Radical Welfare Reform Plans Are Unveiled

Radical Welfare Reform Plans Are Unveiled

11:50am UK, Thursday February 17, 2011

Joey Jones, deputy political editor

The Government is outlining the full details of its flagship changes to the benefits system later.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Welfare Reform Bill involves a radical overhaul, aimed at simplifying the system and tackling the culture that he believes encourages people to choose a life on benefits.

The proposals include replacing work-related benefits with a single, universal credit, designed to ensure people are always better off when they are employed.

The Government intends to close the loophole which enables some couples to receive more living apart.

But there is also a significant climbdown, with ministers shelving a controversial plan to cut people’s housing benefit by 10% if they were in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year.

The benefits system… doesn’t just allow people to act irresponsibly, but often actively encourages them to do so

Prime Minister David Cameron
In a speech to mark the publication of the bill, the Prime Minister is expected to say that the “collective culture of responsibility” that used to be the bedrock of the welfare system has been lost.

He will argue that there are some individuals who, “with no regret or remorse, intentionally rip off the system,” but that more broadly, the system itself is at fault.

“The benefit system has created a benefit culture,” David Cameron will say.

“It doesn’t just allow people to act irresponsibly, but often actively encourages them to do so.”

For those people who refuse to play ball, there will be increasingly severe sanctions.

Anyone who repeatedly refuses to take up a job offer face losing their benefits for as long as three years.

Cameron will say people can’t be trusted to claim only what they need

The Prime Minister will also talk of his concern that sickness absence from work is frequently a first step towards finding oneself on benefits.

“We simply have to get to grips with the sicknote culture that means a short spell of sickness absence can far too easily become a gradual slide to a life of long-term benefit dependency.