Whilst they may not be able to do much about it, at least some of the politicians in the UK have realised what a complex system we have around the claiming of various benefits. The conclusions from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee published on the 12 January 2012, recognize the pickle we have got ourselves into:
- No single body is responsible for coordinating means testing across government
- At present there is no clear picture of how the entire benefit system affects claimants’ incentives to work
- Departments do not understand the impact of administering more means-tested benefits locally
- The benefit system is difficult to understand and places a high burden on claimants
- administrative costs of means-tested benefits vary so significantly
- Real-time information systems will be difficult to implement
So, if we have got an unmanageable set of legislation that makes life difficult and expensive for all levels of public service, who is going to sort it out? This self-induced complexity has been frequently discussed here, especially around the ‘New Conditionality’ covered by Paul Henman in Governing electronically – we make processes and systems complex because we believe that ICT will sort it all out for us – it may, but at an enormous cost, especially if the systems are outsourced or poorly designed. Let’s keep it simple or pay the stupid price!
Simplicity is the key to reducing costs. The problem is the tangle we have already get and the time required to sort out both the politics and the logistics. Once you are on a means test treadmill it is difficult to reverse it. My solution is a simpler integrated approach – not means tested. It has to bring the personal taxation and benefits system together. Everybody get a citizen account and money from the treasury. The PAYE system balances out this effective minimum allowance. We scrap National Insurance and replace it with a Singapore style personal provident fund, mainly for retirement. Every penny you earn is taxed, saved for a pension and some kept – there is no benefits trap. Low wage earners get their citizen allowance and keep their earnings, without the need for a minimum wage.
I have been told that anything as bold as this will not get political party support, as it would no doubt take several parliaments for the transformation. 20 years may not be an overstatement.
See more on http://wp.me/p14MGf-sT.
Glad to hear it Catherine. Keep it up and let the word and best practice spread!