An article by Jane Millar and Peter Whiteford has won the 2019 Best Paper Prize of the Foundation for International Studies on Social Security (FISS) sponsored by the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice.
The title of the article is ‘Timing it right or timing it wrong: how should income-tested benefits deal with changes in circumstances?’ and it can be downloaded here.
This article examines the challenges in designing income-tested benefits for people of working age. This is particularly difficult in the context of changing patterns of work and volatility in earnings and income. Matching benefits to needs requires timely assessment and payment. We compare the treatment of timing issues in the working-age welfare systems of the United Kingdom and Australia. The article discusses how these different but similar systems deal with the timing of income receipt and benefit adjustment, problems of overpayment and debt, and draws out some lessons for the design of income-tested provisions.
Paul Spicker has published a comment on the article:
… The benefits that work best, like pensions and Child Benefit, are long-term. There is no practical way to obtain this sort of information and deliver a system that is efficient, fair and workable. These systems are designed by those who are convinced that the problems can always be resolved by the technology, when we all know they can’t. We need to smooth things down, to ask only for information that makes sense to claimants, and to stabilise income. In other words, we need to be less responsive, not more.