Welfare Reform Bill published

The Government has launched its Welfare Reform Bill which it says will be the biggest shake up of the system for 60 years.

The Government has launched its Welfare Reform Bill which it says will be the biggest shake up of the system for 60 years.

The Bill states that all stay at home mothers of children aged over seven who claim the government’s new universal credit will have to make themselves available for work or lose state support, putting them on a par with single parents for the first time, and although it mentions a new system of childcare support, there is little detail on this.

The Government says the new universal credit "will simplify a benefits system that has become unmanageable, make work pay and help release millions of people from the misery of welfare dependency and break intergenerational cycles of worklessness".

It says 2.7 million households will be better off as a result; over 1 million households will see an increase in their weekly income of £25 with 85 per cent of this increase going to the poorest families in the country; and nearly 1 million people will be lifted out of poverty, including 350,000 children.

The Bill will, says the Government, "sweep away the patchwork of benefits and credits and replacing them with a Universal Credit to make work pay; introduce a proper system of conditionality and make sure that unscrupulous individuals are not able to abuse or defraud the system; [introduce] a Personal Independence Payment for disabled people targeting support at those who really need it; [include] a new system of child support which puts the interest of the child first; and introduce new powers to tackle the problem of fraud and error".

Some of the plans were oultined previously, but ministers have dropped proposals to impose a 10% housing benefit cut for anyone unemployed for more than a year. The Government has also announced "the biggest back to work programme since the war" which it says will help millions of people get into jobs.  It will be delivered by private and voluntary sector organisations and aims to "end the culture of a one size fits all approach".

Launching the Bill with Prime Minister David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith said: "The welfare system was created to meet the demand for a fairer society. Today, this Bill will seek to restore the welfare system to those founding principles.

"Our reforms will end the absurdity of a system where people too often get rewarded for doing the wrong thing, and those who strive to do the best by their families get penalised.

"The publication of the Welfare Reform Bill will put work, rather than hand-outs, at the heart of the welfare system. It will ensure that we continue to provide appropriate support for those genuinely unable to work, as we must and as we should. And it will provide a fair deal for the taxpayer."

Alongside the publication of the Bill, the Government announced a review into the sickness absence system which will consider whether more people could stay in work in some form with support and help.

Single parents charity Gingerbread expressed concern at the lack of detail about childcare support.

Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “We are very concerned that the government is still not saying how Universal Credit will help parents with the costs of childcare. For many single parents looking for work childcare is the make-or-break issue. Until there is more information on how much support will be provided towards childcare costs, thousands of job-seeking single parents will find it impossible to assess whether Universal Credit will make work pay or not.  Parliamentarians should not be asked to vote on a bill with such a gaping hole at its centre."

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