Benefits review aims to set up 'one-stop' service

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A REVIEW of the benefits system announced yesterday will, according to the Government, curb fraudulent claims and make the service more accessible.

There will be job cuts through increased efficiency. Peter Lilley, Secretary of State for Social Security, said the aim was to streamline services and benefits to enable claimants to receive everything from one place.

Claimants can apply for at least 25 benefits, but disabled people may have to deal with as many as eight agencies.

The Benefits Agency is structured to process individual benefits with separate sections, sometimes on different sites, handling the claims. This often means claimants have to deal with different staff for different applications.

The discussion document One Stop, Benefits Agency Service Delivery is an attempt to find ways to supply most of these benefits at one point.

Improved communication between departments, Mr Lilley said, would also reduce the scope for fraudulent claims. This year alone the Government hopes to recover pounds 460m of identified fraud.

'Our objective is to focus benefits on those in real need and then to deliver them efficiently in a manner which recognises the dignity of the people who have a right to benefits through their entitlement or real need,' Mr Lilley said.

Donald Dewar, Labour's spokesman on social security, said any move that simplified the benefits system was welcome, but it was essential that the Goverment also made determined steps to increase the take-up.

One Stop, Benefits Agency Service Delivery; Paula Green, Benefits Agency Publishing, City House, New Station Street, Leeds LS1 4JD; 0532 347381.

Social security staff have been warned not to threaten women with benefit cuts if they refuse to name the fathers of their children.

The move came as a report by the National Association of Citizen's Advice Bureaux said that strong-arm tactics were being used against single mothers, who from next April will be compelled to name absent partners so that attempts can be made to recover maintenance payments.