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

'At least I can do something': the work of volunteering in a community beset by worklessness

S. Baines and I. Hardill

Social Policy and Society, vol. 7, 2008, p. 307-317

Voluntary organisations and volunteers have a significant role in delivering public services in the UK under the New Labour government. Voluntary initiatives are also used to reconnect unemployed people to the labour market through opportunities to develop skills, contacts and credentials as part of the welfare-to-work agenda. However, qualitative research in a deprived English East Midlands community uncovered more traditional motivations for volunteering associated with offering support to, and identifying with the needs of, others. Policies intended to broaden the base of the volunteer workforce need to recognise and nurture the intrinsic rewards of volunteering.

Keeping right on

N. Evans

Public Finance, May 30th-June 5th 2008, p. 18-19

This article outlines the tax and social policies of the Conservative Party, which has to be taken more seriously in the light of the increasing unpopularity of the Labour government. In education, the Tories would expand the city academies model, encourage educational charities and groups of parents to set up new schools and divert resources to deprived areas. On social security, they have said that they would impose a greater degree of conditionality on those receiving benefits, introducing work requirements of varying levels. Finally, in the area of criminal justice, they have set out a vision for a prison service with rehabilitation at its heart.

User involvement in public services

Public Administration Select Committee

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08; HC 410)

This Report considers various forms of user involvement in public services, from consultation with service users to stronger variants such as user control over service provision. It examines some of the arguments given for making public services more responsive: that it would be more democratic, that it would improve service levels and that it would be cost-effective. It also explores some of the potential implications of greater user involvement-for staff working in public services, for service users and for how public services are organised and evaluated. Involving public service users by allowing them to control or influence the way in which services are provided can improve service quality, make for more appropriate services and increase people's satisfaction with public services. The report, however, concludes that it is still early days for many of the stronger forms of user involvement, such as individual budgets in social care. Initial evidence about such initiatives seems promising, but there is a need for comprehensive and rigorous monitoring and evaluation. In addition, involving service users is not always appropriate. In some circumstances it could create inequalities of service, as well as being risky and expensive. In other situations people may simply be unwilling or unable to engage in this way. A key challenge for the Government and for public service providers will therefore be to establish where user involvement is desirable, and in what form. Where people do want to be involved in service design and delivery, however, the Government should ensure they get the support they need to do so.

Welfare delivery opened up

G. Parker & A. Baker

Financial Times, June 25th 2008, p. 1

James Purnell, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, has announced that a new scheme called 'right to bid' will encourage private companies and voluntary groups to make bids to deliver a wide range of welfare services. Instead of putting services out to tender, the DWP will encourage contractors to come up with proposals for the services they want to run.

(See also The Times, June 25th 2008, p. 3)

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