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Welfare Reform on the Web (April 2008): Welfare state - UK

Budget 2008: stability and opportunity: building a strong, sustainable future


London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08; HC388)

From a social welfare perspective, Chancellor Alistair Darling's 2008 budget promises:

  • Further proposals to reform housing benefit and make sure that work pays
  • From April 2010 all long-term recipients of incapacity benefits will attend work capability assessments
  • Child benefit for the first child will increase to 20.00 per week in April 2009. At the same time the child element of child tax credit will rise by 50.00 a year more than needed to match inflation. Parents' income from child benefit will also be disregarded when calculating housing and council tax benefits.
  • An extra 60m will be invested over the next three years to provide people with new opportunities to gain skills to enter the labour market and remain in work
  • An extra 200m will be invested in schools to bring forward to 2011 the government's target that at least 30% of pupils should gain at least five GCSEs graded A* to C, including English and maths. Schools failing to meet the target will be subject to intervention and may be closed down.
  • 8bn will be spent on new social and affordable housing over the next three years. Low income homebuyers will be exempt from stamp duty if they purchase through government shared-ownership schemes
  • The Winter fuel allowance for the over sixties will be increased by 50.00 in 2008 and that for the over eighties will be raised by 100.00
  • Energy companies will be expected to spend an extra 100m a year helping vulnerable customers pay rocketing bills.

Care in a new welfare society: unpaid care, welfare and employment

S. Moullin

Institute for Public Policy Research, 2007

Across western welfare states, economists are concerned about pressures on budgets from a growing dependent group of older and disabled people and an increasingly unwilling group of unpaid informal carers. However, investing in social care could boost the economy by improving the health, well-being and participation of older and disabled people and those who care for them. Provision of more and better social care would enable family carers to enter paid employment, would reduce healthcare costs, and would enable older and disabled people to make a positive contribution to society.

Choice or voice? The impact of consumerism on public services

I. Greener (editor)

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 197-268

Hirschman suggested in his 1970 book that individuals, wishing to improve the service they receive, have two main strategies, exit or voice. Exit exists when they move to another provider and voice when they choose to complain. Recent work from both academics and the UK government is making the case for increased user choice in welfare services by suggesting that voice mechanisms are not working. Choice and voice are therefore being counterposed as alternative approaches to achieving the New Labour government's central goal for welfare reform, that of increasing service responsiveness. The articles within this themed section provide an introduction to cutting edge debates within the field, showing some hostility to the unthinking extension of choice into public services.

Entering a brave new world? An assessment of third sector readiness to tender for the delivery of public services in the United Kingdom

T. Chapman, J. Brown and R. Crow

Policy Studies, vol. 29, 2008, p. 1-17

The British government is keen to encourage third sector organisations to play a larger role in the delivery of public services. Political enthusiasm for the third sector is based on the assumption that voluntary organisations will be prepared to tender for contracts at both a local and national level. However there has been no sound empirical evidence to support this assumption. This article makes a start on filling this knowledge gap by reporting on a quantitative study of 400 third sector organisations in North East England. The results cast doubts on the willingness, capability and capacity of these organisations to engage with the governments contracting agenda.

'Hoovering up the money'? Delivering government-funded capacity-building programmes to voluntary and community organisations

M. Harris and H. Schlappa

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 135-146

The New Labour government has supported and encouraged the voluntary and community sector to build its capacity to deliver high quality public services, to work in partnership with governmental agencies and to improve community cohesion. This article presents the findings of an empirical study of how an early capacity building programme in a single English conurbation played out in practice for the intermediate support bodies involved in delivering it and for the voluntary organisations which were intended to benefit from it.

New Labour/hard labour? restructuring and resistance inside the welfare industry

G. Mooney and A. Law (editors)

Bristol: Policy Press, 2007

There are an increasing number of studies devoted to an examination of New Labour's social policies. However, thus far there has been little in the way of substantive discussion of opposition to and conflict around key elements of New Labour's agenda for the welfare state and public sector, from those who are involved in the frontline implementation and delivery of welfare policies. Since the mid to late 1990s, there have been continual and recurring episodes of industrial action of various kinds involving social workers, teachers, lecturers, nurses, hospital ancillary staff, nursery nurses, home helps and local authority librarians among others. Welfare delivery has become a central point of industrial relations disputes in the UK today. This book provides the first critically informed discussion of work and workers in the UK welfare sector under New Labour. It examines the changing nature of work and explores the context of industrial relations across the welfare industry. While the main focus is on the workforce in state welfare, this is set within the context of recent and current shifts in the mixed economy of welfare between state, private and third sector organisations.

PFI delay removes need for budget rewrite

N. Timmins and C. Giles

Financial Times, 6 March 2008, p2.

The move to the international financial reporting standard in April was expected to mean 30bn of PFI projects, mainly in health and local government, will come back on balance sheet and count towards Treasury figures for government borrowing. However, this looks likely to be delayed by at least one year, because the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence are not ready to switch to the new accounting standards.

Revisiting the welfare state

R. M. Page

Maidenhead: Open University, 2007

The book re-examines some of the most commonly held assumptions about the post-war welfare state and reignites the debate about its role and purpose. It starts from the premise that the student of social policy can gain a deeper understanding by studying political and historical accounts of the welfare state, party manifestos, policy documents and political memoirs. Drawing from these sources, it provides a clear guide to the changing role of the state in the provision of welfare in Britain since 1940. Each of the five chapters is devoted to a particular theme associated with the post-war welfare state, the last of which focuses on the strategy of the New Labour governments of Tony Blair.

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