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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2010): Social security - UK

Decision making and appeals in the benefits system

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2010 (House of Commons papers, session 2009/10; HC 313)

The current system for decision making and appeals in connection with social security benefits was established following the introduction of the Social Security Act 1998. This legislation passed ultimate responsibility for benefits decisions from the Chief Adjudication Officer to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The task of everyday decision making is carried out by a large number of staff in Jobcentre Plus, the Pension, Disability and Carers Service and local authorities who make decisions on claimants' entitlement to social security benefits. The Work and Pensions Committee believes that the cost of official error due to overpayments of benefits is far too high at 800 million in 2008-09, and is concerned that this figure has risen significantly since 2000-01. They are equally concerned by the increase in the total amount of underpayments resulting from official error since 2004-05. In light of the 1998 reforms of the decision making and appeals system, which were designed to improve decision making, they ask the Department to explain why levels of official error have risen since 2000-01. The Committee recommends that the Government should establish a Welfare Commission to examine the existing benefits system and model possible alternative structures with the aim of creating a fair but simpler system that claimants and their representatives are able to understand more easily and DWP staff are able to administer more accurately.

Fit for work? Health, employability and challenges for the UK welfare reform agenda

D. Houston and C. Lindsay (Guest editors)

Policy Studies, vol.31, 2010, p. 133-142

This special issue grew from concern about the need to strengthen and expand the evidence base around the processes that have led to large numbers of people claiming disability benefits in the UK and 'what works' in helping them to rejoin the labour market. It brings together contributions from some of Britain's leading labour market and social policy researchers to provide evidence and commentary on the recent and planned major reforms of Incapacity Benefit. Contributors explore three main questions:

  • what are the main causes of the rise in the numbers claiming Incapacity Benefits
  • what will reduce the number of claimants
  • what structures are likely to deliver activation policies effectively.
  • It is concluded that the sharp decline in manual employment and the marginalisation of people with low skills have driven the rise in numbers claiming disability benefits.

    Economic regeneration in less prosperous areas combined with intensive and sustained supply-side support measures will slowly bring numbers of claimants down. Delivery of support needs to be flexible and tailored to individual needs and to be able to access local and expert knowledge in a range of organisations, including JobCentre Plus and the NHS.

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