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

Generations trapped on the dole for decades

R. Prince

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 27th 2009, p. 16

In August 2009 there were 3.3 million households with no one over the age of 16 in employment, up 240,000 on 2008. There were 1.9 million children living in workless households. This means that the government is highly unlikely to achieve its target of halving child poverty by 2010.

How is JobCentre Plus coping with the recession?

P. Bivand

Working Brief, May 2009, p. 5-6

The job centres closures programme has been halted due to rising unemployment and approval has been given to raise the JobCentre Plus headcount from 70,000 to 82,000. Despite staff dealing with around 50% more new Job Seekers' Allowance claims than in 2008, processing times have improved. An extra 12,000 staff will be deployed to maintain the regular interview programme for claimants, which is used to monitor and encourage jobsearch activity.

Search for the missing unemployed

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Aug.12th 2009, p. 2

Three quarters of a million people made redundant during the recession appear not to be claiming welfare benefits. Ministers believe that this may be due to people choosing to live on their redundancy pay or savings instead of signing on for Jobseekers' Allowance. Another theory is that some of those who have lost their jobs are 'second earners', many of them women, who are relying on a partner's salary instead of claiming benefits. The Work and Pensions Secretary has launched an inquiry.

Six million 'will be on state benefits'

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Aug. 18th 2009, p. 1

The Policy Exchange think tank has forecast that six million working age adults will be claiming benefits by August 2009, up from 5.8 million in February 2009. The Department for Work and Pensions has disputed the prediction.

Tackling pensioner poverty

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 411)

The level of pensioner poverty has declined markedly since 1997. However there are still two million pensioners in poverty in 2009. The Committee considers this to be unacceptable, and in this reports looks at what more the government could do to lift pensioners out of poverty. It recommends:

  • That local authorities should work more closely with the Pension, Disability and Carers Service and exchange information about people who are eligible for Pension Credit, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.
  • Introduction of a single phone enquiry line for all three benefits
  • That the Personal Expenses Allowance paid to people in care homes should be raised to 40.00 a week
  • That better financial advice should be made available by government to pensioners and those planning retirement
  • That the default retirement age of 65 should be abolished to ensure that every pensioner who wishes to do so can continue working.

The Warm Front Scheme

Public Accounts Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC350)

The Warm Front Scheme provides assistance to eligible households with the installation of heating and insulation in order to improve household energy efficiency and reduce fuel poverty. Between June 2005 and March 2008, the scheme assisted 635,000 households and cost 852m. Unfortunately the scheme continues to be poorly targeted. Nearly 75% of households entitled to a grant are unlikely to be in fuel poverty, while the Scheme is only available to 35% of the genuinely fuel poor. In addition the Scheme does not prioritise those with the most energy inefficient accommodation. Between June 2005 and March 2008, 34m was paid to households whose properties were already energy efficient. Moreover, the maximum grant under the Scheme did not change between July 2005 and April 2009. Over the same period, labour costs for gas and oil central heating rose by 8.9% and costs for other services by 7.3%. One impact of this has been an increase in the number of applicants required to contribute to the cost of the works from 1 in 10 in 2005/06 to 1 in 4 in 2007/08. Consequently some 6,000 households withdrew their applications and 1,400 opted for less expensive measures.

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