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Welfare Reform on the Web (August 1999): Social Security - UK

BENEFIT SWIPE-CARD SCHEME SCRAPPED

A. Grice and S. Schaefer
Independent, May 25th 1999, p. 5

Plans for 19 million benefits claimants to be issued with swipe cards have been scrapped. In the short term, social security benefits will continue to be paid through benefit books which will now be barcoded to combat fraud. By 2003, ministers hope claimants will be paid via automatic credit transfers through banks and post offices.

(See also Guardian, May 25th 1999, p. 14; Daily Telegraph, May 25th 1999, p. 8; Financial Times, May 26th 1999, p. 12)

CHILD BENEFIT TO BE MEANS-TESTED

R. Shrimsley
Daily Telegraph, May 12th 1999, p. 6

Under a new scheme announced by the Chancellor, 16-18 year olds from poor families would be paid up to £40.00 per week to stay at school. The new allowance would be means-tested so that 16 to 18 year olds from a family earning less than £13,000 a year would received £40 per week, with the amount falling as household income rose. Child benefit is currently paid to parents of all 16-18 year olds living at home in full time education, regardless of household income. Removing the benefit would save £700 million.

COUNCILS LOSE TAX BENEFIT SUBSIDIES

S. Brown
Public Finance, April 30th - May 6th 1999, p. 8

In an attempt to deter local authorities from making excessive council tax rises, the government has introduced a council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme. Councils raising tax by more than 4.5% face subsidy withdrawal penalties until, at 8%, they are left facing the full additional costs of the benefit resulting from the increase. The result is to push council tax up even higher to compensate for the loss of subsidy.

LONE PARENT CASEWORKER PILOTS EVALUATION: SUMMARY REPORT

J. Vincent and others
Loughborough: Centre for Research in Social Policy, 1998

(CRSP Working paper; no. 263)

The pilot was designed to help lone parents overcome barriers to re-entering the labour market. A caseworker service was provided for lone parents on Income Support, with children over five years of age, in four local Benefits Agency offices. Designated advisers were also available at Job Centres in the same areas. The pilot appeared to achieve some success in that more participants (than controls) went on to education and training, but not in other respects, Few changed their benefit status.

£40 A WEEK FOR POOR CHILDREN TO STAY AT SCHOOL

P. Webster
The Times, May 11th 1999, p. 2

Children between 16 and 18 in families where household income is less than £13,000 will be able to receive £40.00 a week if they stay on at school or college. The scheme will be piloted in 12 areas where the numbers of early school leavers are above the norm.

MINISTERS PLEDGE £300M TO CUT WINTER DEATH TOLL

S. Buckby
Financial Times, May 12th 1999, p. 14

The government has launched a £300m programme to cut the 30,000 deaths linked to cold weather each winter, by helping to pay for central heating and better insulation for homes.

NATIONAL INSURANCE AND THE CONTRIBUTORY PRINCIPLE

B. Stafford
London: Department of Social Security, 1998
(DSS in-house report: no. 39)

Research showed a strong commitment to the contributory principle. Indeed, people were very attached to their contributions and opposed to measures which would diminish the monetary value of their benefits. Respondents also felt that contributors who made 'genuine' claims should receive benefits, as should carers of sick and disabled people. Non-contributors and those unwilling to look for work or who through their own actions had brought about their unemployment or incapacity should be excluded.

PAYING THE PRICE OF LONG LIFE

P. Minford
Daily Telegraph, May 10th 1999, p. 26

Currently only assets above £16,000 are taken to pay for long term care. This is an inducement to fraud, has reduced the incentive for families to provide informal care, and has undermined the incentive to insure privately for long term care With the costs of long term care possibly rising to 5% of national income by 2030, some solution other than the present one of state funding needs to be found. Insurance could be the answer. All citizens could be obliged to pay a compulsory minimum contribution from a young age, or people could be allowed to insure for a larger threshold. Full social insurance is a possibility, but this implies higher taxation.

SICK WOMEN QUITTING WORK BEHIND RISE IN THE BENEFITS BILL

D. Brindle
Guardian, May 14th 1999, p. 8

Official figures show that the continuing growth in numbers of people claiming disability and long term sickness benefits is attributable to rising numbers of women quitting work through ill-health.

A SINGLE GATEWAY TO MISERY?

G. Vaux
Community Care, no. 1271, 1999, p. 25

A key part of the government's welfare reforms is the Single Work Focused Gateway (SWFG) for claimants of working age entering the benefit system. Priority in future will be on accuracy rather than speed, and, in combination with the SWFG, this will slow the process of getting benefit to claimants.

SPRINGING A BENEFIT TRAP

P. Toynbee
Guardian, May 14th 1999, p. 19

Argues that under the controversy about the government's plans to cut back disability benefits is a mute debate about the future of national insurance (NI). This is being slowly dismantled as means testing of benefits spreads and they cease to be paid automatically to people who do not need them.

STAY-HOME FEARS FOR TAX CREDIT PLAN

C. Denny
Guardian, May 17th 1999, p. 21

Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) is based on a US programme called Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which tops up the income of low earners through the tax system. Research has shown that the EITC, far from encouraging more people into work, has caused married women to leave their jobs. EITC is means-tested so that as families' income increases, the amount of benefit they receive is reduced. Many women decide it is better to stay at home so that their husbands can collect the credit. There are fears that WFTC may have the same effect in the UK.

THREE MILLION ARE NOW CLAIMING SICKNESS BENEFIT

A. Grice
Independent, May 13th 1999, p. 8

According to Department of Social Security statistics, almost three million people are on sickness benefits. They have become the largest single group among Britain's six million claimants. These figures will reinforce the government's determination to face down a growing Labour backbench rebellion over plans to reform benefits to the sick and disabled set out in the Welfare Reform Bill. The government's problems in this area have been intensified by the resignation of 12 disability groups from its Disability Benefits Forum in protest at the £750 million cuts proposed in the Bill.

(See also Guardian, May 13th 1999, p. 9; Independent, May 12th 1999, p. 8)

WE'RE OFF THE SICK AT LAST

S. Jenkins
Times, May 19th 1999, p. 20

Supports the government's crusade to target social security benefits at the truely needy. Any member of the community who wants public money should justify their request and show why they need what someone else has earned. People of working age should be expected to earn their own living or explain why they cannot. This includes single parents, widows, the partially disabled and those approaching retirement.

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