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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2005): Social Security - UK

LABOUR STILL FAILS MEANS TEST

Anon.

Labour Research, vol.94, Mar.2005, p.21-22

The Labour government continues to use means testing to deliver key state benefits to pensioners, low paid workers, the unemployed and people with disabilities. However, anti-poverty campaigners argue that the complexity of means testing causes problems for effective delivery and puts people off claiming.

PENSION CREDIT

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2004/05; HC43)

Report looks at implementation of the pension credit one year after its introduction, with particular reference to:

  • the contribution of the pension credit to incomes of current and future pensioners. Recommends that the take-up targets should be set at a more challenging level to maximise impact and should be based on the amount of pension credit unclaimed;
  • the delivery of a telephone based service to pensioners;
  • the development of effective locally based services. The local service has played a key role in encouraging take up and frontline staff should not be cut;
  • the consequences of the Department's plans to reduce its workforce and the number of Pension Centres. It expects workforce reductions to be supported by the implementation of the Pensions Transformation Programme. Staff reductions should be postponed if there are further delays in implementation.

THE USE OF DISCRETION IN A RULE-BOUND SERVICE: HOUSING BENEFIT AND THE INTRODUCTION OF DISCRETIONARY PAYMENTS IN GREAT BRITAIN

B. Walker and P. Niner

Public Administration, vol.83, 2005, p.47-66

In 2001 local authorities were given the power to award Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claimants deemed to require additional assistance with their housing costs. The paper first argues that the Housing Benefit Service can be categorised as rule-bound before describing the DHP regime and the nature of the discretion that it affords. A brief review of the literature on discretionary decision making in public service organisations suggests four propositions in respect of DHP decision-making that the paper seeks to test. It concludes that Housing Benefit administrators do not appear to have experienced the difficulties that might have been expected.

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