Wednesday 20 September 2017

End of 'life on dole' in UK welfare shake-up

Joe Churcher in London

A RADICAL shake-up of out-of-work benefits is a "fair deal" for both the jobless and the taxpayer, British Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith insisted last night.

Prime Minister David Cameron said that, for anyone able to work, "a life of benefits will no longer be an option".

People "don't pay their taxes to pay for people to stay on benefit", he said.

Mr Duncan Smith said a streamlined system would ensure people were always better off in work than on welfare -- with tougher penalties for those who refused to take jobs.

Labour gave its backing to the reform effort but warned that swingeing cuts to other parts of the welfare state would mean people actually ended up worse off.

And leading anti-poverty charities accused ministers of creating a "climate of fear" and exposing families and children to the "risk of destitution".

Under the changes, the present system of at least 30 work-related benefits will be merged into a single universal credit.

They will end the "perverse disincentives" to stay on benefits by showing people they would be "better off for each hour they work", Mr Duncan Smith said.

Programme

A work programme will be introduced to help people return to the workforce -- with some long-term jobless required to do unpaid community work.

But unemployed people who persistently fail to turn up for or refuse to apply for jobs will lose their £65 (€77) a week allowance for up to three years.

The allowance will be removed for three months on a first offence, six months the second time and three years on the third breach of the new rules -- with no right of appeal.

The secretary of state said it was "a sin" that 70pc of the extra jobs created over the last 14 years had been taken by immigrants because British people were not "capable or able" to do them.

That showed that creating jobs was not the only solution to dealing with the five million on out-of-work benefits -- 1.4 million of them claiming for nine out of the last 10 years.

Up to 850,000 people could be lifted out of poverty as a direct result of the changes, Mr Duncan Smith suggested.

And simplifying the system could slash £1bn (€1.18bn) a year from fraud and error.

But campaigners issued stark warnings about the impact of tougher sanctions.

Oxfam's director of UK Poverty, Kate Wareing, said: "The changes proposed will expose people to the risk of destitution."

Irish Independent

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