Headlines: October 30th, 1998

Reforms by the Government to the benefits system aim to be effective by using a customer-focussed approach.Its ‘single gateway’ into the benefits system should mean people are less likely to miss out on what help is on offer due to bureaucracy. It also appears to make avoiding receipt of help back into work that bit more difficult. The system will be piloted in four areas of the UK from June next year.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said: “The single gateway will help all people of working age entering the benefits system. It will look at how barriers preventing them getting into the jobs market can be broken down.

“In the pilot areas everyone of working age in receipt of benefit, including lone parents and disabled people, will be given an interview to establish the help they need to improve their employability.

“Claimants will be given their own personal adviser who will work with them to assess their job potential and provide access to a variety of help such as training.”

It has been made clear that only a few people, such as those recently bereaved, would be excused such advice. But Employment Minister Andrew Smith emphasised the customer-first benefits of the new system. He said: “The Single Gateway will stop claimants being shunted from pillar to post, and, by requiring them to take part in an interview, will make them aware of their responsibilities and opportunities as well as their rights.”