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Welfare Reform on the Web (October 2007): Social security - UK

Benefits simplification

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2007 (House of Commons papers, session 2006/07; HC 463)

The current UK benefits system is stunningly complicated, and therefore very hard for claimants and staff to navigate, leading to fraud and error. There are recurrent problems of interaction between benefits, with conflicting rules and entitlements. Overlaps between the benefits system and tax credits cause further confusion. Many rules reflect administrative constraints, and poor administration causes problems. The committee calls for radical, rather than incremental, reform and accuses the government of 'nibbling at the edges' of the problem. It sees opportunities for merging some benefits, aligning the rules of eligibility, and where means-tests are necessary, the information required from claimants. It also favours easier access for claimants through simple online claim forms.

The 'criminalization' of social security law: towards a punitive welfare state?

P.M. Larkin

Journal of Law and Society, vol. 34, 2007, p. 295-320

This article examines the extent to which current British welfare legislation is being designed with the aim of securing a certain standard of 'socially acceptable' behaviour and compliance with civic mores from the underclass. It is argued that a possible method of securing such compliance among this sector of the population involves the creation of a nexus between breaches of criminal or civil law and social security benefit sanctions. Benefit recipients who have transgressed against legislative codes regulating human behaviour, for example by breaching an anti-social behaviour order or failing to make child maintenance payments as an absent parent, may suffer the penalty of loss of welfare benefits for a specified period, even though their behaviour may have no direct links with the social security system.

Exploring the relationships between provision of welfare benefits advice and the health of elderly people: a longitudinal observational study and discussion of methodological issues

J. Campbell and others

Journal of Health and Social Care in the Community, vol. 15, 2007, p. 454-463

Provision of welfare benefits advice to maximise uptake is a shared goal for health and social policy in the UK. This study was designed to explore the wider impact on elderly people provided with specialist welfare benefits advice in terms of their health and quality of life. This paper reports on a longitudinal postal survey of older people aged 60 and over referred for specialist welfare benefits advice within social services and who were followed up at five months. Outcome measures included the Short Form-36, the General Health Questionnaire-12 and the Barthel Index (postal version) along with questions relating to chronic illness. Elderly people receiving welfare benefits advice usually reported the presence of a longstanding illness or disability and the use of health services. Baseline SF-36 scores were very low and remained largely unchanged at follow up; however there were significant improvements in GHQ scores. Significant increases in benefit income were identified in 65% of respondents with complete financial data sets.

To me or not to me?

P. Kemp, K. Nice and A. Irvine

Roof, Sept./Oct 2007, p. 44-45

The most hotly contested feature of the local housing allowance due to replace housing benefit for private tenants in 2008 is that it will normally be paid to tenants and not to landlords. This article summarises the results of a study of claimants' views on the pros and cons of payment of housing benefit to directly themselves rather than their landlords. Results suggested that most claimants could cope with the responsibility of paying their own rent without difficulty, but a minority of vulnerable tenants would need a lot of support.

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