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MINISTER UNDERLINES NEED TO MODERNISE THE BENEFITS SYSTEM

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The government's commitment to modernising the welfare system was emphasised as a new report on claimants' percepti...
The government's commitment to modernising the welfare system was emphasised as a new report on claimants' perceptions on benefit claim procedures was published.

Welcoming the findings of the report, social security minister Keith Bradley said:

'We are a modernising government, and we are committed to building a modern social security system. To do that we will reform the welfare state so that what people get from us is not just a bureaucratic system that administers benefits - but an active modern service for those we deal with and employ.

'The current system is complicated for clients to understand and for staff to administer. This discourages the very people, like the old and the disabled, who are most in need of our help.

'This research clearly shows that claimants want and need a more active relationship with those who administer the system. This includes everything from getting more help in filling in forms, clearer explanations about what information is required and why, and how changes to rules will affect them.

'These are exactly the kinds of things that we are seeking to achieve. Our Social Security Bill will lay the foundations for a fundamental change in the way that benefits are delivered.'

The main findings of the research report, Claimants' Perceptions of the Claim Process, are that claimants:

-- feel that their part in the process is largely limited to one stage of the process - making the claim

-- feel that the Benefits Agency's part in the claims process is to deal with claims quickly and accurately

-- think that the Benefits Agency should be more pro-active in helping and advising customers

The research shows that claimants have a variable understanding of what causes problems or additional work for the BA. They also display

very different levels of compliance with the requirements placed on them. There are many reasons why this is so, many of which are underpinned by the complexity of the benefits system and the high level of dependency that many claimants have on their benefit payment.

Notes

1. Claimants' perceptions of the claim process is published on 9 October in the Department of Social Security Research Series (Report No. 68) and is available from The Stationery Office (ISBN 0 11 7625418, priced£23. The authors are Jane Ritchie and Mark Chetwynd (Social and Community Planning Research).

2. The research was commissioned by the department in 1996 and involved group and depth interviews with claimants who had recently

contacted the Benefits Agency.

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