Letter: Benefit frauds and reductions

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The Independent Online
Sir: In discussing the "seven ways to curb social security", Nicholas Timmins suggests that Peter Lilley has set his face against cutting the value of benefits (11 July), focusing on reducing the numbers claiming benefit rather than the amount they receive. On the contrary, recent changes to incapacity benefits and Jobseekers' Allowance suggest that Mr Lilley's strategy is to do both at the same time, slipping in a "restructuring" (ie benefit cuts) while attention is focused on the new "targeting".

People who receive Incapacity Benefit in the future will have to wait an extra 24 weeks to receive the longer-term rate, no SERPs addition will be payable, and there will be no age addition for anyone over 45. Claimants of Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance will no longer receive any increase for non-working partners under 60 unless caring for children. For some people these structural changes can represent a cut in benefit in excess of pounds 50 per week.

Over the next three years, 520,000 people are estimated to lose incapacity benefits. Those who appeal against a decision to withdraw their benefit can claim Income Support without signing on. But those who do so will have their benefit reduced by 20 per cent. This "appeal penalty" is surely one of the worst examples of Peter Lilley's strategy of cutting by stealth.

Yours faithfully,

Marilyn Howard

Policy Worker

Disability Alliance

London, E1