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

Annual report and accounts 2004-05 – Child Support Agency

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC256)

Report makes it clear that the Agency is still facing significant challenges in spite of visible improvements in its performance in 2004-05. The Agency has focused on the delivery of an IT remediation programme which has stabilised the new computer system and assisted operations. The Agency's senior management team is working on a strategic plan to address problems highlighted in the report.

The potential for certification of incapacity for work by non-medical healthcare professionals

K. Niven

Department for Work and Pensions, 2005 (Research report; 225)

Report presents findings of a research project to investigate the potential for healthcare professionals other than doctors to play a greater role in advising on fitness for work and providing patients with a sickness certificate. The aim of the research was to collect information that would inform discussions of possible pilot studies to explore the feasibility of expanding the role of non-medical healthcare professionals to include the formal certification of incapacity for work. The research included an international literature review on fitness for work advice and certification, interviews, focus groups and a telephone survey.

Tax credits: putting things right

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC124)

Complaints about tax credits are continuing to rise, with the greatest difficulties being suffered by the core group that the system is designed to help, families on low incomes. The problems appear to arise in part from the design of the tax credit system itself. The fact that awards are annual but are not finalised until the end of the tax year when over- and underpayments are identified means that families cannot budget ahead because they are unsure of their entitlements. Automatic recovery of projected overpayments during the year when people's circumstances change is also causing severe hardship. Problems also arise because the processing of tax credit claims is wholly IT based, and the system appears unable to respond quickly and sensitively when things go wrong.

Where’s the benefit?

K. Leason

Community Care, July 21st-27th 2005, p.30-31

Administration of tax credits is chaotic. The credits are paid on the basis of annual income and cannot respond quickly to changes in people's circumstances. Where an overpayment is anticipated, or has been made, money is clawed back automatically, leaving families without enough to live on.

Working brief

M.Conrad

Public Finance, July 8th - 14th , 2005, p.24 - 25

Profile of, and policy discussion with Benefits Minister James Plaskitt who is charged with fixing the Child Support Agency, improving the Department of Work and Pensions' IT record, and with Labour's third term welfare reform programme. An 80% employment target is intended to address the pension problem as well as helping people off welfare. A "Local Housing Allowance" intended to replace Housing Benefit in the private rented sector, aims to speed up claim times and improve social and geographic mobility, enabling greater choice of living location and viable work options.

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