as much help towards their housing costs. In the longer term, government is examining ways of integrating housing benefit and tax credit. Obstacles to this reform include the fact that only a small proportion of housing benefit claimants are eligible for tax credits. Housing associations have also warned ministers that they would expect compensation if their income from housing benefit dried up, threatening the government with the prospect of legal action in response to reform.

BUDGET TO FOCUS ON CHILD POVERTY

J. Freedland and L. Ward

Guardian, Feb. 17th 2000, pl. 1

Predicts reform of state support for children will be unveiled in the budget in April 2000. Apart from child benefit which will remain distinct, all other state allowances for children will be consolidated into an 'integrated child credit'. A baby premium of up to £70.00 per week may be added to the Working Families Tax Credit to ensure that families qualifying for the WFTC receive enough money to allow the mother to take her full six months maternity leave. The chancellor may also announce more money for the Sure Start scheme and launch a Children's Fund to support local and charity projects that work with children.

EVERYONE'S A WINNER

A. Thompson

Community Care, no. 1307, 2000, p. 26

Describes the Financial Assessments and Advice Project in Torbay, Devon. Specialist project staff visit clients in their own homes to help them with the complex process of claiming benefits.

HOUSING BENEFIT REFORM: PRICE INCENTIVES

P. Kemp and P. Leather

York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2000 (Findings; 120)

The present structure of housing benefit gives tenants no incentive to negotiate or shop around in relation to their housing expenditures. Hence complex administrative rules have been devised to prevent benefit being paid on unreasonable rents. A simpler and move transparent way of ensuring this would be to incorporate a 'shopping incentive' into the structure of the scheme for private tenants. Social housing tenants could be required to make a notional contribution to the rent.

LABOUR: WE'RE TAXING RICH TO AID POOR

A. Grice

Independent, Feb. 14th, 2000, p. 1

Reports admission by the Labour Party in an internal document that it is using the tax system to redistribute wealth from rich to poor. It is aimed at reassuring grass roots members that the government is not neglecting the party's traditional supporters.

(See also Guardian, Feb. 14th 2000, p. 1; Times, Feb. 14th 2000, p. 8; Financial Times, Feb. 14th 2000, p. 4).

LET HB BE

J Perry

Guardian, Feb. 3rd, 2000, p. 19

Presents proposals on rent reform for the social housing sector. Suggests that rents could be set at levels that relate, in part, to incomes in the same locality as well as reflecting market values. Tenants could also be given incentives to shop around for cheaper properties. For example, housing benefit could be split into two components. A flat-rate housing allowance could be incorporated into income support. A top-up could be paid separately to tenants based on a local average rent, not on the rent actually paid. This would encourage tenants to find accommodation at or below the average or benchmark rent.

MIXED BAG OF BENEFITS CHANGES

G. Vaux

Community Care, no. 1305, 2000, p. 27

Summarises recent changes to the benefits system including a Housing Benefit ruling affecting split families, child care charging and joint working.

ONE MILLION POOR PEOPLE TO GET FREE COMPUTER COURSES

J. Hibbs

Daily Telegraph, Feb. 17th 2000, p. 8

Announces the extension of provision of free training courses, loans for home computers, and the network of IT learning centres to cover all the registered unemployed in the country and all lone parents on benefit.

OWNERSHIP FOR ALL

G. Kelly and R. Lissauer

London: Institute for Public Policy Research, 2000

Proposes that every newborn should receive £1000 "baby bond" from the government to be invested until they reach the age of 18. The proceeds of the bond could be used to pay university fees, put down money on a house or start a small business. The initial bond would not be means-tested, but the government could follow-up the initial gift with extra payments for children of low-income families, matching every £1 contributed by the family with £3 from the state.

PAY TIME

R. Berthoud and M. Iacovou

Guardian, Feb. 11th 2000, p 23

Argues that having both parents in work is often necessary to lift families out of poverty and off benefits. Suggest that tax and benefit system should be adjusted to encourage two-earner families once children have reached school age. The use of part-time work as a route to full time jobs should also be encouraged.

SICK PAY CURB TO BEAT MALINGERING

J. Sherman and R. Watson

Times, Feb 24th 2000, p. 1

Workers who have been sick for six weeks will be interviewed by a personal adviser from the Benefit's Agency and cajoled back to work under new government plans. Claimants will be offered medical rehabilitation and physical aids such as back supports to help them sustain a job. Employers will also be contacted in an attempt to dissuade them from replacing chronically-ill staff.

TUCK OUT

S. Brighouse

Education and Training Review, vol. 2, Winter 1999, p. 17

Describes the Child Poverty Action Group's 'Free School Meals for Children who Need them' campaign. The CPAG campaign aims firstly to extend to all families receiving the new tax credits the entitlement to free school meals. The second aim is to maximise the take up of free school meals and the third is to see the introduction of minimum nutritional standards for school meals.

UNFINISHED SYMPHONY

M. Gardner

Public Finance, Jan. 28th - Feb. 3rd 2000, p. 27-28

Discusses changes to the Weekly Benefits Savings (WBS) scheme. WBS was devised to encourage councils to detect fraud within the housing benefit and council tax systems. The Department of Social Security sets each authority, a target or baseline and rewards the Council for every pound it achieves above the baseline. It also deducts pound-for-pound if the authority fails to achieve 75% of the target.

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