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26 May 2010

A major overhaul of the benefits system aimed at getting five million people off benefits and into work is to take place following the inclusion of a welfare reform bill in the Queen’s speech.

According to the 10 Downing Street website the purpose of the bill is to make the benefits system ‘fairer and simpler’.  It will also aim to get ‘the five million plus people languishing on benefits into work and out of poverty’ and reduce the ‘scope for fraud and error’.

The coalition intends to encourage claimants into work by ensuring that people ‘see a gain when entering work through simplifying the benefits system’ and by making people less afraid to make any changes to their circumstances, again by making the system simpler.

The coalition claim that the fact that ‘around 200,000 people a year cycle between Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Incapacity Benefit (IB/ Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)’ is evidence that there is unnecessary switching between benefits which a simpler system could prevent’.

Whilst we have no details at all, as yet, about how benefits simplification is to be achieved, it is beginning to sound like some version of Ian Duncan Smith’s Universal Work Credit which combines jobseekers allowance, income support, incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance.  (See:  What future for claimants under coalition rule?)

Whilst few people would disagree that the current system is impossibly complex, many will fear that any simplification by the coalition may be largely aimed at making it simpler to refuse claimants benefits in the first place.

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