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Welfare Reform on the Web (July 2001): Social Security - UK

ALL PARENTS OF UNDER-FIVES TO GET THREE MONTHS' UNPAID LEAVE

M. Woolf

Independent, Apr. 25th 2001, p.1

Reports government plans to allow both mothers and fathers to take 13 weeks unpaid leave from work before their child's fifth birthday. The leave currently has to be taken in the child's first 18 months.

(See also Guardian, Apr. 25th 2001. p.10)

BABY BONDS ARE LONG ON RHETORIC SHORT ON DETAIL

G. Jones

Daily Telegraph, Apr. 27th 2001, p.10

Outlines government proposals for baby bonds and the "Saving Gateway" for the low paid, and poses a number of unanswered questions about the schemes.

BENEFIT FORM

S. Lister

Housing, Apr. 2001, p.38-39

The administration of Housing Benefit is complex because it is finely tuned to take into account minute variations in claimants' circumstances. This approach aims to avoid benefit going to undeserving groups. Argues that Housing Benefit rules could be radically simplified if basic levels of income support were boosted and made more generous for all claimants. However relaxed targeting would lead to considerable increases in social security spending.

GRASPING THE THISTLE

M. Taylor

Roof, May/June 2001, p.30-32

In 1998/99 the UK Department of Social Security spent £1030 million on Housing Benefit in Scotland, supporting rents for around two thirds of all social housing tenants. In comparison, the Scottish Executive spent around £572 million in 1999/2000 on all other capital and revenue subsidies and borrowing consents added together. Author expresses concern over the lack of political will to change the status quo.

HOUSING BENEFIT: NO CAUSE TO CELEBRATE

National Housing Federation

London: NHF Publications, 2001

Results of a survey of over 500 people show that claimants experiencing problems with Housing Benefit (HB) were owed an average of £1,100 each. The average delay in settling claims stood at five months. The root cause of the problem is that each time a claimant's income level changes, HB has to be reassessed, which takes months. Report proposes a drastic simplification of the system. Argues that awards of HB should last six months, during which the benefit could only be changed if the claimant requested it. Also suggests an end to the ruling that HB be paid four weeks in arrears, which automatically puts the tenant in rent arrears as rents normally have to be paid in advance.

IT'S STILL A HAND UP, NOT A HAND OUT THAT COUNTS

M. A. Sieghart

Times, Apr. 27th 2001, p.22

Middle class children have a head start in life described by academics as social capital. Their parents tend to be ambitious for them, bolster their confidence and teach them the social skills that impress universities and employers. Baby bonds will not compensate for childhood disadvantage and of themselves raise the aspirations of working class children.

MINISTERS MAY RISK REBELLION OVER SOARING CLAIMS FOR SICKNESS

A. Grice

Independent, May 3rd 2001, p.2

Officials believe that many jobless people are persuading their GPs to sign them off sick when their six month period on Job Seekers Allowance ends. This means they avoid being called to interviews with job centre staff under the New Deal programme and escape sanctions if they turn down offers of jobs or training. It is expected that government will order a clampdown on sick claimants.

MOTHERS WILL TAKE BRUNT OF WELFARE CUTS

R. Watson and J. Landale

Times, may 14th 2001, p. 1+2

Blair has indicated that a re-elected Labour government would increase pressure on unemployed people claiming benefits to find work and would reform the housing benefit system. Under the plans, mothers whose partners were also unemployed would be compelled to attend a "job-focused" interview when their youngest child reached five. Housing benefit reforms would build in an incentive for claimants to find cheaper accommodation.

(See also Financial Times, May 14th 2001, p.6; Independent, May 14th 2001, p.9)

MR BROWN SHOULD PROMOTE MARRIAGE, NOT BABY BONDS

A McElvoy

Independent. Review Supplement, Apr. 27th 2001, p.3

Argues that in order to improve the life chances of deprived children, the government should provide incentives to encourage marriage and the formation of two parent families. Directing money to lone parent families through baby bonds, children's tax credits, welfare-to-work programmes etc will not solve the problems.

NEW MOTHERS WILL HAVE RIGHT TO YEAR'S LEAVE

J. Sherman

Times, May 2nd 2001, p.6

From April 2003 all mothers will be able to take 26 weeks' paid maternity leave and a further 26 weeks' unpaid leave. Both moves bring Britain more into line with other European countries.

(See also Guardian, May 2nd 2001, p.9)

NOT FEELING THE BENEFIT

P. Cook

Public Finance, Apr. 13th-19th 2001, p.22-23

Discusses the New Incentive Scheme to reward councils for detecting and preventing Housing benefit fraud and overpayment set out in Fraud Circular F12/2000. Under this scheme, a council will receive a reward every time it

identifies a benefit overpayment or exacts punishment against a fraudulent claimant

SAVING AND ASSETS FOR ALL

Treasury

London: 2001 (Modernisation of Britain's tax and benefit system; no. 8)

Proposes that every child born after an agreed date would be given at least £250 from public funds. The figure would be £500 for those from poorer households. The fund would be topped up by additional state payments at five, 11 and 16 to a total of £400 for children of wealthier homes and £800 for those from poorer families. Relatives could swell the fund with their own contributions which would carry tax breaks, and the child could also earn himself credits by carrying out community work. Under the terms of the separate savings gateway, low income households would have their savings matched pound for pound by the state regardless of whether or not they had children.

THE SOCIAL FUND

Social Security Select Committee

London: TSO, 2001 (House of Commons papers. Session 2000/01; HC 232)

Strongly criticises the discretionary social fund which issues grants and lends money at low rates to families in need. Argues that the fund is adding to the poverty and social exclusion of families with children by plunging them further into debt and denying them access to basic necessities. Calls for the level of loan repayments and the repayment period to be made more flexible in order to reduce the hardship experienced by claimants.

TAX CREDIT IS FALLING SHORT

D. Webster

Roof, May/June 2001, p.33

Take up of Working Families Tax Credit has been lower than expected. This may be because WFTC is treated as income in assessing entitlement to other benefits, so that claimants lose on Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Free School Meals much of what they gain in tax credit. It appears not to be encouraging unemployed people back into the workforce but to be topping up the incomes of the low paid.

THIRTY PERCENT FALL IN PRIVATE TENANTS GETTING HOUSING BENEFIT

Anon.

York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2001

(Findings: 451)

There are 700,000 fewer people claiming Housing Benefit than in early 1996, a 15% drop overall, with a fall of more than 30% for those claiming in the private rented sector. Limits on rents eligible for Housing Benefit introduced since 1996, falling unemployment and the introduction of the Working Families Tax Credit have contributed to the fall.

WHO BENEFITS?

D Gilliver

Housing, Apr. 2001, p.36-37

Explores the human cost of the chaotic administration of Housing Benefit through a series of case studies.

TORIES PROMISE "GRANNY BONDS"

P. Webster

Times, May 4th 2001, p.2

Under Conservative Party proposals, people who save up to a certain sum in a long term care fund would be guaranteed that the State would pay all costs above that figure. They would not have to sell their homes to pay for their care.

WHO'S YOUR FAMILY FRIEND?

H. Dean

New Review of the Low Pay Unit, no.68, 2001, p.14-15

The level of protection for parents at work in the UK is less than that which is available in other European countries. Companies tend to offer generous parental leave and help with childcare to valued managerial and professional staff, and not to more expendable workers. Calls on government to provide publicly funded childcare and protective benefits for low income families with children.