Claimants' partners will have to attend interviews

The Queen's Speech: Welfare
Click to follow
Indy Politics

Partners of those claiming unemployment benefits will be required to attend "work-focused" interviews as part of the Government's attempts to rejuvenate welfare reform.

Partners of those claiming unemployment benefits will be required to attend "work-focused" interviews as part of the Government's attempts to rejuvenate welfare reform.

The new requirement is one of several moves towards a "something for something" approach to welfare and could provoke controversy among Labour MPs.

The Welfare Reform Bill would also overhaul incapacity benefit and give new parents more support in the form of longer and higher-paid maternity leave.

Traditional benefits will be gradually replaced by tax credits designed to encourage claimants to work. A Pension Credit Bill would allow pensioners to keep more of their savings when claiming benefit and a Tax Credit Bill would introduce a range of credits to help families and those in low-paid jobs.

The welfare reform plans are designed to allow the Government to keep its promise to make sure that those receiving benefit make genuine efforts to look for work. The Welfare Reform Bill would introduce a requirement for the husbands, wives or partners of those claiming out-of-work benefits to attend interviews to "discuss their options and help them return to work". Attendance at the interview would be a condition of receipt of benefit.

It would also increase the standard rate of statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance to £100 a week and the period of payment from 18 to 26 weeks from 2003.

Pensioners who have savings would be rewarded under the Pension Credit Bill, which would ensure extra money for those with modest savings or occupational pensions. It would create a guaranteed level of income below which no pensioner should fall.

The Bill would also extend to those sick and disabled people who are able to work the same support offered to job-seekers.

The Tax Credit Bill would introduce a new generation of tax credits, aimed at making work pay for those with or without children to support.

The children's tax credit would be "built on the foundation of universal child benefit" to provide a secure stream of income to the main carer of the children in a household.

A new employment tax credit would aim to extend the principle of the working families tax credit, where low pay is supplemented with substantial top-ups to those without children.

Professor Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on work and pensions, said that the shift towards tax credits, particularly for pensioners, would lead to more means-testing and a more complicated system that would baffle would-be recipients.

* A million men will benefit from cheaper bus fares under the Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill, which is intended to equalise the age at which pensioners are eligible for concessions at 60.

Comments