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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999


This section gives regulation-making powers that will enable new functions to be conferred on local authorities enabling them to undertake a range of work-related activities with claimants. This will allow local authorities to support the introduction of the ONE service into the benefits system (see section 57 above).

Local authorities currently have statutory responsibility for administering Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Under existing legislation, local authority staff can undertake activities and collect information only where it is relevant to the administration of those particular benefits. Various sections in this Act extend the functions of local authorities to allow them to play a full and active part in the ONE service process: for example, regulations under section 71 will enable local authorities to accept claims and collect information for other benefits. Regulations under section 72 will enable local authorities to use and disclose information about people’s employability collected as part of the ONE process.

In addition, regulations under section 57 (which will come into effect in April 2000) will make it a condition of entitlement that claimants of certain benefits (including Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) take part in work-focused interviews – both at the point of claim and at various points afterwards. Section 57 will also allow local authority staff to conduct these compulsory work-focused interviews.

However, all ONE service staff, including those working for local authorities, will also need to undertake voluntary work-related activities with claimants throughout the duration of the pilots.

The ONE service will be piloted in twelve areas, starting for those making new claims to benefit from the end of June 1999. For those making claims before the powers in section 57 come into force, taking part in this initiative, and having work-focused interviews with a personal adviser, will be voluntary on their part.

Once section 57 does come into effect, claimants will be required to take part in compulsory work-focused interviews in specified circumstances. However, the purpose of these compulsory interviews is to encourage claimants to take further action, including participation in additional, voluntary interviews to improve their job prospects.

Section 58 extends the statutory functions of local authorities to allow them to perform these functions. This will enable local authorities to play a full and active role in the operation of the ONE service, allowing them to provide appropriate support to those making claims to benefit both before and after the start of the compulsory phase in April 2000.

The Act also enables local authorities to be paid for this extra work (Schedule 12, paragraph 80). See the commentary after section 71 for details.

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