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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2000): Social Security - UK

BENEFITS REBELS SPURN DARLING'S NEW CONCESSION

A. Grice

Independent, Nov. 2nd 1999, p. 9

Reports that the government has tabled amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill to soften the shake-up in incapacity benefit. It is now proposed that claimants can have an occupational pension of £85 per week before their incapacity benefit is reduced, £35 higher than the figure originally proposed by government and rejected by the Lords. It is also proposed that claimants who have not paid any National Insurance contributions in the past 3 years will qualify for the benefit, a non-paying period a year longer than originally planned.

(See also Times, Nov. 2nd 1999, p. 2; Guardian, Nov. 2nd 1999, p. 11; Daily Telegraph, Nov. 2nd 1999, p. 1)

BROWN PROMISES CHEAP COMPUTERS FOR POOR FAMILIES

P. Waugh

Independent, Oct. 28th 1999, p. 5

Announces government plans to make reconditioned computers available to low income families in order to increase internet access. The reconditioned machines will be leased to the unemployed and those on Working Families Tax Credit for around £5.00 per month. After two years, the lessees will be able to keep the computer free of charge. The Chancellor is also planning tax changes to allow 300,000 employees the chance to borrow workplace computers for home use. Rules treating computers as benefits in kind will be scrapped.

See also Times, Oct. 28th 1999, p. 2; Financial Times, Oct. 28th 1999, p. 3; Guardian, Oct. 25th 1999, p. 4; Daily Telegraph, Oct. 28th 1999, p. 17).

BROWN TO EXTEND FAMILY TAX CREDIT

E. MacAskill

Guardian, Oct. 26th 1999, p. 8

Predicts that the Chancellor is going to use his pre-budget statement on November 9th 1999 to announce plans to extend the Working Families Tax Credit to childless couples.

CHILD SUPPORT: TONY'S TURN

C. Barton

Family Law, vol. 29, 1999, p. 704-706

Comments on the Blair governments proposals for the reform of the child maintenance system. Argues that the new proposals repeat the previous precedent of imposing a formula for calculating contributions, a mechanism for processing cases, and sanctions for non-compliance.

COMPUTER PLAN UNDER FIRE OVER PHONE CHARGES

C. Ayres

Times, Oct. 29th 1999, p. 8

Low-income families will be kept off the Internet by high connection charges in spite of the government's initiative to lease computers at cut price rates. The scheme could even be dangerous as it might encourage poor families to run up phone bills they would not be able to pay.

(See also Independent, Oct. 29th 1999, p. 14)

CONCESSIONS PLANNED ON BENEFITS CUTS

R. Bennett and R. Peston

Financial Times, Oct 15th 1999, p. 3

In order to soften opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill, Alistair Darling is looking at plans to raise the threshold for a new incapacity benefit means test between the £50.00 he originally proposed and £100 and introduce a less onerous condition on National Insurance contributions that have been paid.

(See also Financial Times, Oct. 13th 1999, p. 4)

CSA RATE CHANGE 'WILL FAVOUR ABSENT FATHERS'

A. Frean

Times, Sept. 17th 1999, p. 8

Protest groups are claiming that proposed reforms of the child maintenance system will penalise absent parents (usually fathers) who see their children regularly. Absent parents who care for their children for part of the week will have to pay maintenance as well as bearing the cost of looking after the children during visits. Furthermore, the proposed reforms fail to take into account the income of the parent with custody of the children.

DARLING MAKES £150m OF CONCESSIONS ON WELFARE REFORM TO AVERT BACK BENCH REVOLT

D. MacIntyre

Independent, Nov. 1st 1999, p. 1

Announces that the government is going to table an amendment to the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill to raise from £50 to £85 the occupational pension that recipients of incapacity benefit may take before they have their benefit cut. The government will further amend the bill to ensure that claimants who stopped paying national insurance contributions as long ago as 1995 will still be eligible for incapacity benefit. Government hopes that these concessions will stave off a back bench revolt.

HOUSING BENEFITS IN BROWN'S SIGHTS

A. Segall

Daily Telegraph, Sept 20th 1999, p. 26

Reports that Brown has launched a major review of housing benefit. Proposals for reform include capping the benefit and making payments direct to tenants rather than landlords, preferably through the tax system.

INCOME DISTRIBUTION IN FAMILIES AND THE REFORM OF SOCIAL SECURITY

R. Lister, J. Goode and C. Callender

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, vol. 21, 1999, p. 203-220

Discusses policy implications of a study of the distribution of income within families receiving social security. Results show that benefits for children are more likely to be spent on the children if paid to the mother, raising questions about the impact of the proposal normally to pay working family tax credit through the wage-packet. There was little support for the individualised payment of benefit, reflecting fears that it could be divisive and that men might treat their share as personal spending money, leaving women to meet the families needs with less money. Concludes that policy-makers need to tread with care in this sensitive area.

KEEPING MUM WITH NEW LABOUR

H. Harman

Times, Oct 13th 1999, p. 21

In response to research showing a negative effect on children of mothers returning to work before they were 12 months old, proposes that employers should be required to keep jobs open for 12 months instead of the present 6, and that mothers should be given the right to return part-time. Government should also scrap statutory Maternity Pay and replace it with a new baby tax credit. This would be full pay for all mothers for the first 18 weeks; thereafter low income mothers eligible for the Working Families Tax Credit could get the new baby tax credit up to the baby's first birthday to a maximum of £70.00 per week.

LORDS WREAK REVENGE WITH EIGHTH DEFEAT ON WELFARE

M. White

Guardian, Oct 28th 1999, p. 15

Peers have voted an amendment during the third reading of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill to ensure that Armed Forces widows keep their widows' pensions after they remarry. Continuing opposition to the Bill will put fresh pressure on Alistair Darling to offer substantial concessions when the Bill returns to the Commons.

(See also Independent, Oct 28th 1999, p. 8)

MASSIVE REVOLT ON WELFARE REFORM

A. Grice

Independent, Nov 4th 1999, p. 1 + 8

Reports that in a series of votes on amendments to the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill demanded by the Lords, the government's 170-plus majority was slashed to 60. A total of 54 Labour MPs voted against the Government and another 10 are thought to have abstained. Rebel Labour MPs stood firm despite arm-twisting by party whips and the offer of significant concessions over curbs on incapacity benefit for new claimants.

(See also Times, Nov 4th 1999, p. 1; Guardian, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 1; Daily Telegraph, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 1; Financial Times, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 4)

MINISTER OFFERS DEAL TO STAVE OFF WELFARE REVOLT

L. Ward

Guardian, Oct 22nd 1999, p. 12

Reports that the Social Security Secretary is poised to offer a significant concession over proposed cuts in disability benefits in order to ensure the passage of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill through the Commons before the end of the Parliamentary session. He is expected to soften plans to means test people on private pensions who also claim incapacity benefit.

(See also Times, Oct 21st 1999, p. 11)

NATIONAL INSURANCE RISE HITS 4 MILLION EARNERS

R. Shrimsley

Daily Telegraph 21st Oct. 1999, p. 1

Reports that 3.9 million people earning more than £540 per week will be liable to increased national insurance contributions. By 2001, instead of paying national insurance on £25, 220 of their income, they will pay it on all earnings up to £29,900. The move is accompanied by plans for a substantial increase in the lower earnings limit, which will cut payments for the less well off.

NOT CRUEL TO THE DISABLED. NOR DISHONEST. BUT MODERNISED

A. Darling

Guardian, Nov. 4th 1999, p. 24

Defends the proposals to means-test Incapacity Benefit for new claimants from 2001 included in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill.

PEERS TOLD: 'REVOLT AND YOU'LL LOSE YOUR REPRIEVE'

C. Brown

Independent, Nov. 5th 1999, p. 8

Ministers have warned peers that the reprieve of 92 hereditary peers ahead of full Lords reform is at risk if they continue to defy the government over disability benefit cuts proposed in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill.

(See also Times, Nov. 5th 1999, p. 19; Daily Telegraph, Nov. 5th 1999, p. 1+4; Guardian, Nov. 5th 1999, p. 15)

POLICY CLASH WILL UNDERMINE TARGETS

N. Valios

Community Care, No. 1293, 1999, p. 10-11

Argues that government plans to tackle poverty and social exclusion through a range of 'welfare to work' initiatives is being undermined by plans to cut benefits for those not able to work.

POOR LONE PARENTS

P. Toynbee

Guardian, Sept. 17th 1999, p. 18

Argues that lone parents should be allowed to remain on income support while in full time education, rather than being forced to take out student loans.

SUPPORT SERVICES IN SHELTERED HOUSING: TRANSITIONAL HOUSING BENEFIT SCHEME

Anon

Registered Homes and Services, vol. 4, 1999, p. 88-89

Reports that the range of services to tenants in sheltered accommodation which will be met under the Transitional Housing Benefit Scheme has been widened by new regulations issued by the Department of Social Security in October 1999.

TAX BOAST FOR DISABLED EMPLOYEES

G. Jones

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 26th 1999, p. 13

Announces the launch of a new tax credit which will replace the Disabled Working Allowance and will guarantee a minimum income of £150 per week for a single disabled person and £250 for a couple with a child.

(See also Independent, Oct. 26th 1999, p. 8); Community Care, no. 1296, 1999, p. 2-3)

THE WOMAN WHO DOESN'T UNDERSTAND OTHER WOMEN

M. Marrin

Daily Telegraph, Oct. 15th 1999, p. 28

In response to research showing that babies whose mothers go back to work before they are a year old suffer a 'discernable negative effect', Harriet Harman has proposed a raft of new measures. These include longer maternity leave, more job sharing and state subsidies to women wishing to stay at home until the end of the first year. Author argues that the conflict of interest between women wishing to pursue careers and their children are too personal and too intractable for the state to resolve.

'WORK FOR THOSE THAT CAN, SECURITY FOR THOSE THAT CANNOT': THE UNITED KINGDOM'S NEW SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM AGENDA

M Hyde, J Dixon and M Joyner

International Social Security Review, vol. 52, Oct. - Dec. 1999, p. 69-86

The Labour government's welfare reform package is premised upon a concept of citizenship that emphasizes equally the importance of 'entitlements' and 'obligations', especially the obligation to work. This approach presumes that the poor are without work because they lack appropriate incentives, not because of the lack of good quality jobs that pay enough to lift them out of poverty. While the government aims to ameliorate poverty, the emphasis on obligations and compulsion may have the effect of reinforcing existing economic and social divisions.

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