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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2002): Social Security - UK

BIG FINES IMPOSED ON DISABILITY ASSESSMENT FIRM

B. Russell

Independent, Dec. 17th 2001, p. 9

Business services company SchlumbergerSema has been given until Summer 2002 to improve or face losing its contract to perform medical assessments on people claiming Incapacity Benefit.

BROWN'S ANTI-POVERTY DRIVE TO HINGE ON TAX AND PENSION CREDITS

J. Pearce

Community Care, Dec. 6th -12th 2001, p. 18-19

Discusses the Pension Credit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit announced in the Chancellor's 2001 Autumn Statement.

THE CANCELLATION OF THE BENEFITS PAYMENT CARD PROJECT

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2001 (House of Commons papers. Session 2001/02; HC 358)

Cancellation of the benefits payment card project at a cost of over £1bn in lost fraud savings, nugatory expenditure and write-down of assets and costs, must rank as one of the biggest IT failures in the public sector. However, the arrangements now in hand for payment of benefits through Automated Credit Transfer from 2003 should provide a more modern, efficient and secure method for paying benefits and deliver significant administrative and fraud savings. The arrangements which are also in hand to create a universal banking service for claimants are likely to require public money, government guarantees, or both, and to cover benefit payments of many billions a year. Mechanisms need to be set up to ensure proper arrangements for public accountability for these payments and guarantees, and for ensuring that Post Offices offer good quality services to claimants.

FLEXIBLE WORKING HOURS FOR PARENTS

ChildRight, issue 182, Dec. 2001, p. 12

The government has announced new proposals to assist parents in balancing work with family life in response to the report of the Work and Parent's Taskforce. The proposals, due to come into force in April 2003, let parents with young children come to an arrangement with their employers for more flexible working hours. The changes are expected to be included in the Employment Bill currently before Parliament.

GOVERNMENT SHELVES REFORM OF HOUSING BENEFIT

R. Shrimsley, N. Timmins

Financial Times, Jan. 18th 2002, p. 2

The long-promised overhaul of the housing benefit system has been shelved by the government until after the next election. Instead, ministers intend to concentrate on piecemeal changes over the next two years.

(See also The Independent, Jan. 18th 2002, p. 8)

HOUSING BENEFIT ADMINISTRATION

Audit Commission

Wetherby: Audit Commission Publications, 2001

Reports states that serious problems in the administration of housing benefit by local authorities persist. The system is tarnished by long delays, waste, error and fraud. Similar authorities offer very different standards of service, suggesting that organisation and management need improvement. Local authorities need to introduce performance management systems, improve their IT infrastructure, promote collaborative working, and consider outsourcing some or all of the service.

HOUSING BENEFIT CHANGED 90 TIMES UNDER LABOUR

D. Walker

Guardian, Jan. 1st 2002, p. 7

Labour has changed the rules governing the Housing Benefit scheme 90 times since it took office in 1997, forcing civil servants to issue an average of one circular a week to councils. It is estimated that the changes have added £331m to the costs of administering the scheme. Added complexity may also have made fraud easier.

MARKETING WORKING MOTHERS: CONTEXTUALIZING EARNED INCOME TAX CREDITS WITHIN FEMINIST CULTURAL THEORY

A. Mumford

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 23, 2001, p. 411-426

Article argues that:

  • the focus on the working mother which is encouraged by the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is confused by issues of class interest;
  • the question of whether the WFTC encourages the commodification of mothering is problematic;
  • the WFTC has repercussions for the culturally perceived context of "natural work" for mothers which should be considered in response to praise for the WFTC and calls for more legislation along these lines.

WHERE NEXT FOR TAX CREDITS?

Anon.

New Review of the Low Pay Unit, no. 72, Nov./Dec. 2001, p. 18

Summarises the Low Pay Unit's (LPU) response to the government consultation on extending tax credits. The LPU welcomes the extension of the system to childless couples and proposals for aggregating couples' hours. It is however sceptical about the possibility of integrating an annualised income assessment with a weekly hours test. Points out that the consultation document also fails to address a fundamental flaw in the childcare tax credit, that the calculation of costs, being based on a maximum 70% entitlement, disadvantages those on a low income.

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