November 25, 2007

Two-pronged approach to incapacity benefit

There are good and bad people on incapacity benefit.

The case of David Le Compte shows how difficult it can be to get back into work. He highlights the bureaucratic uselessness of the DWP. Its job centre staff get paid however inadequate they are.

He wants to work. What government skills courses are likely to help him? They'll keep him off the numbers for a while, but what then?

We need a job placement agency paid by results. Not just a small bonus for placements, but the bulk of its income.

At the other end of the scale we have crooks like Glenda Askew. This wasn't an incapacity benefit case, but she defrauded the welfare system by claiming £11,604 in widow's benefits by pretending her husband was dead - for eight years. Unusually, she has been sent to prison. Usually the punishment is community service, much of which goes unserved. And these criminals can't realistically afford to pay back large sums.

Here's a proposal which should deter many of them. If they get a conviction for falsely claiming a benefit, they should be disqualified from claiming that benefit again. For ever. That should deter a lot of cheats.

There should be one exception. If the magistrate declares the offence to be merely technical (like Mr le Compte's 4p) or a genuine mistake, then entitlement could continue. Deliberate fraud would always be a disqualification. A lie on a questionnaire would mean disqualification.

Offenders must receive a punishment which means something to them. This is it.

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