Julie Smith, King Edward VI Handsworth School

Making
work pay?

With several key benefit reforms underway and the governm...
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FPTP - Making Work Pay?

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With several key benefit reforms underway and the government still aiming to cut welfare spending by at least £18bn before the next general election, social security is bound to be an issue high on the party conference agenda.

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FPTP - Making Work Pay?

  1. 1. Julie Smith, King Edward VI Handsworth School Making work pay? With several key benefit reforms underway and the government still aiming to cut welfare spending by at least £18bn before the next general election, social security is bound to be an issue high on the party conference agenda. The following chart is designed to help students of Politics navigate their way through the changes. Reform The Government Says... Critics say... Universal Credit This will simplify the current system by rolling six benefits into one, thus reducing room for fraud or error. It is designed to ‘make work pay’ and reduce reliance on the state, the so-called ‘dependency culture’. Ian Duncan Smith’s flagship policy represents the biggest reform of the welfare system since the 1940s and could affect up to 8 million people who are ‘trapped on benefits’. It won’t work! The scheme is due to be rolled out by October 2017, yet problems with its implementation have already become apparent this month. The National Audit Office has criticised its management, governance and IT setbacks. While Labour broadly welcomes the principle behind it, the union Unite objects to what it calls the division between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor. The Benefit Cap This will also ensure that households are better off in work than on benefits. Families will not be able to claim more than £26,000 and the cap will ultimately become part of the Universal Credit system. Coupled with this, a 1% annual rise in benefits will ensure that payments do not overtake wage increases in the public sector. The government says that more than 12,000 have already moved into work as a result. Millions of families will be worse off as prices continue to rise. Labour has warned of a ‘cost of living crisis’ and has instead pledged to strengthen the minimum wage in line with inflation and offer 25 hours of free child care a week to parents of 3 and 4 year olds. These are also measures designed to ‘make work pay’! Others argue that the cap will hit those living in more expensive parts of the country hardest as they struggle to pay private rents. Disability Benefits These should focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot do! Reform of the old Incapacity Benefit began under Labour and the change to Employment and Support Allowance is already well underway. Disability Living Allowance (available to those unable to work) is now being replaced by Personal Independence Payments. PIPs are subject to stricter conditions and are thus likely to have fewer claimants. The system for testing who is and who is not capable of work is fundamentally flawed! Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne has called for Atos, the French company responsible for carrying out work capability assessments, to be sacked. According to Labour, 2 in every 5 people appeal against its decisions. Charities for the disabled are also warning that those with more complex benefit claims will lose out. Housing Benefit This will reduce the benefits bill still further by cutting payments made to those occupying council or housing association homes which are larger than they need. The ‘spare room subsidy’ should save £490 million in taxpayer’s money in this financial year alone and ease overcrowding. This is a ‘bedroom tax’! The Liberal Democrats at their recent conference backed a review of the measure, which began in April, and Labour have gone still further by pledging to abolish it altogether! According to the TUC, 1 in 3 council tenants affected has already fallen behind with rent. So it is clear that the coalition wants to crack down on what it sees as a ‘something for nothing’ culture, as well as reducing welfare spending. Whether it will succeed in achieving its aims, without removing the safety net for those in genuine need, remains to be seen. Either way, the battle lines are already being drawn for the next general election. Questions Find out more about each of these policies and the controversies surrounding them. Identify the themes running through the coalition’s benefit reform programme. Discuss the extent to which limiting state benefits may be politically popular but socially unfair.

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