Benefits Reform Trial Scaled Back

A new reform to the welfare system is about to be scaled back by the government.

The plans of ministers are to give people the possibility to claim the new Universal Credit in four areas of north-west England from April.

However, it was announced that three of the pilots will not be able to start until July.

According to Labour the Universal Credit was “on the edge of disaster” mainly because IT systems were still not ready to stand the pressure.

This Universal Credit is created in such a way that it is simple and cheap. It will merge several earnings-related benefits and tax credits into one single payment.

The Department for Work and Pensions had first decided to test it in four areas but now they said the beginning of the programme will be set only in one area- Ashton-under-Lyne.

Not before July the other three job centres will start working with Universal Credit.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “The scheme is already late and over-budget and in spite of earlier promises ministers have admitted that they have no idea when out of work claimants will move over to Universal Credit.”

Salary data calculations are needed for the Universal Credit so Mr. Byrne said that small firms have to provide this data as they have now been delayed from April until October.

On Friday Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South and a member of the work and pensions select committee, said that she was both pro and con the delaying as she felt the government first had to check everything was all right.

“The welfare system is like a giant jelly in that if you press down and try and make a change in one area, something else that you may not be expecting pops up”.

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Unfair Dismissal Claims will Follow the Planned Cuts

Since the Department for Education (DfE) announced its plans to cut 1,000 stuff in England it has received a large number of warns that if this happened it would face numerous claims of unfair dismissal. The reason the department has taken this decision is that it plans to cut its operating costs by 50% from 2010 to 2015. Another changes that are about to happen are the number of DfE offices in England the number of which will be cut from 12 to 6.

In the words of DfE the cuts will be made on capability grounds but the department says this is not a redundancy so it does not follow established redundancy procedures.

A solicitor for the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) called Andrew James sent a letter to the Chris Wormald (secretary in DfE) in which he wrote that the department would face many employment tribunal headaches if it fails to follow redundancy procedures.

According to Mr. James PCS was being “mystified” by the DfE’s refusal to follow redundancy procedures. “A reduction in costs of 50%, a potential reduction in staff of 25% and the closure of six offices clearly gives rise to a potential redundancy situation.

“The department’s assertion to the contrary is, with respect, completely unsustainable.”

The remark of the PCS general secretary, Mark, Serwotka was that this was just an example of the chaos at the heart of education secretary Michael Gove’s department.

Yesterday 63.6% of the department staff members in the PCS voted pro strike action.

Their industrial actions were denounced harsh by a spokesperson for the DfE in whose opinion the proposed changes were necessary to “create a department that delivers an excellent service to the public, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.”

“We have made it clear that we want to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible and have held extensive discussions with the PCS and we are consulting with staff on the proposed changes,” he added.

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Notice Period For Redundancy is About to be Reduced

In April 2013 the compulsory 90 days in advance of large scale redundancies are to be halved to 45 days.

After this happens employers will not wait that long before shedding excess employees. The government’s opinion is that this change will help businessmen get more rights when hiring or firing employees.

Last year the capitalist Adrian Beecroft made a proposal in his report so that the red tape in employment should be reduced and businesses should be encouraged to grow and give jobs to more people. He also recommended that the notice period for redundancies should be reduced up to 30 days with employers being able to give a five days notice in emergency circumstances.

Vince Cable and other members of the coalition government accused Lord Beecroft that he wanted to create “industrial-level insecurity for workers”.

The government refused to trim the period that much.

According to the Employment Relations Minister Jo Swinson, the changes will be useful for the employers as well as for the employees because in his words the present redundancy period “can cause unnecessary delays for restructuring, and make it difficult for those affected to get new jobs quickly.”

She said that the reforms will give employees some peace of mind for their future and will give employers flexibility to be able to restructure.

The general secretary for the Trade Union Congress (TUC, was not convinced on the positive impact of these changes over employees. “These measures will not create a single extra job. The idea that an employer will change their mind about taking someone on because the statutory redundancy consultation period has been reduced from 90 to 45 days is close to absurd.

“The last thing we need is for the government to make it easier to sack people.”

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