Britain launches radical welfare reform

Updated: 2011-02-18 09:23


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LONDON - The British government Thursday launched a Welfare Reform Bill which will adopt a single Universal Credit to replace the current complex benefits, strip benefits from those who repeatedly turn down job offers and conduct new health checks on those claiming a disability stops them working.

British Prime Minister David Cameron claimed the reform would make more than 2.5 million of the poorest people in Britain better off and ensure that people will always get more money from work than on benefits.

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He explained the heart of the bill is the idea that "Never again will work be the wrong financial choice. Never again will we waste opportunity."

"We're finally going to make work pay -- especially for the poorest people in society," Cameron added.

Cameron also claimed the reform would reduce the welfare cost by 5.5 billion pounds ($8.9 billion) over the next four years by limiting housing benefit, reforming tax credits and taking away child benefit from higher-rate taxpayers.

He said over the past 10 years Britain's welfare bill increased by 56 billion pounds ($90.6 billion), well above inflation.

Britain's welfare system has to change because it is "not working," as it has left more than one in four adults of working age out of work, and also because it has become too expensive now, according to Cameron.

"When we came to office, spending on working age welfare benefits was running at 90 billion pounds ($145.6 billion) a year, accounting for one in every seven pounds government spent, " he added.

Under the reform plans there will also be new powers and rules to tackle fraud which costs the taxpayer around 5.2 billion pounds ($8.4 billion) a year.

Cameron said this reform is the most "radical changes" to the welfare system since it began, and "it is not an exercise of accounting, it's about changing our culture."


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