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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2009): Social security - UK

Department for Work and Pensions: management of benefit overpayment debt

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC294)

The report found that the Department for Work and Pensions had made overpayments to benefits claimants worth 558m in 2007/08. Total benefits payments came to 106bn. In the event of overpayment, the Department is supposed to seek to recover the excess. In 2007/08, it recovered 272m , a rise from 180m in 2005/06. During 2007/08, the Department also wrote off 205m in outstanding overpayments, including 28m wrongly paid to deceased claimants. The accumulated total of benefits overpayments owed to the Department now stands at 1.78bn, a rise of 6.6% in a year. The report concluded that restrictions on how quickly the Department is permitted to claw back money are limiting its ability to reduce outstanding debt. It cannot claim more than 9.15 a week from people who have received overpayments and are still on benefits. In other cases it has been unable to trace people who received excess payments but have since left the welfare system.

An idea without substance?

M. Hunter

Community Care, May 14th 2009, p. 24-25

The government has proposed giving Jobcentre advisers the power to test benefits claimants for alcohol problems and to force those with an addiction to undergo treatment. Claimants who refused would lose benefits. There are concerns that there are insufficient treatment places available to deal with a large influx of such reluctant clients. Rehabilitation staff are also adamant that compulsion will not work. It is expected that the proposals will be dropped in the face of united opposition.

A policy of inconsistency and hypocrisy: United Kingdom social security policy and European citizenship

P. Larkin

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 31, 2009, p. 33-45

The expansion of the European Union in April 2004 to include eight East European nations formerly under Soviet control, and the accession of Romania and Bulgaria in January 2007 have led to a vast influx of workers and job seekers from this region into the United Kingdom. Although these migrants have access to the UK labour market, under the regulations currently in force they cannot claim any income-based benefits until they have worked for a registered employer for a full year. It is argued that these regulations may conflict with the right of European citizens to move freely throughout the EU.

(See also Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 31, 2009, p. 47-58 for discussion of the relevant case of Zalewska v Department for Social Development)

Thousands of jobless rely on food handouts

H. Wallop

Daily Telegraph, May 27th 2009, p. 9

More people are relying on food parcels from charities as the recession causes an increasing number to go hungry. People who lose their jobs and have no savings are soon in crisis as accessing the benefits system is slow and complex.

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