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

Appeal and we’ll cut cash, claimants to be told

M. Savage

The Times, Oct. 14th 2011, p. 14

Hundreds of thousands of welfare claimants face losing their benefits for months if they challenge a ruling that they are fit to work. Ministers are looking at removing payments during the appeals process in an attempt to slash the number of challenges that are threatening to derail the Government’s benefits reforms. It is thought that this will unclog the courts which are set to become inundated with appeals as the Government attempts to reduce the annual £7 billion incapacity benefit bill. Ministers have made clear that they believe that most of those claiming the old incapacity benefit are able to do at least some work.

Brussels sues UK to let in 'benefit tourists'

A. Porter

Daily Telegraph, Sept. 30th 2011, p. 1 + 4

Traditionally, in order to claim benefits in Britain, EU nationals had to pass a right to reside test. In September 2011, the European Commission said that the test was too tough and asked the UK to apply more generous EU-wide rules. It threatened legal action if Britain failed to comply. The intervention provoked a furious reaction from ministers, who feared that the change could see Britain handing out as much as £2.5bn to EU nationals, including out-of-work “benefit tourists”.

Fit for work?

C. Callanan

Community Living, vol. 25, no.1, 2011, p. 12-13

Up to 2014, all claimants of Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, and Income Support (where awarded due to incapacity for work) will be receiving a medical questionnaire. This will begin the work capability assessment used to determine if people have 'limited capability for work' and should be transferred to the Employment Support Allowance. This article explains the assessment process.

For whose benefit?

C. Wood

Public Finance, Oct. 2011, p. 12-13

Plans for a single universal benefit presented in the Welfare Reform Bill are basically sensible but charities have been battling serious flaws. The most obvious flaws include the time limitation of contributory Employment Support Allowance and level of the cap on the total benefits any family can claim. This is set too low at £500.00 per week when the average wage for families with children is £598.00. However the government’s biggest error around welfare reform has been its communication strategy, which has implied that legitimate benefits claimants are scroungers and fraudsters.

Means testing

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2011 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1464)

The report confirms that means testing will be used extensively for the foreseeable future as it helps target state support at the people that need it most, but there is room for major reform. There are a number of drawbacks to means testing, including:

  • disincentives for recipients of means-tested benefits to return to work
  • complex administration of benefits
  • high costs
  • increased rates of fraud and error - incorrect declarations of earnings and errors by officials in calculating entitlements accounted for over half of all fraud and error in benefits and tax credits
In light of proposed and ongoing reforms to benefits and related programmes, the report notes the importance of departments sharing good practice and learning from past experiences in the design of means tests.

New car on the taxpayer for 3,000 families of children with ADHD

Anon

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 10th 2011, p.16

It had emerged that more than 3,000 families with a child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were eligible for the Motability Scheme, under which parents or carers could claim £2,500 per year towards a car. There was concern that the scheme, which cost £1.5bn a year, had run out of control. The work and pensions minister, Iain Duncan Smith, had promised to clamp down on what he saw as widespread abuse of the scheme, which was intended to help those with the most severe disabilities to get around.

Responsibility is the key to welfare reform

L. Byrne

Working Brief, Summer 2011, p. 10-11

The shadow work and pensions secretary reviews the Coalition government’s approach to reform of social assistance in the UK. He argues that the government is failing in its responsibilities to get the unemployed back to work and support sick and disabled people through the benefits system. Citizens, on the other hand, feel that they will not get as much out of the benefits system as they put in as they confront new risks in life.

Setting benefits by inflation 'is unfair'

R. Winnett and H. Blake

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 19th 2011, p. 1

Inflation rose to a 20-year high of 5.2% in September 2011, following energy price rises. At the time, benefits and the state pension were usually increased in line with the September inflation rate. It was estimated that it would cost taxpayers up to £2bn in 2012 in extra benefits costs if state handouts rose in line with inflation. This could mean benefits rising by triple the average wage increase. Senior MPs said that this was unfair and that a lower rate of inflation should be used to calculate the 2012 benefit rise.

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