BRITAIN’S?welfare system is to undergo the most dramatic shake-up since its inception in 1942, after the government unveiled plans to crack down on the workshy and make sure that everyone is always better off in a job.
The plans are designed to simplify the complex web of benefits to reduce errors, fraud and inefficiencies, and to ensure that people in work are better off by letting them keep more of their earnings.
It will see separate benefits such as housing benefit, income support or incapacity replaced by a “universal credit” system whereby individual households will get a single welfare payment.
The government says the current system often deters unemployed people from going back to work, as they could find themselves worse off after losing many of their state benefits.
Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said it was estimated the measures, which will be introduced from 2012-3 and brought in over the following five years, would mean 700,000 low-earning workers would be better off.
Some 2.5m households would get higher entitlements through the universal credit and 350,000 children and 500,000 adults would be lifted out of poverty, he said.
The system will also come with tougher sanctions.
Anyone on benefit who turns down a job, fails to apply for work when asked to do so or does not complete a four-week community work scheme will initially lose their £65-a-week benefit for three months.
A second offence will result in six months’ exclusion and a third will see that increase to three years.
“Almost 1.5m people have been out of work and on benefits for nine of the last 10 years,” Duncan Smith said.
He said the 70 per cent net rise in employment under the previous Labour government was accounted for by immigrant workers.