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If you were PM - Social Security...

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    Over the next few days I'm going to initiate several threads focused upon a specific policy area. I'm basically just interested to hear what people would do, had they the authority to implement their desired reforms.

    Personally, I'd like to see a reduction in the scope of state intervention. I would make disability checks more stringent and would place strict conditions upon the criteria for Job Seekers' Allowance. I would keep with working tax credits and family tax credits, but would lower the amount JSA pays out. I'd also set limits upon JSA in terms of a maximum number of perfectly-good jobs an individual could turn down before losing their benefits. It's a fairly Thatcherite view, but with a greater appreciation of the need to support those who miss out on any sort of net gain when they take up employment on a low wage and therefore lose their benefits.

    What would you do?
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    (Original post by #1Genius)
    Over the next few days I'm going to initiate several threads focused upon a specific policy area. I'm basically just interested to hear what people would do, had they the authority to implement their desired reforms.

    Personally, I'd like to see a reduction in the scope of state intervention. I would make disability checks more stringent and would place strict conditions upon the criteria for Job Seekers' Allowance. I would keep with working tax credits and family tax credits, but would lower the amount JSA pays out. I'd also set limits upon JSA in terms of a maximum number of perfectly-good jobs an individual could turn down before losing their benefits. It's a fairly Thatcherite view, but with a greater appreciation of the need to support those who miss out on any sort of net gain when they take up employment on a low wage and therefore lose their benefits.

    What would you do?
    I don't think you should have it both ways. If the mechanisms in place which ensure only those who are genuinely deserving of state assistance are in good working order then there's no good reason to 'punish' the deserving by lowering their levels of assistance. If the mechanisms are not up to scratch then they should be improved on, sure. I don't think it's fair to impoverish people who receive assistance when they have rightly passed the necessary test for that assistance.
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    (Original post by Oswy)
    I don't think you should have it both ways. If the mechanisms in place which ensure only those who are genuinely deserving of state assistance are in good working order then there's no good reason to 'punish' the deserving by lowering their levels of assistance. If the mechanisms are not up to scratch then they should be improved on, sure. I don't think it's fair to impoverish people who receive assistance when they have rightly passed the necessary test for that assistance.
    OK yeah, to be fair I think the lowering of JSA payments as a whole would probably be dependent upon the success of the preliminary tests judging suitability. But I'm not talking about lowering all forms of state benefits in terms of monetary value, only JSA; surely people on JSA (if "geniune") are seeking work anyway and won't be in need of it for a prolonged period of time.

    Out of curiosity, though, and for the purposes of this thread, what would be your ideal system?
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    In an ideal system, it would be there as a safety net. Not something people lived off. But then in an ideal world everyone would have quality schools, vocational teaching, a job opportunities that paid better than welfare. There is a generational thing, which is dreadful and surely has to be tackled with schools, get the kids before they start signing on.
    I dont think the dependency culture can be tackled directly. Although there is certainly room for tweeking. One area would be to have JSA payments up to your first pay-cheque, so that people don't rack up debt and so they can actually afford to work. Should be more incentive to work so I'm in full support of tax credits, although couldnt it be easier just to take lowest earners out of tax altogether?
    I dont take issue with how much JSA is, more fundamental issue is the complete lack of aspiration (call it laziness, hopelessness) among those who live by it.
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    On calm days all the long term unemployed should be made to rotate a wind turbine.
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    (Original post by mfm89)
    In an ideal system, it would be there as a safety net. Not something people lived off. But then in an ideal world everyone would have quality schools, vocational teaching, a job opportunities that paid better than welfare. There is a generational thing, which is dreadful and surely has to be tackled with schools, get the kids before they start signing on.
    I dont think the dependency culture can be tackled directly. Although there is certainly room for tweeking. One area would be to have JSA payments up to your first pay-cheque, so that people don't rack up debt and so they can actually afford to work. Should be more incentive to work so I'm in full support of tax credits, although couldnt it be easier just to take lowest earners out of tax altogether?
    I dont take issue with how much JSA is, more fundamental issue is the complete lack of aspiration (call it laziness, hopelessness) among those who live by it.
    But this infinite timescale is something that leads to an absence of any sort of sense of compulsion or debt to society; if people are actively looking for work, then there should surely be a limit placed upon the amount of viable job appointments they can turn down. If this were the case, those who wished to find employment wouldn't have a problem, and those with low aspirations would have the decision made for them. This, in conjunction with working tax credits, would stop people losing out monetarily, whilst also lifting them out of their state of dependency.

    Taxing the very rich in order to raise the minimum tax band is also an idea, but I am ideologically opposed to further taxation upon medium earners to subsidise the very poor, because I think it can be achieved by other means. The non-domicile billionaires of this world, however, I see no problem in taxing to this end because it is hardly going to inhibit their quality of life.
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    I'd double/triple JSA, do away with most of the controls, and get them cleaning the streets and fixing the railway lines 30 hours a week until they decided to get a new job.

    For sickness related benefits, I'd require mandatory paid up insurance contributions of a few quid a month from their employer, and an assessment of what work they are and aren't capable of doing.
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    Personally, I would push for a much more stringent and much more effective system of child maintenance with a view to eliminating child tax credits and replacing this with money paid from the absent parent (usually the father).

    As for the JSA, I would force people who want to claim it to do some sort of voluntary or government work e.g. picking up litter from the local park or sweeping the roads whilst people try to find a job. The JSA currently does penalise those who turn down reasonable job offers in much the way the op is suggesting, but the problem is often that people are unemployable- they need to be given an incentive to make themselves employable.
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    I think JSA should be an individual thing, when my dad lost his job he was given £50 a week or something to support a family. A 53 year old man with a mortgage, wife, child at school needing a uniform, lunch and £20 a week travel, and cover his own travel expenses when travelling to interviews. I think it's disgusting, he's been paying his taxes and NI for 30 odd years and all they give him is the same they give a 16 year living with their parents looking for a job after leaving school. Disgusting.

    Also I think the whole benefit system is wrong, just wrong. They're a fantastic thing and that along with the NHS is what makes Britain a great place to live, but they should only be for people at the end of their tether.
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    (Original post by #1Genius)
    But this infinite timescale is something that leads to an absence of any sort of sense of compulsion or debt to society; if people are actively looking for work, then there should surely be a limit placed upon the amount of viable job appointments they can turn down. If this were the case, those who wished to find employment wouldn't have a problem, and those with low aspirations would have the decision made for them. This, in conjunction with working tax credits, would stop people losing out monetarily, whilst also lifting them out of their state of dependency.

    Taxing the very rich in order to raise the minimum tax band is also an idea, but I am ideologically opposed to further taxation upon medium earners to subsidise the very poor, because I think it can be achieved by other means. The non-domicile billionaires of this world, however, I see no problem in taxing to this end because it is hardly going to inhibit their quality of life.
    I'm not sure whether you got my point you highlighted. Basically when people who've been on benefits gets a job, their benefits end. Which sounds fine. The problem is when they have no savings to survive until the end of the month. They have to borrow money for things like food until their pay cheque. Often those coming off benefits will get only a low paid job that doesnt pay off their debt in one go, so it builds up. Since they've only got a ****ty job, they have to get a dodgy loan, high interest, chop your legs off kinda thing. Its just a pain in the arse, and another disincentive to work. I think we should incentivise work. Making the transition easier, especially those who've been on JSA for a long time, should encourage that-among other things such as free childcare, SureStart.
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    The problem with benefits and voluntary work is that being on the former limits the amount of the latter which you can do - which is crazy. Personally I would increase the level of benefits if individuals were taking part in accredited voluntary work - or working with an accredited organisation or training provider as an incentive.

    I'm also interested in ideas about what people "can do" rather than what they "can't do." The moment someone is signed off as being "permanently sick" is the moment that they are effectively consigned to society's scrapheap and are seen to be capable of doing nothing.

    The question I would have people answer is "What positive contribution are you going to make to society?" and try and do something about the life on benefits culture that some pockets of the country have.

    The other thing I'd do is to reform the system to make it a damn sight easier for people to understand - both those claiming and those administering the system. That way it may also make it easier to detect fraud.
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    Ideally I would abolish JSA (and obviously have taxes lowered accordingly).

    However I obviously couldn't go in gun ho in that way, I would have to put time limits on how long JSA can be claimed for (and introduce them so they are effective retrospectively), reduce the amount paid and thus ween the filthy underclass off our hard earned tax pounds.
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    (Original post by mfm89)
    I'm not sure whether you got my point you highlighted. Basically when people who've been on benefits gets a job, their benefits end. Which sounds fine. The problem is when they have no savings to survive until the end of the month. They have to borrow money for things like food until their pay cheque. Often those coming off benefits will get only a low paid job that doesnt pay off their debt in one go, so it builds up. Since they've only got a ****ty job, they have to get a dodgy loan, high interest, chop your legs off kinda thing. Its just a pain in the arse, and another disincentive to work. I think we should incentivise work. Making the transition easier, especially those who've been on JSA for a long time, should encourage that-among other things such as free childcare, SureStart.

    Sorry, I didn't make it clear; I do understand (and largely agree with) your point, but what I meant was that alongside incentivisation should be a finite period of job-seeking. It's fine to extend JSA to the point of the first pay cheque, and I think schemes like SureStart and the New Deal for Communities have a lot be to said for them.

    My only query with it was that I feel this modus operandi should not be granted a non-determined time scale. I think people who, in spite of the incentivised nature of job-seeking, still choose not to work, would be somewhat prone to dropping under the radar otherwise. Is that clearer? Sorry for not being more specific to the point before.
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    (Original post by #1Genius)
    Sorry, I didn't make it clear; I do understand (and largely agree with) your point, but what I meant was that alongside incentivisation should be a finite period of job-seeking. It's fine to extend JSA to the point of the first pay cheque, and I think schemes like SureStart and the New Deal for Communities have a lot be to said for them.

    My only query with it was that I feel this modus operandi should not be granted a non-determined time scale. I think people who, in spite of the incentivised nature of job-seeking, still choose not to work, would be somewhat prone to dropping under the radar otherwise. Is that clearer? Sorry for not being more specific to the point before.
    yeah, i get you now.
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    The whole social security system needs reforming to stop trapping vulnerable people into the poverty cycle. That is not a simple task however it can and should be started by giving people in need of help not just finincial help but education and training, secure and appropiate housing.

    on the JSA it is calculated on an individual basis where by a person living with another person earning will recieve less than a sole income earner with dependents.

    The JSA is also avaliable to those doing voluntary work full time at the regular rate.

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Updated: July 14, 2008
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