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Welfare Reform on the Web (February 2009): Welfare state - UK

Innovative social policies: implications for work-life balance among low-waged women in England

T. Warren, E. Fox and G. Pascall

Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 16, 2009, p. 126-150

The New Labour government assumes that all women will participate in paid work in order to keep out of poverty and earn their own pensions. However poorly qualified women are more likely to stop work when they have children and return to low paid part time jobs when they re-enter the labour market due to lack of affordable child care and the culture of long working hours condoned by the government. Interviews with low-paid mothers show that they would welcome a more universal system of childcare which would both improve their children's lives and make it easier for them to work full time. They would also welcome a shorter working week which would make fathers more available to help out with childcare. The idea of shared parental leave was also popular as it would enable mothers to involve their partners in care from the beginning of their children's lives.

Ministers consider plan to expand free childcare

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Jan. 23rd 2009, p. 2

The government is planning to provide free childcare for up to 600,000 children under the age of three by using money saved by tightening the rules on benefit claimants. Pilot schemes providing free childcare for 50,000 children have already started, but James Purnell, the department for work and pensions secretary, is planning to extend the scheme in an effort to deflect the criticism which surrounded a package of welfare reforms regarded as too draconian by critics who argued that parents with very young children were being forced back to work.

New law to enforce social mobility

A. Grice

The Independent, Jan. 14th 2009, p. 10

The Government has admitted that young people from poor backgrounds have less chance of landing a highly paid job than their parents did because some measures of social mobility have gone backwards. In a White Paper, ministers insist that the action Labour has taken since 1997 to improve social mobility is starting to make an impact. But they also concede that, on some counts, people's chances of accessing more opportunities have not improved since the Second World War. Ministers will consider imposing a new legal duty on Government and the rest of the public sector to close the gap between people from different backgrounds in every policy decision made.

(See also The Times, Jan. 14th 2009, p.6)

New opportunities: fair chances for the future

HM Government

London: TSO, 2009 (Cm 7533)

White paper presents a package of measures aimed at making it easier for children from poor households to climb the social and economic ladder. The package includes an initiative encouraging elite universities to recruit bright children from poor schools. There will be more state-funded childcare for parents of two-year-olds from poor families, and 10,000 'golden handcuffs' payments to lure the best teachers to the worst performing schools. Affluent areas of Britain will be twinned with sink estates, with poorer children encouraged to visit other areas to expand their horizons. Public sector employers will be allowed to engage in positive discrimination to favour women and minority ethnic job applicants.

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