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

Benefit of the doubt

R. Rafferty

Roof, Nov/Dec.2005, p.16-21

Government is planning to replace housing benefit tailored to the circumstances of the individual with a flat rate Local Housing Allowance. This will normally be paid to the tenant. If tenants cab find accommodation that costs less than the local housing allowance, they can pocket the difference. The Allowance will only be paid directly to the landlord if the tenant is a likely bad payer. For the scheme to work: 1) Claims will need to be decided promptly by local authorities and 2) tenants will need access to independent housing and money advice. There are concerns that loss of direct payments will discourage landlords from renting to benefits claimants, and that tenants will use the cash for purposes other than paying their rent.

Convoluted benefits system loses 2.6bn a year, say auditors

J. Carvel

Guardian, November 19th 2005, p.14

National Audit Office reports that legislative changes have complicated the benefits system, and exposed it to fraud and error. Potential improvements are identified for the administration of new benefits, and better information sharing is urged.

[See also Times, November 19th 2005, p. 30]

The diversion from 'unemployment' to 'sickness' across British regions and districts

C. Beatty and S. Fothergill

Regional Studies, vol.39, 2005, p.837-854

Around 2.7 million unemployed adults of working age in the UK claim sickness-related benefits and the numbers have risen steeply over time. The very large variation in the numbers across districts and regions points strongly to hidden unemployment, especially in older industrial areas affected by job losses. Paper presents new estimates of the scale of the diversion across all parts of the country.

Fraud and error in benefit expenditure

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2005 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC411)

In 2003/04 the Department for Work and Pensions lost 3bn out of its total expenditure of 109bn to fraud and error, 2bn of fraud and 1bn of error. More recent estimates suggest losses are around the same level. The Department has made progress in reducing fraud, especially in Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance, but levels of customer error, much of it due to the complexity of the benefit system, have not changed much in recent years. Fraud and error are unlikely to be brought under control without some further action to simplify the rules.

Investigating the compliance of Child Support Agency clients

A. Atkinson and S. Mackay

Department for Work and Pensions, 2005 (Research report; 285)

Research explores how non-resident parents make the decision whether or not to co-operate with the Child Support Agency (CSA). Many non-resident parents react negatively to CSA involvement because they view maintenance as an additional burden on top of voluntary contributions to child upkeep. They also associate the CSA with the pursuit of errant fathers, a label they do not apply to themselves. They also resent giving money to their ex-partner and having no control over its expenditure. There is a tendency to over-estimate the extent to which the state will provide for non-resident children through welfare benefits.

A very social problem

J. Hirst

Public Finance, Oct.28th-Nov.3rd 2005, p.20-23

Government is determined to reduce the numbers of people claiming incapacity benefit (IB). To this end, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a range of inter-departmental initiatives, including placing employment advisers in GP surgeries and measures to combat fraud. However, there are concerns that staff cuts at the DWP and its agencies may mean that claimants cannot be given the personalised support they need to return to work. There is also a need for incentives to encourage employers to take on disabled people.

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