Thursday, September 15, 2005

Incapacity Benefit and the impact of flat taxes on welfare spending

Following Shuggy's post on flat taxes, a comment suggested that welfare budgets need cutting (flat txes would pretty much guarantee a reduced purse for public spending). The comment was justified with reference to notion that the '2m people on Incapacity Benefit cannot possibly all be incapable of working'.

Shuggy wisely replied:
"From my professional experience, I know for a fact that invalidity benefit is abused by some, although how many are claiming it fraudulently, I've no idea - and neither do you.

However, in relation to its rise a number of factors should be taken into account: 1) The Benefits Agency is dependent on the medical evidence of the claimant's GP and is not, therefore, responsible for the growth in claims; it certainly isn't because it's become easier to claim. 2) If you consider why you have so many doctors are apparently sympathetic to their pateient's demands, you have to consider the reality that part of the reason is Jobseeker's Allowance has become so difficult to claim.

I worked in the benefits agency during the Major years under the regime put in place by the Guardian's favourite: Ken Clarke. Their determination to get people off the unemployment register was an impressive sight to behold. The truth is, invalidity benefit claims are one of the biggest masks to the true level of unemployment and underemployment in this country.
Those who criticise the expenditure on benefits and the public purse seem all too often to be falling to the media/government focus on those who defraud the system rather than on those whose under-claiming results in millions being unclaimed. Flat taxes are not the solution, and assumptions about the scale of benefit fraud as a justification for reducing welfare expenditure do nothing to help those in most need affected by a reduced public purse.

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