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

21st Century Welfare: getting closer to radical benefit reform?

R. Sainsbury

Public Policy Research, June-Aug. 2010, p. 102-107

The Coalition government's consultation paper 21st Century Welfare contains radical ideas for the simplification of the benefits system, but has attracted negative criticism, being seen by some as an attack on the unemployed at a time when they are least able to help themselves. The author suggests that this unexpected level of opposition may be due to the paper's confused approach to, and conflation of ideas about, three distinct strands of welfare policy: simplification, work incentives, and conditionality and sanctions.

Axe falls on the poor

P. Toynbee

The Guardian, Oct. 21st 2010, p. 1 and p.2

Comment piece by Polly Toynbee reflecting on the political context and public support for the welfare reforms announced yesterday.

Benefits feel the squeeze - but City doesn't

A. Grice

The Independent, Oct. 6th 2010, p. 5

The chancellor George Osborne has announced that child benefit will be axed for all families where one parent pays the 40% tax rate. The announcement, made at the Tory party conference in Birmingham, was coupled with a crackdown on workless families accused of milking the benefit system. Claimants will no longer be able to claim more than 500 a week in benefits, the median income of working families after tax.

Better off must pay fair share, insists Cameron

R. Watson and F. Elliott

The Times, Oct. 6th 2010, p.1

Mr Cameron has acknowledged that the Chancellor's changes to child benefit were not in the Conservative Party manifesto prior to the election. He has sought to appease the public by suggesting that 'those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load'. A senior Tory backbencher said that Mr Osborne's changes to the system 'betrayed a frankly worrying failure to understand the family finances of those on middle incomes.'

(See also The Guardian, Oct. 6th 2010, p.1)

Child benefit: I should have warned you, admits PM

R. Winnett, A. Porter and J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 6th 2010, p. 1 + 6

Throughout the election campaign, the Conservatives repeatedly assured voters that child benefit would not be cut. The Chancellor's announcement on breakfast TV that any household with a higher rate taxpayer would lose the benefit from 2013 provoked furious complaints and accusations of unfairness. The Prime Minister attempted to appease aggrieved families by promising to introduce a modest tax break for married couples.

(See also Daily Telegraph Oct. 5th 2010, p. 1, + 4-5)

Families' benefits will be capped at 26,000

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 5th 2010, p. 5

Chancellor George Osborne announced at the 2010 Conservative Party conference that the amount that families are able to claim in benefits would be capped at 26,000 per year. He claimed that the reform would mean that no one, apart from disabled people, would receive more in benefits in one year than the average wage. The measures are aimed at workless families who receive 500 a week or more.

Fear for mentally ill as long-term sick are tested on fitness to work

J. Sherman & R. Jenkins

The Times, Oct. 11th 2010, p.6

Pilot schemes to test whether people on incapacity benefit are fit to work are being trialled in Burnley and Aberdeen. Next year the scheme will spread to 1.5m claimants. Those deemed capable of working will be taken off incapacity benefit and will be moved onto job seekers allowance, thereby reducing their income. Mental health charities fear that the medical assessments are not designed to well enough to account for those who suffer from mental illnesses, and warn that the tests could be 'catastrophic' for those suffering from mental health problems if their cases are wrongly assessed.

Government to cut benefits for middle classes

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 4th 2010, p.14

The Prime Minister has warned at the Conservative Party 2010 conference that universal welfare benefits, which are not means-tested, are under scrutiny and may be unaffordable. He indicated that only the state pension would definitely be protected. The comments raise the possibility of cuts to the winter fuel allowance for pensioners, child benefit, and free travel for the elderly.

Home Counties face 'exodus' of poor Londoners

M. Evans

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 25th 2010, p. 4

From April 2011, the maximum housing benefit will be reduced from 103,000 to 20,800 per year. London councils are warning that up to 82,000 families living in the capital will be made homeless because private landlords will not reduce rents to such levels. Local authorities are block booking bed and breakfast accommodation in towns such as Hastings, Luton and Reading in anticipation of the inner city exodus.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Oct. 27th 2010, p. 2; for comment by Boris Johnson see Times Oct. 28th 2010, p. 3 and Times Oct.29th 2010, p. 1 + 8)

Housing benefit cuts to stay, says Cameron

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 28th 2010, p. 12

David Cameron confirmed, when challenged by Ed Milliband, that the proposed new cap on Housing Benefit of 400.00 per week for a four bedroom house would stay, alongside a 10% reduction for people who have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance for over a year. He said it would be wrong to subsidise rents on homes occupied by claimants that hard-working taxpayers could never afford.

Most people applying for Incapacity Benefit are able to work

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 27th 2010, p. 2

Official figures show that between its introduction in October 2008 and February 2010, almost 850,000 people applied for Employment Support Allowance on grounds of disability. Of these, 640,000 were found to be fit to work or the claim was withdrawn before an assessment could be made.

(See also Times, Oct.27th 2010, p. 8; The Guardian, Oct. 28th 2010, p. 12)

Scrap child benefit but keep handouts for poor, says Barnardo's chief

S. Coates and R. Bennett

The Times, Oct. 4th 2010, p.8

Discussions at the Tory party conference this week include those around the future of child benefit. The leader of Barnardo's, the children's charity, has suggested that the payment of child benefit to all mothers is now 'impossible to justify'.

'Tell us if wife claims child benefit'

R. Prince

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 29th 2010, p.1

From 2013, higher rate taxpayers who fill out a self-assessment tax return will be required by law to declare if anyone in their household is claiming child benefit. High earners who do not have to fill out a return will receive a letter demanding that they inform HMRC of child benefit claims. Those who report claims will have their tax code adjusted and the money clawed back.

(See also Times Oct. 29th 2010, p. 9)

Three-strike rule 'will catch only a few benefit cheats'

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 18th 2010, p. 13

The Department for Work and Pensions is planning to save 1.5bn annually by cutting benefit fraud and by hiring private investigators to uncover cheats. Those found to have defrauded the system three times may be banned from claiming benefits for several years or even for life. However, the sanctions will only be applied to organised fraudsters, not those making 'mistakes' or those with families. Official figures show that no-one has ever been convicted three times of benefit fraud.

Tory welfare reforms combine carrot and stick

N. Morris

The Independent, Oct. 6th 2010, p. 6

Tough new sanctions for jobless people who refuse to accept a job were announced at the Tory Party conference by Iain Duncan Smith as he promised to sweep away the 'complex, outdated and wildly expensive' benefit system. The Work and Pension Secretary claimed that plans to introduce a universal credit for claimants would represent the biggest overhaul of the welfare system for a generation.

Watchdog casts doubts on welfare budget savings

A. Grice

The Independent, Oct. 21st 2010, p. 5

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has questioned the projected savings from the two biggest revenue-raising measures in the welfare benefits cuts announced on 21 October: child benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The OBR warned that people affected by curbs in benefits may change their behaviour in an attempt to escape the cuts. On child benefit, the OBR suggested people may reduce their working hours so their income dropped below the 43,876 threshold. Similarly, the watchdog warned of uncertainties surrounding the government's assumption about the number of sick and disabled people switching from Incapacity Benefit (IB) to ESA.

Welfare reform 'will not be on the back of the poorest'

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Oct. 12th 2010, p. 10

Further changes to child benefits and other welfare payments, to be announced as part of the comprehensive spending review, will not be made 'on the back of the poorest' the work and pension secretary Iain Duncan Smith said yesterday. His deputy, Lord Freud, also suggested that government may be planning to undertake a wider reform than simply removing child benefit from higher rate tax payers as announced by the chancellor George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference.

'Westminster doesn't understand how people will suffer'

A Gentleman

The Guardian, Oct. 21st 2010, p.1 + p.6

Comment on the impact of the Comprehensive Spending Review on the people of Durham, based on comments by Simon Henig, Labour leader of Durham Council, local MP Pat Glass, and interviews with local people from the former steel town of Consett.

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