Tag Archives: benefits

Steve Webb: Lib Dems will introduce “fair warning” for job-seekers who break benefit rules before sanctions imposed

webb 01The Lib Dems are taking advantage of the quiet weeks in August to drip-feed a number of new policies likely to make it into the party’s general election manifesto. Alongside reforms to police stop-and-search and fairer funding for Wales, Lib Dem work and pensions minister Steve Webb has outline plans to introduce a ‘fair warning’ before benefits sanctions are imposed against job-seekers who break the rules. The Guardian reports:

The Liberal Democrats will pledge in their general election manifesto to introduce a new “yellow card” system to give

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Indiscriminate and insensitive overuse of benefit sanctions needs to be tackled by Liberal Democrat ministers

Benefits-welfareI came across this article about some of the circumstances which had led to sanctions being imposed on benefit claimants. Everything in the article is sourced, but I also take it seriously because it resonates with real life examples that I have heard about.

The coalition has dramatically increased the scale of withdrawal of benefit for infringing rules. A claimant can be sanctioned for not apparently looking hard enough for work, for not attending job centre interviews or for turning down job offers. The minimum period you can lose your benefit …

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LibLink: Sarah Teather – Why I’m Going Hungry on Saturday

Sarah Teather, MP for Brent Central

Lib Dem MP for Brent Central Sarah Teather will be part of a hunger-fast relay today in protest at what she describes as the coalition government’s “wilful indifference to the hunger of its citizens”. Here’s an excerpt of what she’s written for the Huffington Post:

I shall be fasting as part of the End Hunger Fast Relay. I pick up the baton from the Bishop of Salisbury tonight and pass it on to a Quaker leader on Sunday as we take part in an act of community solidarity with the thousands of British people who go hungry each day because they cannot afford to buy food.

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Clegg: Yes to intensive support for unemployed young people; no to automatic benefit withdrawal

On his weekly LBC phone-in earlier today, Nick Clegg took a call (from Lib Dem activist Linda Jack; see comments) on the proposals mooted at the Conservative Party Conference to remove the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit from those aged under 25 and require them to be in either work, education or training.

The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has written up Clegg’s response (which has been slightly unfairly characterised, or at least oversimplified, in the headline):

Clegg said he supported the idea that some claimants who had been on the work programme for two years should work for their dole, the proposal

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Opinion: I need the Liberal Democrats to stand up for me when Conservative ministers denigrate me

I want to share with you how I feel when Conservative government ministers talk about welfare claimants in disparaging terms. I hope that I can bring a bit of understanding about the problems people like me face.

Before I begin, I should give a trigger warning for rape, self harm and sexual abuse. The details are upsetting but I feel you need to know the whole story.

I was raped and abused as a child every single week for 12 years. On numerous occasions I would wake to find myself being raped and suffocated by my abuser, who was later imprisoned for …

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Lessons of Coalition: what do the Lib Dems need to learn from the first 3 years?

ldv coalition lessonsWe’re more than three years in. What started in the Rose Garden has turned into a bed of thorns. The quieter summer weeks are as good a time as any to reflect on the key lessons the Lib Dems need to learn from this stint in government. Who knows? We may have a second chance after 2015: best to plan ahead now to avoid the obvious pitfalls we fell into this time (tuition fees, NHS Bill, secret courts) as well as to max-out the successes we’ve delivered (tax-cuts for the low-paid, the ‘pupil premium’, new apprenticeships).

Over the next few days, we’ll be running a daily feature, ‘Lessons of Coalition’ to which those of us who contribute to LibDemVoce will be adding. But we welcome reader contributions as well. The word limit is no more than 450 words, and please focus on just one lesson you think the party needs to learn. Simply email your submission to [email protected] Here’s mine for starters…

Stronger policy development and campaigning on issues that matter to the public (AKA where’s our liberal equivalent of the benefits cap?)

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Clegg threat to block any further welfare cuts unless Cameron agrees to tax wealthy pensioners’ benefits

It’s 18 months since Nick Clegg first publicly aired the idea that some universal benefits given to better-off pensioners should be means-tested — an idea that’s found favour with two-thirds of Lib Dem members.

There have always been three problems with the idea.

The first problem is that means-testing is bureaucratic and potentially expensive. However, there is an easy way around that: treat their cash value as income, and tax this income at the appropriate marginal rate, as proposed by CentreForum last year. Pensioners with annual incomes below the personal tax threshold would be wholly unaffected; those …

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Welfare reform: what should the Lib Dems do?

This much I think I know… Cuts to the overall welfare budget are inescapable: it accounts for too large a chunk of of public spending for it to be immune — certainly if the NHS, schools and overseas aid budgets are to be protected at the same time as spending is reduced.

These cuts would be happening whichever party was in power, though doubtless the precise methods would differ. The IFS’s verdict in 2010 on what they termed Labour’s “fiscal drift” was stark: “By the eve of the financial crisis … the UK one of the largest structural …

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The Liberal Democrat perspective on welfare reform that needs to be heard

On Monday, I wrote about the good things Liberal Democrats are doing in Government and also expressed  concern that nobody was out there giving the Liberal Democrat perspective  in a way that would resonate with and encourage members and activists. I know that some of them felt a bit exposed. They were out there on a day when we were under  media pressure, and nobody was giving them any air cover. It’s a balance, of course. There have been times when we’ve complained that our ministers are out there defending things we  feel uncomfortable with. These things can be …

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Benefits, back-to-work and the unemployed: what Lib Dem members think

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 650 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

70% say: withdraw unemployment benefits IF job offers refused without ‘good reason’

In principle, do you support or oppose withdrawing benefits from unemployed people who refuse offers of work without good reason?

    70% – Support

    21% – Oppose

    9% – Don’t know

The overwhelming view — held by 7-in-10 of those Lib Dems who responded — was that in principle withdrawing benefits …

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Benefits Uprating Bill: Andrew George and Charles Kennedy’s arguments AGAINST

The Government last night won the vote for its Benefits Uprating Bill, with the third and final reading passed by 305 votes to 246. A fortnight ago, six Lib Dem MPs voted against or abstained from the Coalition line that benefits rises should be capped at the same rate as public sector pay (a below inflation 1% pa) for each of the next three years.

Andrew George, Charles Kennedy and other Lib Dems sought to move an amendment to the Bill, linking future welfare increases to the rise in average earnings. However, time expired before it was put …

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LibLink… Nick Clegg: Labour need to tell us what they would cut

Nick Clegg has issued a challenge to Labour in today’s Times. Rather than, he says, oppose every single cut the Coalition has made, Labour should be saying what they would cut to pay for their policy priorities. If Labour want benefits to rise at the rate of inflation, then they need to spell out exactly how they would pay for it.

Firstly, he talks about what the Coalition has achieved for economic growth, and how it has been pragmatic on cutting the deficit, changing its plans as the global economic circumstances changed:

Here in the UK we have now paid off around

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Teather: “Benefit cap is immoral and divisive”

Lib Dem MP for Brent Central Sarah Teather makes the front page of The Observer today for a powerful interview slamming the Government’s plans to bring in a benefit cap. I’m quoting extensively from it, below, but it’s well worth reading the whole piece here.

This is clearly an issue that touches Sarah deeply, not least because of the number of her constituents she knows will be deeply affected by the changes. What impresses me most, though, is the way she acknowledges the way the arguments are being …

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There should be far more rebellions like the one yesterday

A brief footnote to Stephen’s piece yesterday Government suffers defeat in Lords over ‘new poll tax’ changes to council tax benefits. Note what the rebellion was over:

An independent review of the changes to be carried out within three years of them being introduced.

Yup, that shocking idea that after a new policy is introduced, we should leave it a little while and then someone should go and take a look how

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Government suffers defeat in Lords over ‘new poll tax’ changes to council tax benefits

The Government has suffered a defeat today on changes to the system of paying council tax benefit. As part of the Coalition’s existing welfare cuts, council tax relief is being reduced and local authorities are being given the power to set their own eligibility criteria from April 2013. As the Financial Times reported last week:

The coalition has earmarked £100m for councils that promise to limit the sums poorer people must pay to around 8.5 per cent of the full council tax rate – less than half what some local authorities are considering. … Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, will on Tuesday propose an amendment

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What Lib Dem members think about means-testing pensioner benefits & a freeze on benefits payments

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum before conference to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Two-thirds back means-testing of some wealthy pensioner benefits

LDV asked: Nick Clegg has suggested introducing means-testing so that better-off pensioners would no longer be entitled to receive benefits such as winter fuel payments, free bus passes and television licences. Supporters argue that at a time of financial austerity such benefits for the wealthiest paid by general taxation are unfair. Opponents

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Liberal Democrats to veto plan for benefits freeze

From The Independent:

Nick Clegg will veto George Osborne’s demands for a two-year freeze in most state benefits from next April and a further £10bn of welfare cuts…

The Deputy Prime Minister revealed he will block the Treasury’s demand for more cuts before the 2015 election to compensate for lower-than-expected growth. “Not a penny more, not a penny less,” he declared.

The message is reinforced Danny Alexander in The Guardian:

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Nick Clegg says no to Tory plans for more welfare cuts

Newspapers have been reporting for months that the Liberal Democrats were not prepared to sign up to Tory plans for £10 billion of welfare cuts in a spending review that would draw up plans for spending into the next Parliament. Today’s Independent says that Nick Clegg himself will ensure that this Government only produces spending plans for 2015-16. The electorate will then decide in the 2015 election whether they want to pursue further cuts in welfare or a heavier burden of tax on the wealthy.

 The report says;

The Liberal Democrats’ opposition means the review will have to be watered down. Before the

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The weekend debate: should benefits for pensioners be restricted?

Here’s your starter for ten in our weekend slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith have both been arguing within the government for rich pensioners to have their benefits cut:

Nick Clegg is backing calls for cuts in pension benefits such as winter fuel payments and free bus passes. David Cameron is said to be adamant that the Tories should keep to a pledge made before the general election that the payments remain. But Clegg is understood to have told colleagues he wants the winter payments and free TV licences cut

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‘Workfare': the depressingly sterile ‘left/right’ debate is a challenge to liberals to sharpen our thinking

Deborah Orr has a must-read article in the Guardian highlighting the inverted absurdity of this week’s row about the Coalition’s workfare programme, The slanging match over workfare is getting us nowhere.

She points out that the very essence of workfare is government intervention in the workings of the free market, the state urging private companies to offer work experience placements to the unemployed:

For the right, such hapless, inefficient intervention by the state is anathema. When the private sector is left to make its own arrangements, neo-liberals never tire of pointing out, it functions better, to the advantage of all.

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EXCLUSIVE: Majority of Lib Dem members back Coalition’s benefits cap

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 570 party members responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

59% of Lib Dem members back benefits cap at £26,000 or lower

LDV asked: Under the Coalition government’s proposal the cap on benefits will apply to the total sum of all benefits a household receives, including income support, jobseekers allowance, child benefit and housing benefit. The government is setting the maximum at £26,000, the average earnings of a British family after tax. What do

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

Opinion: What price democracy in the Lib Dems?

Over the past 21 months I have had many moments when I have felt close to despair about the behaviour of our parliamentarians. Sometimes, like voting in favour of tuition fees, they can rightly point to the Coalition Agreement – endorsed overwhelmingly – as Nick Clegg observed at the time – by a North Korean like Special Conference. Other times, like voting against party policy on Legal Aid and Welfare Reform – there is no such defence. Last night calls into question the fundamental values and principles of our party, not just in terms of flying in the face of …

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Lib Dem MPs win concessions ahead of benefits cap vote

Lib Dem MPs, including the party’s deputy leader Simon Hughes, look set to obtain concessions from Iain Duncan Smith to win their support for the Coalition’s controversial welfare bill, which will introduce a benefit cap of a maximum of £26,000. Here’s how The Guardian reports the news:

The government is expected to make a series of concessions in the coming days on it controversial £26,000 household benefits cap to win over wavering Liberal Democrat MPs. Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is expected to agree that a discretionary fund should be established to ease the burden on families

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Opinion: Crisis in our social care system, a personal memoir

There is a crisis in our social care system and it needs addressing as a matter of urgency.

I made a public call for cross party talks on social care following an interview on BBC Radio Berkshire last Autumn.

The interview came about because I started a campaign, ‘Crusading for Carers’, aimed at highlighting the plight of carers.

During that interview I was asked what I’d like politicians to do about the growing crisis in our social care system. I was aware of the Dilnot Report and of the cross party talks that took place prior to the General Election so I called for them to …

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Lib Dem peers help inflict Lords defeat over Coalition’s benefit cap plan

The BBC reports the result of tonight’s defeat for the Coalition in the House of Lords over the controversial government plans to introduce a £500 a week benefit cap:

The government has been defeated in the Lords in a vote on its plans for a £26,000-a-year household benefit cap. Lib Dem, Labour and crossbench peers backed a bishop’s amendment by 252 to 237 that child benefit should not be included in the cap. Critics argued that imposing the same cap on all families, regardless of size, would penalise children. The government said it was “very disappointed” and the vote “clearly

Posted in News and Parliament | 61 Comments

The Independent View: The benefits cap policy is based on myths

The benefit cap was announced by George Osborne at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2010. It means families will not be able to receive more than a total of £500 in benefits each week – regardless of local rental values or how many children are in the household. As the crucial votes on the cap take in the House of Lords on Monday, it’s important that the myths on which the cap policy is based are exposed.

Myth 1: The cap is just for out of work claimants of benefits

Ministers fostered the impression that this is about ensuring working families …

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg on the benefits cap – “Work should always pay”

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg appeared on BBC1’s Andrew Marr show this morning, and stuck up for the Coalition policy that there should be a £500 a week benefit cap:

“It surely can’t be fair, can’t be right, that you can be earning more on benefits than someone going out and earning £35,000, which is the equivalent if you were to go out and work.”

You can watch an excerpt below:

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Opinion: the problem of Welfare Reform

Ed Miliband has stirred up some New Year’s controversy, not least amongst his own supporters, with the news that Labour is to speak out more strongly against the perils of so-called “benefit scroungers”. Labour are no doubt concerned at consistent polling evidence suggesting that opposition to benefit cuts are out of step with the views of the public.

In reality, there’s little difference between the positions of the different parties, nor much change in the position of any individual party over the last couple of decades.

Across the mainstream political spectrum, few disagree that handing out state benefits too freely causes …

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14 Liberal Democrat rebels help defeat housing benefit cuts in the House of Lords

Fourteen Liberal Democrat peers, including the former party Chief Whip Archy Kirkwood and the former interim Chief Executive Ben Stoneham, joined a successful rebellion in the House of Lords today. The vote, on part of the Welfare Reform Bill, was over the proposal to cut housing benefit payments from people who have spare bedrooms in their property.

The peers voted to restrict these cuts to people who have two or more spare bedrooms, excluding the controversial category of people with one spare bedroom – which, under the rules as proposed, might in fact not have been that spare. Concerns had also …

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Malcolm Harrington: proposals will be of “considerable benefit” to cancer patients

During the week we ran a post criticising the government’s response regarding cancer patients to the Harrington review. Subsequently Malcolm Harrington, author of the eponymous review, has in a letter to The Guardian given a different view from that given in both the post and the paper’s own coverage of the story:

This issue is an incredibly important and sensitive one for many people. Contrary to your article, I believe the government’s proposals would significantly improve on the current system and would be of considerable benefit to those who face the real personal challenge of a cancer diagnosis and

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