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

10m offered help to cut fuel bills

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 10th 2008, p. 2

Reports that grants for insulation and other energy-saving measures will be offered to up to ten million low-income homeowners under an expanded Warm Front scheme. These grants will be funded in part by the energy companies and should help households reduce their fuel bills permanently.

Child maintenance redesign rolls out

N. Wikeley

Family Law, vol.38, 2008, p. 787-788

The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Act received royal assent on June 5th 2008. Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the Act establish the framework for the redesign of the child support system. Three reforms in the Act are already in place:

  • section 1 has been brought into force for the purpose of appointing members of the new Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission which will replace the Child Support Agency
  • the requirement that parents on income support must apply for child maintenance has been abolished
  • section 35 confirms that minutes of agreement between separating or divorcing couples in Scotland have the same status as a consent order in family proceedings in England.

The new formula for calculating child maintenance payments based on the non-resident parent's gross income for the previous tax year will not come into force until 2010.

Industry questions Brown's energy pledge

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 12th 2008, p. 4

Over the next three years, energy firms will be forced to spend 910m promoting efficiency measures. Anyone aged over 70 in receipt of benefits can claim free loft lagging and cavity wall insulation. Everyone else can claim discounts of up to 50%, depending on their circumstances. The Prime Minister expects about two million homes a year to be insulated over the next three years, but the industry is calling for help from government to train the extra staff required to do the work.

Jobcentre network revamp seen as paradigm

N. Timmins

Financial Times, Sept. 11th 2008, p. 4

The 1.9bn merger of 1500 employment and social security offices to form 800 Jobcentre Plus facilities has produced significant savings and better services according to a report by the Commons Public Affairs Committee, which suggested that other public services 'cannot afford to ignore this exemplary good practice'.

Labour's policy on money for parents: combining care with paid work

M. Campbell

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 457-470

Labour's policies have greatly increased the amounts of public money available to households with caring responsibilities, and this has reduced the extent of 'free-riding' for those without. For lone parents, Labour has improved the options for both paid work and full-time care by redistributing money to them whether they earn or not. However, policy is now being brought into line with the EU norm and lone parents with children over seven will be required to work at least part-time from 2010. However, mothers in couples qualifying for working tax credit are faced with disincentives to work as single earner families do better out of the benefits system. Labour's main contribution to encouraging mothers in couples to earn has been through help with childcare costs. At the intra-household level, Labour's policies have done less to promote redistribution to caregivers (usually mothers) and they have not framed policies in such a way as to encourage fathers to undertake care work. This in turn may constrain partnered mothers employment choices.

Little Britons: financing childcare choice

C. Hakim and others

Policy Exchange, 2008

Report recommends radical changes to the tax and benefits system that would enable parents to remain at home for the first three years of their child's life. The changes could be worth more than 500.00 per month to women.

No-go zones

L. Phelps

Roof, Sept./Oct 2008, p. 46-47

In 2007, in preparation for the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance for new claimants in private rented dwellings in England, the Rent Service undertook a review of the geographical boundaries which determine the maximum amount of benefit a claimant can receive. The number of rental market areas or localities was reduced from 305 to 155. This has left many existing Housing Benefit claimants facing shortfalls, despite their income and rent remaining the same. This is because they have been bracketed with neighbouring areas where rents are lower, and have therefore seen their Housing Benefit cut.

Pensioners lose out in tax credit curb

C. Hope, A. Pierce and R. Murray-West

Daily Telegraph, Sept 22nd 2008, p. 1+2

Government has cut the 12-month period for claiming backdated pension tax credits to three months with effect from October 6th 2008. The cut will save 240m between 2008 and 2010.

System failure

W. Horwood

Roof, Sept./Oct. 2008, p. 12

Local Housing Allowance replaced Housing Benefit for private tenants in April 2008. Unfortunately, rents have risen faster than Local Housing Allowances and private landlords are now shying away from renting to tenants on benefit. Moreover, the Allowance is paid directly to the tenant and is being used by formerly homeless tenants with chaotic lives to settle other debts, leading to evictions.

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