On November 11, the government published a White Paper on welfare reform. Central to the proposals is the replacing of the range of out-of-work benefits, housing benefit and tax credits with a single universal benefit. The system will be introduced for new claimants in 2013 and for those currently on benefits sometime after 2015.
When the unemployed find work, the benefit will be withdrawn at a rate of 65p of each £1 earned. At present, because of the complexity of the system, some claimants on multiple benefits can find that the withdrawal rate is almost 100%. When income tax is added in, the tax-plus-lost-benefit rate does sometimes exceed 100%. Thus some people find themselves in a poverty trap, whereby it’s not worth getting a job. It’s financially benefical to stay on benefits.
The other crucial element of the proposal is to deny people benefits who turn down a legitimate job.
a. Failure to meet a requirement to prepare for work (applicable to jobseekers and those in the Employment and Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group) will lead to 100 per cent of payments ceasing until the recipient re-complies with requirements and for a fixed period after re-compliance (fixed period sanctions start at one week, rising to two, then four weeks with each subsequent failure to comply).
b. Failure to actively seek employment or be available for work will lead to payment ceasing for four weeks for a first failure and up to three months for a second.
c. The most serious failures that apply only to jobseekers will lead to Jobseeker’s Allowance payment ceasing for a fixed period of at least three months (longer for repeat offences). Actions that could trigger this level of penalty include failure to accept a reasonable job offer, failure to apply for a job or failure to attend Mandatory Work Activity.
The following podcasts and articles look at the details of the proposals and discuss their merits and drawbacks,
Podcasts and webcasts
Not going to work if you can is ‘not an option’ ITV, part of speech by Iain Duncan Smith (11/11/10)
IDS: Staying on benefits ‘irrational choice’ BBC Today Programme, Chris Buckler, Iain Duncan Smith Smith (11/11/10)
Iain Duncan Smith unveils new benefits system BBC News (11/11/10)
Welfare reform success ‘far from certain’ BBC Today Programme, Norman Smith (11/11/10)
Benefits system overhaul ‘to make work pay’ BBC News (11/11/10)
At-a-glance: Benefits overhaul BBC News (11/11/10)
Benefits explained: A basic guide to entitlements BBC News (11/11/10)
Is welfare reform doomed to fail? BBC News, Norman Smith (11/11/10)
A bold and principled approach to benefits Telegraph (11/11/10)
Reshaping the benefits system The Economist, Blighty blog (11/11/10)
Unemployment benefits shake-up ‘a fair deal’ Independent (11/11/10)
Tougher welfare sanctions spark ‘destitution’ warnings Independent (11/11/10)
Iain Duncan Smith: it’s a sin that people fail to take up work Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Randeep Ramesh and Hélène Mulholland (11/11/10)
Preacher Duncan Smith aims for holy grail of welfare policy Guardian, Randeep Ramesh (11/11/10)
Documents, official information and data
Universal Credit: welfare that works Department for Work and Pensions, Links to White Paper (11/11/10)
Benefits and financial support Directgov
Economic and Labour Market Review (see tables in Chapters 2 and 6), National Statistics