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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2012): Social security - UK

370,000 migrants on the dole

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 20th 2012, p. 1 + 2

More than 370,000 migrants who were admitted to Britain to work, study or take a holiday were claiming out-of-work benefits according to newly compiled official figures. In other countries, many would have been sent home after their visas expired or their employment ended. In the majority of cases, however, the figures showed that the migrants who were claiming benefits were entitled to the money. In a small sample, details from a quarter of claimants could not be verified, while 2% were suspected of making fraudulent claims.

Below the breadline: the harsh reality of life in Liverpool's workless estates

A. Gentleman

The Guardian, Jan. 16th 2012, p. 9

Amelia Gentleman reports from Liverpool where startling figures produced by the GMB union revealed that nearly one in three households had no one in work. This was the legacy of historic industrial decline in this area, suddenly worsened by the 2011 round of public sector redundancies and a new, downturn-related disappearance of retail and manufacturing jobs.

Bereavement benefit for the 21st century: public consultation

Department for Work and Pensions

London: TSO, 2011 (Cm 8221)

This public consultation seeks views on the following proposals:

  • to simplify the bereavement benefits payment system by moving to a uniform payment structure for all recipients, with support focused on the period immediately following bereavement
  • to simplify the contribution conditions by basing full payment on a single year of National Insurance contributions
  • to rename the benefit so that the benefit name reflects the function of the payment.

Payments made under the War Pensions Scheme or Armed Forces Compensation Scheme will not be affected, nor will any change impact those already in receipt of bereavement benefits at the point at which a new scheme is introduced. Bereavement benefits have been through a series of reforms since state protection for widows was initially introduced as part of the 'Widows', Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pension Act of 1925'. The incremental nature of this change has blurred the principles behind the benefits and their function. This has resulted in a complicated payment and contribution system which, at its worst, can harm people's long term job prospects by distancing recipients from the labour market. Although some elements of the system are highly regarded, clearly more can be done to ensure that bereavement benefits better serve their purpose. The complicated payment system and eligibility conditions make it difficult for people to understand what they are entitled to receive. The ongoing nature of payments under Widowed Parents Allowance, which can continue for up to 20 years in extreme cases, without any encouragement to maintain contact with the labour market, risks creating welfare dependency.

Coalition suffers Lords defeat over welfare cuts

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 12th 2012, p. 2

The government's Welfare Reform Bill suffered a series of defeats in the Lords, when peers rejected proposals to put a time limit on benefits for cancer patients and people with serious health problems and disabilities. A separate proposal to reduce payments for people who had never worked because they had been disabled from childhood was also rejected.

(For government plans to reverse the Lords amendments in the Commons see Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2012, p. 14)

Coalition's welfare reform plan hit by 1.6bn Lords defeat

P. Wintour and R. Syal

The Guardian, Jan. 12th 2012, p. 1

The government's plans to reform welfare were badly hit when it suffered three defeats in the House of Lords on proposed benefit cuts. Plans to means-test employment and support allowance (ESA) payments for disabled people after only a year were rejected by peers. The means test would have applied to cancer patients and stroke survivors, and was denounced by Lord Patel, a crossbencher and former president of the Royal College of Obstetricians, as an immoral attack on the sick, the vulnerable and the poor. 'If we are going to rob the poor to pay the rich, then we enter into a different form of morality,' Patel said.

(See also The Guardian, Jan. 11th 2012, p. 4-5, The Guardian, Jan. 23rd 2012, p. 4, The Guardian, Jan. 24th 2012, p. 8, The Guardian, Jan. 26th 2012, p. 6, The Guardian, Jan. 27th 2012, p. 4; The Guardian, Jan. 30th 2012, p. 6)

Disability benefit reform survives Lords' attack

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 18th 2012, p. 2

Lady Grey-Thompson tabled an amendment to the controversial Welfare Reform Bill that would have forced benefits officials to take doctors' reports into account when assessing applicants for disability living allowance. The Government defeated its opponents in a vote on January 17th 2012, when peers voted by 229 to 213 against the amendment.

Government defeats latest challenge to welfare reform

N. Watt

The Guardian, Jan. 18th 2012, p. 16

The government fought off a fresh challenge to its controversial Welfare Reform Bill, when peers rejected a proposal to delay the full introduction of slashed new disability payments after ministers offered concessions. As the cabinet hardened its tactics by agreeing to overturn a series of defeats in the House of Lords in the Commons, a cross-party group of peers failed in an attempt to introduce a pilot scheme before the new regime for disability allowances could be fully introduced. Peers voted by 229 to 213, a government majority of 16, to reject an amendment tabled by Lady Grey-Thompson, one of Britain's most successful disabled athletes, after the government warned her plan would cost 1.4bn. The government was planning to replace the working age disability living allowance (DLA) with a new personal independent payment (PIP) which would involve a more rigorous assessment system. The government aimed to cut costs by 20%.

(See also The Guardian, Jan. 17th 2012, p. 1, 15; The Independent, Jan. 12th 2012, p. 5)

The impact of austerity measures on households with children

J. Browne

London: Family and Parenting Institute, 2012

This report suggests that families with children will see a 4.2% fall in their income by 2015/16 because of cuts to child benefit for high earners, cuts in tax credits and the 20% rate of VAT. Couples with children under five will suffer even larger falls in their income, which will be reduced by 4.9% by 2015/16. Family size also affects the scale of the reduction in income predicted, not least because of plans to cap the value of benefits that can be paid to a family at 25,000. Parents with three children are the worst affected and will lose 6.8% of their income. In contrast, childless couples and pensioner households will experience smaller losses. The average loss for all households will be 0.9%.

Peers reject 'unjust' 26,000 cap

J. Kirkup and R. Mason

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 24th 2012, p. 10-11

The House of Lords voted on January 23rd 2012 to remove child benefit from the 26,000 per household limit on welfare payments proposed in the Welfare Reform Bill. Critics of the plan said the move would unfairly hurt children in large families. Government made it clear that it would seek to overturn the Lords amendment in the Commons.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Jan. 24th 2012, p.1)

Rethink on child benefit cuts

R. Winnett

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 13th 2012, p. 1 + 2

The coalition government had proposed that from 2013, households including anyone earning above the higher rate tax threshold would be stripped of their entitlement to child benefit. In an interview with House magazine in January 2012 the Prime Minister hinted that the government might look for ways to help single earner families with salaries just over the threshold.

Tory peers help to defeat welfare reform bill

J. Kirkup and M. Beckford

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 26th 2012, p. 2

The Lords voted by 270 to 128 for an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill diluting plans to charge parents who used the Child Support Agency to agree and collect maintenance payments. The amendment was tabled by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a former Tory lord chancellor, and was backed by senior Tory peers as well as Labour and some Liberal Democrats. Ministers said the amendment would cost taxpayers 200m over seven years. It was thought likely that they would seek to overturn the amendment in the Commons.

Tory peers lead fresh challenge to welfare reforms

J. Kirkup

Daily Telegraph, Jan. 25th 2012, p. 4

In a further attack on the coalition government's controversial Welfare Reform Bill, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, a former Conservative Lord Chancellor, attempted to amend plans to charge single parents for using the Child Support Agency to agree and collect maintenance payments by forcing a vote in the Lords. Critics said that the plan would unfairly penalise mothers with limited means, especially those who had tried to reach a settlement with the father of their children but been rejected.

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