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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2008): Social security - UK

Loaning supplementary benefit and the introduction of the Social Fund

C. Grover

Social Policy and Administration, vol. 42, 2008, p. 470-486

In 1969/70 Richard Crossman MP, the Labour Secretary of State for Social Services, ordered officials to investigate the feasibility of introducing loans into the Supplementary Benefit system as a replacement for some exceptional needs and exceptional circumstances payments. Based on files held at The National Archives, this paper investigates why Crossman ordered the review and the concerns of the officials about the wisdom of such a policy development. The idea was rejected in 1970, but loans were introduced some 15 years later through the Social Fund, realising the worst fears of the officials. The paper concludes by examining the social, economic and ideological explanations of this U-turn.

No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility: public consulation

Department for Work and Pensions

London: TSO, 2008 C Cm7363)

The proposals in this Green Paper rest on the expectation that all unemployed benefits claimants except the severely disabled and full-time carers will take active steps to seek work. This includes drug users, older workers aged 60-65, and lone parents whose youngest child is aged seven and above. Income support will be abolished and a new social protection system will be created around two benefits: Jobseekers' Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Existing Invalidity Benefit claimants will be reassessed for eligibility for ESA. Those eligible for ESA will be assigned to either a work-related activity group for those taking positive steps to return to work or a support group for severely disabled people guaranteed a higher basic rate of benefit.

(For summary see Working Brief, issue 196, 2008, p. 3-5)

The roll-out of the Jobcentre Plus office network

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2008 (House of Commons papers, session 2007/08: HC 532)

The Jobcentre Plus programme rolled out a network of over 800 offices, combining the functions of the former jobcentres and social security offices, and was completed for 314 million less than the original 2.2 billion budget. The project was well managed, particularly the procurement aspect, where between 120 million and 140 million worth of savings were made. The successful delivery of the programme can be attributed to sound governance, intelligent use of existing guidance and external advice, strong support from the leadership of the organisation and, critically, the consistent senior management team. The project has clear lessons for other public sector procurement programmes. Most of the offices were rolled out within four years as originally planned, although factors outside the control of the project team meant 80 offices were delivered in an additional fifth year of construction. Operating out of fewer offices has released about 20 per cent of the Jobcentre Plus estate, resulting in an overall saving in running costs of 135 million a year by 2006-07. Overall, customer satisfaction with the new network is high with the majority (86 per cent) of people who use the new Jobcentre Plus fairly or very satisfied with the results. However, in some others respects the quality of customer service may initially have reduced, particularly for customers unable to reach contact centres by telephone.

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