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Social Security Policy.

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Introduction

Social Security Policy New Labour promised to halve child poverty by 2010 and to eradicate it by 2020, (Walker, 1999). Social security is not merely about poverty relief, as the relief of poverty requires more than just social security reform, it is important to address the position of social security policy at present to see whether Labour can live up to this rather ambitious target it has set. The term 'Social Security' is used to refer to the range of policies which aim to transfer cash resources between individuals and families. It is concerned with policies which govern the redistribution of resources within society. After coming to power in 1997 the Labour government reviewed the key principles of social security policy. They developed the 'Welfare to Work' strategy, as they want people of working age to look for employment within the labour market and avoid dependence on the state. The maintenance of a high and stable level of employment was one of the fundamental assumptions of the Beveridge report, and an objective to which all governments were positively committed after 1944 (Lowe, 1993). Hills (1997) argues that since Beveridge, the objectives of social security have never been set out in a way allowing measurement of whether benefit levels are adequate to meet their aims. The original aim of the National Insurance system as introduced following the recommendations of the Beveridge report in 1948 was to set up a system of subsistence level flat-rate social insurance benefits which were intended to cover all the main causes of inability to earn, such as old age, sickness, unemployment, widowhood and orphanhood. It also included virtually the whole body of the populations, whether employed, self- employed or non- employed, as far as possible in the same terms (Sleeman, 1979). Changes in the welfare system have been needed for a variety of reasons, society has changed, and policies need to change to keep in tune with this, these changes include changing families, working women, an ageing society and rising expectations (Giddens, 1998; Hills, 1997). ...read more.

Middle

will reduce one's overall entitlement. In practical terms, means- tested JSA is Income support, given another title, as Income support has for some time been payable to unemployed claimants not covered by National Insurance benefits. It is still available for those out of work, who are not required to seek work under JSA rules, such as lone parents and people with disabilities and Carers. 'Income support is a minimum income scheme for British citizens' (Alcock, 2003), payable only to those who are out of full- time employment (16 hours a week) and is reduced if there are any earning or any capital above �3000 in total. Housing costs are not covered, but claimants who pay rent can apply to their local council for housing benefit and council tax benefit, in some cases interest payments on mortgage debts are covered. For children of parents who are in receipt of Income Support or means- tested JSA free school meals are available. A major feature of social security protection was once sickness, but in the 1980's , under the Tories support for short term sickness (up to six months) was shifted to employment, employers were expected to pay workers a minimum level, whilst they were off sick. After six months, claimants with chronic illness or disability move to Incapacity benefit (NI protection) if they meet the contribution conditions with a medical test, which requires they are incapable of 'all work'. For those who do not satisfy the contribution condition, they are paid Income Support which is means- tested, as long as they can satisfy the conditions for Incapacity Benefit. For those in low wage employment means- tested support is also available through tax credits, payable through employers, administered by the Inland Revenue. Alcock (2003) argues that there has been a significant shift in the operation of means - tested benefits under the Labour government since 1997. Family Credit was replaced by Working Families Tax Credit, made available to a wider range of low- income families. ...read more.

Conclusion

Eliminating Universal benefits would mean a substantial reduction in the overall cost of welfare spending, meaning the government could put more money into other areas such as the National Health Service. Social Security is the largest element of public expenditure, greater than both health and education, and accounts for 11 per cent of gross domestic product (Alcock, 2003). Social Security is an important aspect of our society, through state intervention individuals are provided with a basic standard of living, and kept out of absolute poverty. An interesting Marxist theory of the purpose of the welfare state states that the state maintains a 'reserve army of labour' , through which a certain portion of society are kept out of work , but may be asked to join the labour force when needed. By providing these people with benefits (the unemployed, disabled and lone parents) the welfare state is serving capitalism by maintaining these groups who can be called upon at short notice. Marxists would argue that welfare constitutes social control and 'polices' the state. They claim that the unemployed and other members of the reserve army of labour are treated harshly, to remind others of the consequences of not working. Lowe(1999) points out that the history of postwar social security was riddled with contradictions. The promise of the Beveridge report was to realize the new ideal of social security, through a simplified system of state relief without resort to the unpopular means- test, aroused immense popular enthusiasm and lay at the heart of the new values and perspectives upon which the new welfare state was initially built. Yet within ten years the social security system was no longer popular. The means test did not wither away and the system started to become so complex that it became self defeating. Social Security has both positive and negative connotations, in practice it can be seen as a benefit and by others a cost (Alcock, 2003). ...read more.

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