Tag Archives: social security

Jenny Willott writes…Mending the Safety Net – our proposals for reforming working age social security

Since last October, I have been chairing the Social Security Working Group, which has been taking a fresh look at party policy in this area.  We had a wide ranging remit covering all aspects of working age social security, from supporting people with disabilities to tackling child poverty.  We have now published our policy recommendations: it has been a big challenge, but thanks to a working group of passionate, talented people, ranging from experienced policy makers to new enthusiastic party members, I think we’ve produced a paper of which Lib Dems can be proud. You can find Mending the Safety Net here.

I thought it would be helpful to set out some of the key things we are proposing.  We heard a lot of different ideas and proposals from party members, experts and NGOs, and have sought to propose policy that is liberal and distinctive, but which, crucially, could make a real and practical difference to people’s lives.

Reducing child poverty

From the outset the group agreed that reducing child poverty should be our priority. We know that a child growing up in poverty will already be attaining less than their better off peers by the time they start school, they will be bullied more, have poorer health and are less likely to leave school with five A* – C GCSE passes. We felt strongly that it should be a real priority to tackle the barriers created for children that grow up in poverty.

Unlike when Labour first came to power, the majority of children growing up in poverty now do so in households where at least one person works. That’s why one of our key recommendations is to introduce a second earner’s allowance to Universal Credit. This could transform the lives of many children by dramatically increasing the amount of money going to some of the lowest paid families in our country. We also want to see an increase of £5 a week to the child element of Universal Credit for the first child in a family to help new families afford the high costs associated with a first child.

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Last chance to shape Lib Dem policy on liberty and security and social security

When should the state be able to collect data about you? Should you be able to be tried in a secret court and not informed of the evidence against you? How can we make sure that our social security system is sustainable and needs-based?

The party is currently trying to answer these questions with two consultations, one on liberty and security and another on social security. They have been seeking input for some time from party members, charities and NGOs and members of the public.

Today is the last day that you can give your opinion before the two working groups draw up their final proposals which will be debated at Conference in Brighton in September.

Each will take you 10 minutes. It is worth it to have a say on these important issues.

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An end to benefit fraud – the Liberal way

…the plan we are advocating amounts essentially to this: that a certain small income, sufficient for necessaries, should be secured to all, whether they work or not…

Bertrand Russell, Proposed Roads To Freedom, 1918

There are two types of benefit fraud going on. There’s the sort that the Daily Mail and various populist TV shows enjoy making a song-and-dance about. Then there’s the more prevalent fraud, with targets to deny people the money they and their families need to live, to “sanction” them on flimsy pretexts, to require people with mental and physical disabilities to undergo lengthy and stressful appeals processes.

Providing a small unconditional income to everyone in society addresses both of these frauds – and incidentally means that much of the demeaning, embarassing, arbitrary, and extremely costly assessments can be scrapped.

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Towards a Liberal Democrat policy on social security

 

When I mention to friends that I have recently visited a Jobcentre, Citizens Advice Bureau, and interviewed the homeless it tends to raise a few eyebrows. However, all these visits and interviews have been fieldwork for the Liberal Democrat Working-age Social Security Working Group which recently published its consultation paper. Chaired by Jenny Willott, and comprised of a cross-section of LD members, our FPC remit has been clear: ‘The group will take evidence and consult widely from both within and outside the party’.

Fieldwork has proven enormously helpful to us in terms of understanding the nuances of the benefits system. For example, interviews with homeless people reveal the difficulties associated with applying for Universal Credit without the benefit of a bank account (needs a permanent address). These problems are not insurmountable but they do introduce additional difficulties which need to be considered when formulating policy.

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Is the Basic Income Guarantee an idea whose time has come?

Way back when I was first involved in politics, the ideas that everyone should have a basic income and that tax and national insurance should be integrated were mainstream SDP/Liberal Alliance ideas.

The Greens have in recent years been the only party to advocate such a change but during the General Election, Natalie Bennett was unable to convince people that it was affordable.

This week, think-tank Reform Scotland has come up with a costed scheme to give every adult a basic income of £100 per week and every child £50. The authors, Liberal Democrat Siobhan Mathers and Scottish Green candidate James Mackenzie, acknowledge that there would be a cost, around £2 billion in Scotland, £12 billion across the whole UK and that personal taxation rates would have to rise by about 8%, but that nobody earning under £26,000 a year would be worse off. However, with 2 children, a £100k household would be over £1200 a year better off

It’s certainly radical, with those on lowest incomes gaining and those on £100,000 without children being around £2,200 a year worse off, but isn’t that what a progressive tax system is supposed to do? There is a question, though, around whether a £100k household needs to be mae £1200 a year better off courtesy of the state.

The report argues that there are seven big advantages of such a scheme:

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Why IDS is still in his job is revealing of Conservative attitudes to social security

Iain Duncan SmithWhen Andrew Lansley’s health reforms ran into trouble – and his inability to take with him the public or those working in the NHS proved toxic – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Jeremy Hunt was brought in to make nice to the health sector and patients.

When Michael Gove’s education reforms started to run before they could walk – and his inability to take with him the public or the teachers proved toxic, especially in marginal constituencies – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Nicky …

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Challenging the myths about benefits claimant – an inspiring video from an Oxford charity

Liberal Democrats generally despair about the attitudes in the media towards people who claim benefits.

I’m sure that most of you reading this will be inspired by this fantastic video from an Oxford self advocacy charity run by and for people with learning disabilities. My Life My Choice got some people to share their stories and challenging some of the myths people have about people on benefits. It’s very moving. Please share it all over social media. I think we probably all have friends who believe the myths and they need to see it.

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Tribunal justice – do our Parliamentary Parties ‘get’ it?

Brighton Spring Conference unanimously supported a motion on justice in social security tribunals – a critical issue as welfare reform begins recalibrating everyone’s social security rights and entitlement, and specialist legal aid advice to challenge decisions disappears. This is the fifth time Conference has debated and challenged the Government’s legal aid reforms. In Sheffield 2011, I summated an access to justice motion criticising the Ministry of Justice’s outline proposals, in Birmingham, autumn 2011 and again in Brighton 2012 I proposed amendments to welfare reform motions calling to reinstate legal aid for welfare rights, whilst in Gateshead an amendment

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Daily View 2×2: 17 September 2009

Good morning. Today we remember the deaths of Hildegard von Bingen, and, centuries later, Laura Ashley; and today’s birthday girl is Tessa Jowell.

Two big stories

A surprising number of newspapers seem to be leading with a story about how soon, we will all have the right to register with any GP we choose. I struggle to see why that’s made so many front pages.

Instead, my picks are the Independent’s story about racism in the US, with President Carter weighing in on opposition to President Obama’s current policy platform:

After lurking near the surface of political discourse in America

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