Monitor: Welfare reforms

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Analysis of Alistair Darling's social security reforms

The Times

THE ARGUMENTS are as much about principles as about payments. Most people would concede that without discipline the welfare budget would rise to the point where it either imposed much higher taxation or restrained spending on crime, education, health and transport. Few would deny the surging numbers of incapacity benefit claimants look odd when Britain has become a healthier nation. All would surely want those disabled people who can work to be able now to do so. It is unfortunate that so many companies remain blinkered on this matter. Most favour targeting money on those in real need.

The Express

WITH A limited budget, the Government has to draw the line somewhere. The Government has made its priority boosting help for the worst off - in the case of the disabled, those who have no hope of ever working. However, means-testing incapacity benefit may not be the financial solution Mr Darling hopes. Not only is it a bitter pill for those who have invested for a time when work is impossible, it also acts as a disincentive to do so. To penalise the disabled for putting aside money goes against everything the Government is trying to encourage. Such a move may well leave more people than ever relying on state handouts when they find themselves unable to work.

The Guardian

THE WELFARE bill includes several welcome proposals - including extra money for disabled children and for young people - but there are three unacceptable changes to disability benefits. Ministers who purport to be fighting poverty looked shifty when asked to justify the introduction of a means test that will reduce the incapacity benefit for people who have an occupational pension which still leaves them below the poverty line. They looked more uneasy when asked to justify a withdrawal rate of 73p in the pound by a government that believes that the top rate for millionaires should be 40 pence in the pound.

The Daily Telegraph

MINISTERS COMPLAIN privately that, if they cannot get their way, the whole Bill might be lost. That would be the ministers' fault. They always knew these proposals would be contentious. Packaging them with other matters might have seemed to be clever. But to the wider world it looks as if the Government has no clear strategy for welfare reform and is having to rely on slipping piecemeal measures through.