By Max Clarke

Yesterday saw the ‘Welfare Reform Bill’ introduced tp Parliament. The landmark bill was set to address imbalances in the welfare system, ensuring that work always pays better than benefits.

Following are highlights from the bill, and comment from UK200Group Vice President Jonathan Russell. The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development have also provided specific comment on the government's intention to address long-term sickness welfare in the same bill, which can be found here.

Key aspects of yesterday’s bill are:

* The introduction of Universal Credit to provide a single streamlined benefit that will ensure work always pays;

* a stronger approach to reducing fraud and error with
tougher penalties for the most serious offences;

* a new claimant commitment showing clearly what is expected of claimants while giving protection to those with the greatest needs;

* reforms to Disability Living Allowance, through the introduction of the Personal Independence Payment to meet the needs of disabled people today;

* creating a fairer approach to Housing Benefit to bring stability to the market and improve incentives to work;
driving out abuse of the Social Fund system by giving greater power to local authorities;

* reforming Employment and Support Allowance to make the benefit fairer and to ensure that help goes to those with the greatest need;

* and changes to support a new system of child support which puts the interest of the child first.

Commenting on the government's shake-up of the welfare system and their plans to tackle Britain’s ‘sick note’ culture is Jonathan Russell, partner, ReesRussell and vice-president, UK200Group of accountancy and legal firms:

“Many would applaud a change in the attitude towards benefits, in particular the view and, in many instances, the reality that people are better off on benefits. However, whilst a clampdown on benefits may be excellent we do have to be sure that there are real jobs out there and that they are relevant to the individual.

Mr. Russell’s reservation’s were echoed in a statement released by Unite, Britain’s public sector union: ‘The government’s plans to manipulate the benefits system to force people back to work, when unemployment is soaring, is out of kilter with reality.

Mr Russel continued: Small businesses have little concern about the ‘sick note’ culture because those people have not been applying for work. They are very concerned about the difficulty of coping with staff who are genuinely off sick, particularly long-term, and the hurdles that are there to replace such people at a reasonable cost and time.”