Socialist Worker

Means test robs 1.3 million of benefits

Issue No. 1739

New Labour's 'shop a scrounger' campaign covers up real scandal

Means test robs 1.3 million of benefits

  • Up to one million pensioners do not get the Minimum Income Guarantee
  • 300,000 people entitled to receive Working Families Tax Credit are not getting it
  • 1,000 disabled people a month are refused vital benefit appointments

NEW LABOUR has launched a vindictive advertising campaign, costing �4.5 million, to "target benefit fraud". Yet it does virtually nothing about the scandal that a quarter of people who should receive key benefits do not get them. The government says that �2 billion is lost through fraud every year. This is far higher than many other estimates.

New Labour's extension of means testing means that twice that amount, �4 billion, is unclaimed in benefits every year. Around �1 billion goes unclaimed by pensioners. At least 600,000 and perhaps one million do not get the Minimum Income Guarantee.

In the last week alone, surveys showed that:

  • 300,000 of the 1.4 million people who are supposed to receive Working Families Tax Credit have not claimed it.
  • Almost one million of the four million families who should get the Children's Tax Credit have not registered to receive it.

You can report suspected benefit fraud between 7am and 11pm, seven days a week, on a hotline number. There is no such service to claim benefits and provide advice. All over Britain there are people struggling to survive because they do not know what benefits are available, find the forms too confusing, or are too proud to go through the means testing interrogation. For some benefits, such as Working Families Tax Credit, claimants have to fill in a 16-page form every six months.

The privatised system of assessing rights to disability benefits is denying urgently needed money to people because appointments are so overbooked that 1,000 people a month are turned away. People have their benefits cut while they wait for their appeals against the withdrawal of Incapacity Benefit to be heard. Some 40 percent of these appeals are successful. Tax authorities sent out notices to 171 firms which are still refusing to pay the minimum wage between April 2000 and January 2001. This is a sharp rise on the 136 sent out during the previous 12-month period.

The TUC says that about 170,000 workers are not receiving the minimum wage. Social security secretary Alistair Darling says, "Benefit fraud costs every household in the country over �80 a year. People would be rightly angry if �80 was stolen from their wallets." He should be saying, "Tax cuts since 1988 to people getting over �35,000 a year and big business have cost every household over �1,000 a year. People are rightly angry that New Labour allows the rich to keep stealing that money."


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News
Sat 17 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1739
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