A private document that contains a number of proposals for future Department for Work and Pensions legislation has been leaked, and has emphatically suggested policy that could see people who appeal against a reduction in their benefit entitlements being fined by the government.
The document contained a number of money raising proposals for the DWP to consider, with the most controversial being the ëintroduction of a charge for people making appeals against government decision to social security tribunalsí.
This is despite the fact that the document also cites that the policy would ìentail neither revenue generation nor efficiency for the DWP per se”.
The news will be yet another blow to the already embattled poor in the country, who may simply not be able to cope with further financial restrictions being placed on them by the current government.
Other suggestions to raise money included the sale of child support debt to the private sector, in a bid to try and recuperate some of the money that the DWP is owed, though many government officials have argued that this will not be a productive way of achieving this means.
Welfare state overhaul
The continents of the leaked document are latest chapter in the ongoing welfare reduction programme that the government has undertaken, with 2013 seeing a systematic overhaul of the benefits system in the UK.
The integration of a number of employment and housing benefits into one payment, the universal credit, has seen the level of benefit entitlements that people can acquire be reduced substantially, whilst the further reductions via the ëbedroom taxí, has left many families to struggle with the financial demands of the post-recession era.
The erosion of the welfare state has been heavily criticised by officials of the Church, who have recently engaged in a heated feud with Prime Minister David Cameron over the severity of benefit cuts he has implemented in the past year.
Previously, a monumental 27 Anglican bishops attacked the Prime Minister for presiding over a ënational poverty crisisí, that has led to hundreds of thousands of people being forced to the brink and resorting to utilising food banks in order to survive, due to the Department for Work and Pensions misconduct and misguided policy.
This was reiterated by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, this week, who hit out at the government for eroding the protection to the poor that has kept them afloat during the post-recession era, and has branded the current condition of the countries poorest a ëdisgraceí.
Mr Cameron responded by arguing that his reforms were part of a ëmoral missioní to reduce the countryís deficit and ensure that the country becomes a true meritocracy that rewards hard work, rather than financially propping up those on benefits.
The government has made it clear that their primary agenda is to reduce the public deficit in the country, and have argued that reducing the levels of benefits available to the public is a necessary measure in order to ensure that taxpayers are less financially burdened by paying for fewer services.
This was clearly indicated in the remarks of the justice minister Shailesh Vara, who said: “The government has made clear that reducing the deficit is our top priority. It is right that the Ministry of Justice looks at all opportunities to bring down the cost of our services to the taxpayer.
“We believe that it is right to consider whether those who use tribunals should make a greater contribution to their costs, where they can afford to do so, which is why we introduced fees for employment tribunals last year.
“We will continue to keep the position under review, but we have no current plans to extend fee charging into other tribunals.”
However, the Labour party have criticised the government for creating a ëbroken systemí that is in danger of getting worse if they implement policy that penalises people who appeal against their benefit reductions.
Rachel Reeves, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “When government’s own figures show a staggering 58% of appeals against Department for Work and Pensions decisions to dock jobseeker’s allowance are upheld, it’s clear the system is broken. Rather than penalising thousands of people by charging them to appeal, ministers need to ask why they are presiding over a broken system which is making so many bad decisions, which are overturned on appeal.”
This stance has been reiterated by Neil Bateman, one of the UKís most prominent welfare lawyers, who has branded the notion of fining those who appeal against benefit reductions a ëdisgraceí.
Mr Bateman argued: “Stopping people from challenging bad decisions actually strikes at the heart of our democratic arrangement.” He said many of the people he had successfully represented over the years at tribunals would not have got justice if they had been made to pay a fee and that even £5 would be too high a charge for them.
Mr Bateman identified that the majority of appeals made against the Department for Work and Pensions over the years have been due to a fault on the lattes part, and were made on credible and just grounds. He blamed the removal of experienced members of staff in the department and their new replacements for the change in attitudes that they now seem to be exhibiting.
“Under this government there is an attitudinal issue in terms of evidence of increased DWP staff antipathy towards clients and that all results in decisions which are wrong which eventually get turned over at appeal,” Mr Bateman said.