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

Homes on 15,000 in benefits double

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 13th 2009, p. 1

Official figures obtained by the Conservatives show that 1.2 million households received welfare benefits worth 15,000 or more in 2007/08, up from 600,000 in 1997/98. The Conservatives say that the Labour government has allowed a culture of dependency to flourish, where welfare is often more lucrative than working.

Picking up the benefits bill

K. Stanley and C. McNeil

Public Finance, Nov. 6th-12th 2009, p. 26-27

The authors argue that inevitable cuts in public spending during the recession mean that the social security system in the UK must be reformed. In order to maximise support for the poorest and most vulnerable, the value of universal benefit payments to the middle classes must be cut. Smaller amounts of Child Trust Fund or Child Benefit payments to the better off would finance more generous support for the poorest.

Supporting carers to care

Public Accounts Committee

London: TSO, 2009 (House of Commons papers, session 2008/09; HC 549)

There are an estimated six million unpaid carers in the United Kingdom looking after family or friends who are sick or disabled. The Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) provides two main forms of support to carers-paying carers' benefits and providing employment support-at an estimated cost of up to 2 billion a year. The main benefit available to carers is Carer's Allowance, which is payable to those who give up the opportunity of full-time work to provide care. Carers may also be eligible for Additional Amounts and Carer's Premiums on top of other benefits such as the State Pension. At November 2008, 900,000 carers met the entitlement rules and the value of the social care they provided has been estimated by the National Audit Office at 23 billion a year. The Department is unable to assess the effectiveness of its work to reach eligible carers and specific groups such as ethnic minorities as it does not know the benefit takeup rate. Benefits for carers are unnecessarily complex and cause confusion. About a fifth of carers who receive benefits have difficulties with some aspect of the application process. These difficulties include understanding the information provided by the Department and also what information they are required to provide. Carers' needs would often be met if the needs of the person being cared for were provided for. This outcome requires effective co-ordination of services between the Department and other organisations in central and local government, as well as the voluntary and community sector. Improving relationships at a local level would make it easier for carers to be referred quickly to the services they need. This report examines the Department on the steps it has taken to improve the delivery of benefits to carers and the support it provides to help them find employment.

Whatever happened to the human altruism gene? A service user's view of the Welfare Reform Bill

J. Elder-Woodward

Disability and Society, vol. 24, 2009, p. 799-802

The Welfare Reform Bill currently before Parliament provides for the privatisation of employment services and the reduction of benefits for disabled people. The author argues that the Bill devalues disabled people and will subject them to a regime that resembles the Poor Law. The author calls for an alternative approach that would remove the barriers within education, social care and the labour market that impede the equal participation of disabled people in society.

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