Thursday, 14 June 2007

Charity and religion

Labour MP and welfare guru Frank Field has accused Gordon Brown's tax credits system of discriminating against two parent families on low incomes.

His case in point is that a single mother, working less than 10 hours per week recieves just over £25,000pa. Christ, I need to get me knocked up....

Well done to Mr Field for getting out his calculator and challenging Gordon but his conclusions are long overdue. He just had to ask any local authority benefit administrator, unemployment clerk or lacky over at the DWP or Revenue and Customs. Mind you they have their own problems...Top of the list are the relentless performance targets set by central government.

Means tested tax credits are awarded to families and individuals on low incomes, with the intention of reducing child poverty. How much you recieve depends on how many hours you work, your income (which includes any other benefit you may recieve) and outgoings, the number of children you have, their ages etc...(not to mention any small savings you may have which can make you ineligible). It's a complicated calculation, one performed by numerous employees at different agencies and one that is constantly under review, should your circumstances change.

As a result the administration of the welfare state is no easy task and tax credits, highly praised when they were introduced three years ago, have made it a nightmare. I say this with complete confidence, having worked for a local authority administering housing benefit.

Like with every other benefit, the level of overpayment is shocking. £6 billion was incorrectly paid out in tax credits alone in the past year - some as a result of fraud, the rest down to admin difficulties. The subsequent recovery of benefits is often messy and misunderstood, causing families and civil servants serious problems.

Mr Field has believes that single parents are being discouraged from finding partners because of the effect it will have on their benefit. He's refering to the more consciencious claimants out there. Others simply hide their partner's income or existance (resulting in the biggest source of benefit fraud).

The benefits system needs a serious overhaul, targets need to be eased and calculations need to be simplified. Will Gordon get the ball rolling and discipline his baby?

Over at the Vatican Cardinal Renato Martino has called for all Catholics to stop donating to Amnesty International. The human rights charity has recently started supplying abortions to unfit African women and those pregnant as a result of rape and incest. I will personally pay for a (one way) ticket to Sudan so he can hold the hands of all those traumatised women about to go into labour. Bet he doesn't go for it.


Jenny! said...

Wow, Amnesty International boycott! Wow...

It is a problem everywhere, it is ridiculous the way things are calculated and run. Such a crock...I wish I had more politically correct ways of fixing this problem, but unfortunatly I don't.

James said...

I am fairly ignorant of the workings of the benefit system and can only speak from the views I have gained from a few people.

It frustrates me when I see and hear of people who are in dire need and fully deserving of support from the system and they get very little, where as in contrast there are many who play the benefit system to do as little as possible for the most money. Its not a very original point to make but it just seems terribly crap.

As for the in and outs of the calculations, I imagine its not easy to design a fair and efficient system but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Em said...

James - absolutely. The calculations used to be simpler and benefits used to be compounded (which makes things easier to work out). The welfare state is one of the things that makes us great but it is monolithic (one of the biggest scandals is contribution based job seekers - if you pay more taxes during your working life you can actually get less benefit if you become unemployed). Yep, reform will be forced at some point. Too many people.

Jenny - I have great respect for religion (even organised religion). But these old Catholic goats drive me batty - narrow minded, pompous dumbass men (sorry James)