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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2011): Social security - UK

500,000 'wrongly denied incapacity cash'

A. Stratton

The Guardian, Jan 4th 2010, p. 11

Up to 500,000 people have been wrongly judged fit for work and denied incapacity benefits over the last 15 years, according to a study by the leftwing campaign group Compass. The study was compiled using statistics gleaned from the Department for Work and Pensions, the tribunal service and social security agencies.

Disability Living Allowance reform

Department for Work and Pensions

London: TSO, 2010 (Cm 7984)

The Government proposes to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit - the Personal Independence Payment. This consultation document seeks stakeholders' views to inform policy for reforming DLA and introducing a new objective assessment. Responses to this consultation will inform secondary legislation on the detailed design of the benefit.

Extra paternity is needed to free women, says Clegg

R. Watson and H. Power

The Times, Jan. 17th 2011, p. 9

Nick Clegg believes that the current two weeks paid paternity leave is 'paltry' and wants to 'sweep away an Edwardian system that encourages women to stay at home'. He has announced that from 2015 new fathers will be able to take up to ten months of paid paternity leave to encourage parents to share early childcare. Under his proposals, parents would be able to share statutory leave of up to 46 weeks. They could take some of it together or in several chunks rather than consecutively.

Fathers encouraged to take time off with 10-month paternity leave

T. Ross and J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 17th 2011, p. 13

The Coalition Government is proposing reforms to paternity leave with a view to encouraging fathers play a larger role in the upbringing of their children. Under the proposals, all mothers would still be guaranteed the first six weeks off after birth, while fathers would retain their existing two weeks paternity leave. The remaining parental leave, likely to be 46 weeks, would be divided up as couples see fit.

(See also Independent, Jan. 17th 2011, p. 16)

Health test could move two million off benefits

R. Prince

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 26th 2011, p. 4

Government figures show that nearly 80% of new Employment and Support Allowance claimants undergoing the reformed 'work capability assessments' were either found to be fit for work or dropped their application rather than submit to the test. For completed assessments, 10% of applicants were found to be unfit for work, 25% were judged to be able to find employment with some support, and the remainder were considered able to function well enough to find themselves a job. The tests have been trialled in Burnley and Aberdeen since 2010 and will be introduced for existing Incapacity Benefit claimants in 2011.

Minimising the cost of administrative errors in the benefit system

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2010 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/11; HC569)

The report highlights the fact that the Department for Work and Pensions (the Department) has not yet reduced the level of administrative mistakes made by its staff in processing benefits. In 2009-10, it overpaid its customers by an estimated 1.1 billion and made underpayments of 500 million. However, the scale of the challenge faced by the Department should not be underestimated. The benefits system is large, encompassing over 27 different benefits and a total caseload of around 20 million people. In addition, the Department has had to respond to the recent recession in which the Jobseekers Allowance caseload almost doubled between 2008 and 2009. The report notes that the Government's recent announcement of the introduction of a Universal Credit is an opportunity to simplify many of the regulations, but such changes will take a long time to implement. In the meantime, the onus remains on the Department to keep the costs of mistakes to a minimum. The Department has demonstrated a clear commitment to reducing administrative error, through the publication of a strategy in 2007 aimed at tackling mistakes made by its staff and through the formation of dedicated departmental-wide groups such as the Fraud and Error Council. There is, however, scope for improvement in the quality of information used to assess where the Department should focus its efforts. Although DWP has initiated an exercise to understand fully the causes of error, this will not be complete until the spring of 2011. There is also scope for further work in collecting and analysing the full costs and benefits of the Department's interventions in order to assess cost effectiveness.

Start a business and keep your benefits, jobless told

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 5th 2011, p. 10

Under the coalition government's strategy for creating 40,000 new businesses over two years, the unemployed will be allowed to keep their Jobseeker's Allowance at the full rate for a set period if they start a business and apply for low-interest loans. Extra financial support of up to 2,000 will be offered and business 'mentors' will oversee the new firm's progress.

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