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‘Single benefit’ not simple enough


‘Single benefit’ not simple enough or likely to be fair

Green MP Sue Bradford says a simpler and fairer welfare system would be a great idea, but the Government’s version of a ‘single’ benefit isn’t it.

“The Government should bite the bullet and completely rewrite the Social Security Act 1964 from scratch, not just fiddle around with parts of the system once again,” said Ms Bradford, the Green Party’s Social Services Spokesperson.

“The Greens support the idea of a simpler benefit system because we want to make life easier for beneficiaries, rather than beancounters and bureaucrats. So while we do favour one universal base rate with a second tier of add-ons, we want to see a scheme that is much less complex and with greater discretion for people’s individual circumstances than that announced today.

“The most important thing is that no one should receive less under the new regime, but so far we’ve only got Steve Maharey’s word that won’t happen, there’s no sign of a mechanism to ensure it.

“I am particularly concerned that the discretionary safety net of the Special Benefit is being scrapped and replaced with the much tighter Temporary Additional Support, or TAS, benefit. Just this move alone is likely to undo Mr Maharey’s avowed intention that no one will be worse off.

“This package continues the Government’s ‘Welfare to Work’ focus, which is fine when the goal is getting unemployed people back into paid and meaningful jobs, but is unfair, inappropriate and unrealistic when the intention is to push solo parents into employment when they would rather be caring full-time for their children at that stage of their lives. When is Labour going to recognise that bringing up children on your own can be a full-time job and should be valued in its own right?

“Given the Government’s overall agenda, this single benefit system is also likely to lead to sickness and invalid beneficiaries being more tightly assessed, sometimes by Government-approved doctors charged with pushing people off benefits, as happens now with ACC. Will the Government ever accept that some people are permanently unable to work? Or that people shouldn’t be forced to work when they are sick or injured?

“We urge the Government to be more inclusive in its consultation from here on in, including talking with beneficiary advocacy groups and others at the grassroots level who are dealing with these problems.

“Welfare reform and income sufficiency is likely to be a big issue this election year. Labour doesn’t go far enough and is still stuck in the trap of trying to win the votes of beneficiary bashers as well as of beneficiaries themselves,” said Ms Bradford.


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