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June 28, 2010    

Government proposes radical reform to benefits system

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by Kay Murchie

As it continues with its priority of cutting Britain’s budget deficit, the coalition Government has indicated that incapacity benefits will be targeted in a welfare crackdown.

Chancellor George Osborne has already announced tough austerity measures to cut the £155 billion deficit but has now made it clear that sickness benefits will be targeted, as they cost £12.5 billion a year.

Mr Osborne said he wanted to protect those in “genuine need” but said he will encourage those who are able to work, to do so.

In their election manifesto, the Conservatives party pledged not to cut benefits for pensioners - in particular, free bus passes, TV licences and the winter fuel payment.

Mr Osborne said: “We have given very specific commitments on some and we have not given specific commitments on others.

“That is what I want to be part of the spending review over the summer. It is a trade-off and some of these benefits are very much larger than most government departments.”

He continued: “We have got to look at all these things, make sure it protects those in genuine need, protects those with disabilities and protects those who can’t work but also encourages those who can work into work. That is the purpose behind our welfare reform.”

However, the proposals were criticised by shadow work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper, who told the BBC: “This is not welfare reform… it is simply benefit cuts. None of these proposals will get a single extra person back into jobs.”

In his first budget last week, Mr Osborne announced changes to the child tax credits system and child benefit.

Child benefit is set to be frozen for the next three years, while 600,000 middle-income families will lose out on child tax credits.

Meanwhile, in related news today, proposals were unveiled by Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, which could see unemployed people encouraged to seek jobs outside the areas where they live.

According to Mr Duncan Smith, millions of people are “trapped in estates where there is no work” but have been unable to relocate because it would mean giving up their right to a home.

However, the scheme would allow them to go to the top of the housing list in another area as Mr Duncan Smith said he wants to get people out of unemployment blackspots.

Again, the move is designed to cut down on benefit spending as 1.48 million Britons are currently claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) - according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

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  1. Everyone seems to panic at the word audit. What panics me more is we have no audits and continue to pay out public funds with our eyes closed. Of the people I know on gov’t assistance at least half have lied. Assistance should go to the needy, not the cheaty. And we wonder why our states are going broke. Audit is good. Fraud is bad.

    Comment by carol@inthetrenches — June 29, 2010 @ 3:12 am

  2. I am disgusted that the Government is planning a climbdown on capping housing benefit because of the impact that it would have in areas where husing costs are high. In my opinion the taxpayer should not be subsidising families housing costs to the tune of £400 per week to live in Chelsea, etc. What rights do families living free in areas like this think they have over the rest of us? I for one, could never aspire to living in such an area on my salary of £40k per annum, so why do they think that they can, at my and others expense. It’s about time that this was brought to an end.

    Comment by D Woodhouse — October 27, 2010 @ 8:16 am

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