Welfare Reform in the UK


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As I write this the outcome of the Welfare Reform Bill in the UK is still under consideration in the House of Lords, according to the Parliament Website it is currently at the ‘Report Stage’ with just the third reading and consideration of amendments to go before Royal Ascent.

I have held off writing about the bill because I think my views may be quite controversial, but what am I if not opinionated!?

Background Summary

The Bill provides for the introduction of a ‘Universal Credit‘ to replace a range of existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age, starting from 2013. The Bill follows the November 2010 White Paper, ‘Universal Credit: welfare that works’, which set out the Coalition Government’s proposals for reforming welfare to improve work incentives, simplify the benefits system and tackle administrative complexity.

Besides introducing Universal Credit and related measures, the Bill makes other significant changes to the benefits system.

Key areas

During the Committee Stage, the Government amended the Bill to provide for the establishment of a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

source:  Parliament.uk

Arguments against the Welfare Reform Bill

For the best most up to date information on the arguments against the welfare reform bill those of us in the know in the social media world all turn to Sue Marsh. Sue is an avid campaigner against the bill, in particular the changes it proposes that affect people with disabilities. Sue blogs about her campaign over at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger where her bio demonstrates that she is a person in much need of the financial support of disability living allowance (DLA) –

I have a rare form of Crohn’s Disease. I was diagnosed 21 years ago and have had many operations to remove strictures (narrowings in my bowel that grow like tumours) I suffer daily pain, often vomiting, malnourished and weak. I take mega-strong medications every day including chemo-style immuno-suppressants, opiates and anti-sickness injections. Sometimes I am fed into my central vein by tube, other times I can enjoy a nice meal out. I have children that I often can’t look after and a husband who often looks after me. Our lives are disrupted daily by the misery of a chronic condition.

source: Sue Marsh

Sue and many other campaigners can be followed on twitter via Sue’s own feed @suey2y and the hashtags #wrb and #spartacusreport.

Basically the principle behind the campaign is to stop the replacement of DLA with PIP (Personal Independence Payments) and other reforms of the disability benefits that will leave the ‘hardest hit’ even harder hit.

Yes, reform is needed, but it needs to be (as Sue says) RESPONSIBLE reform.

I 100% support the work of Sue and all the other campaigners trying to stop this element of the Bill from passing through. Seriously if you want to know about WHY this should not be allowed to happen please check out Sue’s blog – Diary of a Benefit Scrounger.

Arguments for Welfare Reform

Okay so this is the bit where I get controversial.

Like I say, I 100% agree that the proposed reforms for Disability benefits and wrong and misguided but there are other elements of the proposed reform that I DO support and I think are log overdue.

Before I explain these I just want to say that even here my loyalties and opinion are still divided – while I think there is a massive need for our country to stop supporting a ‘something for nothing’ based benefits system I recognise that there are people who GENUINELY need the support of the Welfare State.

It is a bit of a catch 22.

I also think that the real issue is not the plan to reform, but HOW that reform is being applied.

The majority of those involved in making the plans and decisions are pubic school boys with no knowledge or experience of the real world effects of the decisions they are making and the actions they take – to be honest we need another ‘Grocers daughter’ (reference to Margaret Thatcher) who understands where the real people are coming from, whilst not allowing their need to be an excuse for laziness.

My opinion is this – Contributions from the welfare state should based upon need, where ‘need’ truly exists (i.e disability’s) but where there is no disability contributions from the welfare state should be based on ‘effort’.

Basically benefits for those capable of work, but who are not working (such as Jobseekers Allowance) is the area which I feel is in need of the biggest reform, and more importantly REDUCTION of the amount paid – why? because they get ‘paid’ more to sit at home playing computer games and watching Jeremy Kyle than they would if they got off their arses and got a real job!

If you think I am being harsh, I don’t care. Yes, there are people out of work for genuine reasons other than illness, but there are FAR TOO MANY who are out of work and not even bothering to try and find work.

THESE are the people who are about to get a 5.2% ‘pay’ increase this year while public sector workers strike over pay freezes – is it any wonder people are striking !? (I don’t support the strikes but I don’t blame them either when benefits get this level of increase!)

From April 2012, most benefits will increase in line with CPI inflation (+5.2%).

source: www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06172.pdf

Yes, we have problems with a lack of jobs, but giving people more money to sit at home isn’t going to fix that! The people whose benefits will increase are those whose overheads will remain the same – they get council tax and housing benefit on top of their jobseekers allowance so they don’t have to pay rent or council tax.

But those who are working in low-income jobs and need a ‘top-up’ of their income to be able to keep their heads above water are the ones who won’t be getting any help:

The main elements of Working Tax Credit have been frozen in 2012-13, while Child Benefit remains frozen at its 2010-11 rates until April 2014.

source: www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06172.pdf

Fraud as a reason for welfare reform

Fraud is often cited as one of the main reasons for a need to reform the welfare state. Here are some figures direct from the government on this matter…

*All data used in this section is as  stated in the DWP report – Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: Preliminary 2010/11 Estimates

Fraudulent claims for ‘all’ benefits amount to only 0.8% of the total expenditure in benefits in the 2010/11 period, so less than 1% of claimants are defrauding the system.

A total cost of £1.2billion in a system that cost £154billion in 2010/2011.

Cost and Percentage of fraudulent claims by benefit type:

At a cost of £290 million 1.3% of total housing benefit claims are fraudulent

£190 million 2.4% Income Support

£190 million 2.3% Pension Credit

£180 million 4.1% JSA

£160 million 0.9% unreviewed benefit

£60 million 3.9% Carers allowance

£60 million 1.2% council tax

£60 million 0.5% DLA

£20 million 0.3% Incapacity benefit

Given these figures while cutting benefit fraud is important it is also clear that it does not cost and is not as widespread as the media would have us believe.

One also needs to consider the report states the majority of this IS recovered from the claimants for example:

In 2009/10 DWP recoveries (excluding Housing Benefit) were estimated to be over £290m. The net loss to the Department is therefore less than the figures shown in this report.

source: Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: Preliminary 2010/11 Estimates

Conclusion

As you can see there is, in my opinion a need for reform of the welfare system, but it needs to take into consideration the real world impacts of who will be hardest hit and who will be allowed to continue to fund a lifestyle of laziness.

Getting the balance right to crack down on those abusing the system is important, but more so the amount paid overall in benefits needs to be addressed.

No system will be completely free of errors or immune to fraud but the Government has a responsibility to see that those in need are adequately provided for and that those who can contribute to society, the economy and their own lives by working should DO SO rather than relying on government hand out’s to pay for 50in plasma TV’s while the rest of us budget, scrimp and scrape just to pay the bills not thinking of such luxury items!

What do you think?

Have your say in the comments below!

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7 comments on “Welfare Reform in the UK

  1. You’re missing the point. Welfare reform as it stands is really about handing the country over to private interests to profit from. Welfare reform is just the excuse being used to hide behind while they do this. There’s no point my going through it point by point as it’s all been done before, you just haven’t heard about it yet. Start here http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2011/08/23/important-read-circulate/ trust me, you’ll have far more to worry about than how much doleys get when you understand what’s really going on.

    • Thank you for sharing this Kay, I have just read the post and expected to be shocked, but instead I just found myself tutting and puffing – the contents of the report demonstrate a complete disgrace going on, yet none of it was surprising and the lack of government intervention to stop these appalling practises and complete lack of regard for the truth is just sickening 😦

  2. I never in a million years thought I would end up relying on benefits, but I do. I was a successful business woman. For many years I refused to give in to illness, I worked my way through over 25 operations, worked my way through cancer and all the treatment, basically thought I was invincible.

    It wasn’t until I felt bruised and hurt all over, couldn’t remember how to spell my name or turn on my computer, and couldn’t stand up for for than a few minutes that I gave in. I was diagnosed, over time, with lupus, sjorgrens syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and hypothyroidism – all autoimmune problems.

    That was 17 years ago … very little improvement – the odd good few days here and there, but mostly exhausted, mostly in pain … I have to plan and budget my energy for every activity – no matter how small – do I have a shower or get dressed? do I make lunch or chat to a friend today?

    I receive incapacity benefit – £90 odd per week and DLA which we use for an estate car so that I can move my mobility scooter around .. hardly what I dreamt of all those years ago. Hardly how I thought my life would turn out!

    Reform – yes I agree there should be reforms … but not the sledge hammer approach that this government seem to be so intent on using.

    • Thanks for sharing your story Tisha, it is shocking that the government think people like yourself should go without yet they are still willing to ‘pay’ the many lazy people who don’t ‘want’ to earn a living to it at home all day – they really have their priorities wrong in their cost-cutting ideas 😦 I really hope this reform doesn’t get through in it’s current state!

  3. I have multiple illnesses, including Crohns. I am on strong opiates to get thru the day. If it wasn’t for benefit increases (am on DLA – low rate -and Incap) every April I wouldn’t be able to afford food etc. The fact remains is that £3 extra to a jobseeker may mean they can afford to get to an interview. There just aren’t jobs in usually plentiful sectors like retail, my friend has been out/in work s many times recently. She has, like me and many others, social fund deductions because 67.50 isn’t fair. She’s 43 and looks for work for hours on end. Now she HAS to work 29.5hrs for 8 weeks for FREE or she loses her JSA. How about Poundland offer her a job? Nobody should be supporting the rule they have to work for it. It upsets me when people do not realise OUR bills go up too. I live in poverty. I have to choose, from next month, between heating; eating or going to hospital appts. I had to fight for 10 months to get what I have for benefits too.

    • Thanks for sharing Claire, indeed cuts would be unfair on people like yourself and your friend who try to find work but are unable, but there are so many who don’t, won’t and will never even try (I was married to one!) it’s not fair for those who are trying to have to cover the wasteful living of those who just want handouts!

  4. Pingback: Debbie Purdy’s husband ‘told to quit work’ to get benefits « ATOS REGISTER OF SHAME

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