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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Benefits About to be Hit

Government starts offensive on benefit reform
From: yahoonews-uk

LONDON (Reuters) - Tony Blair's government launched a drive on Tuesday to convince Labour backbenchers to support its plans to reform welfare benefits as it braces for a series of potentially damaging revolts in parliament.

Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton has appealed to 100 Members of Parliament in a letter highlighting the failings of the current system which, he argues, perpetuates hardship.

He told BBC radio he had drawn attention to the link between high levels of deprivation and claimants on incapacity benefit.

"I haven't come into politics to make poor people poorer," Hutton said.
"I've come into politics to make poorer people have the same opportunities to get on with their lives as other people have and I think that will be the underlying principle (of the reforms)."

The changes to incapacity benefit, to be published later this month, will test Blair's authority after his first parliamentary defeat last year. That was on anti-terrorism legislation.

Many Labour backbenchers fear Hutton's reforms are designed to save money and will simply result in a big cut in benefits.

Analysts say Blair faces a choice of either watering down his plans or losing a vote. He also faces a battle to get through planned reforms in areas including education and pensions.

But Hutton said he knew of no Labour, or other MPs, who supported the current system.
"The truth is, on average people on incapacity benefit for one year stay on it for eight years. And after two years they are more likely to die or retire than come off benefits," he said.

"I think there is a very strong groundswell of opinion saying we need to tackle the problem," he said, adding that he would deal with the reforms "sensitively and carefully."

My Comments:

As someone who was forced to rely on Incapacity Benefit for a while, I am extremely worried about these proposals.  Hutton’s exclamations that benefit changes are not designed to make people poorer sound insincere when reading between the lines of the rest of his rhetoric, which is pure ‘Blairite’ spin.  

Sutton’s notions to “tackle the problem … sensitively and carefully” demonstrate his real aim – to get as many people as he can out to work …. and thus paying taxes and insurance.  These people are a ‘problem’ unless they can ‘pay their way’. Then, and only then, can New Labour even begin to ‘tackle’ its growing ‘problem’ with finding funding pensions in the years to come.

I understand the finances, but why hit those who are obviously sick?  You have to be off work for a considerable time to claim long-term Incapacity Benefit, and you will have had to have endured at least one (probably more) searching questionnaires and interviews in order to ‘qualify’.  Forcing people on Incapacity Benefit back to work before they are able to cope is not ‘sensitive’ and I bet it will not be carried out ‘carefully’ either, considering that those workers in the benefits offices who will have to carry out these measures are already overworked with having to carry out the latest ‘bureaucracy measure’.  Those who are forced back to work will be faced with a future containing nothing but low-paid stressful work as a result of these proposals.

Surely a better, and much more lucrative, policy would be to consider cutting down on ‘defence’ costs?

But that would mean pulling out of Iraq, wouldn’t it?

posted by summersun70 at 7:07 AM


Blogger Michael said...

Policy issues being discussed such as reforms to IB have serious implications for some individuals. Its interesting reading your perspective on this and its interesting comparing this debate with the looming pensions crisis. The 'us' and 'them' culture is resurrecting itself. Reforms may be necessary but at what cost and who is helping who?

9:48 AM  

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