Benefit system too complex says Paul Rowen

September 18, 2007 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP, in Brighton for the Liberal Democrat Conference, has told a Fringe Meeting of the Public and Commercial Services Union that, "The Government has failed the most vulnerable people over the last decade." Mr Rowen was speaking at the meeting called: 'The future of welfare delivery.'

Mr Rowen, Lib Dem Shadow Minister for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "It is quite clear that those we are meant to be looking after are the ones who are left struggling. One of the main reasons for this is the complex system that is used to administer benefits. How do I know this? It forms a huge part of the hefty postbag I receive week in, week out. Too often the system is over complicated, and it is prone to errors and fraud. More importantly the current system gives disincentives to work and can be incomprehensive to people."

Mr Rowen also told the meeting that the rate of employment had 'gone down in the last year' and is calling for effective action. He cited examples from Rochdale, including the potential losses of over a thousand jobs at My Travel. Mr Rowen said: "This is a dire situation that needs sorting out. After a decade of a Labour Government, inequality is rising. We have 3 million households in this country where nobody is working, and 1.7 million children are growing up in such families. This has led to a rise in child poverty."

Mr Rowen backed a report by David Freud that suggested that private firms and charities give one-to-one help to cut long-term unemployment by 1.3m. He said, "Mr Freud's report has been on Gordon Brown's desk since he took over as Prime Minister. Unfortunately, we are not seeing any positive results of action. Freud's report suggested increasing the role of Job Centre Plus and other good ideas like helping single parents look for work once their child turns 12, rather than 16 as at present. Last year the Work and Pensions Select Committee said job cuts at Jobcentre Plus led to a "truly appalling" level of service."