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Welfare Reform on the Web (May 2011): Social security - UK - welfare to work

5bn back-to-work scheme targets those on benefits

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Apr. 4th 2011, p. 13

A 5bn back-to-work programme will today be unveiled by the employment minister Chris Grayling. The scheme will see companies being handed contracts to help the long term unemployed back to work and be paid by results. In an attempt to allay fears that contracts are only being handed to big firms such as Serco, Grayling has said that many charities and the voluntary sector will also have a part to play in the scheme.

Choice and welfare reform: lone parents' decision making around paid work and family life

A. Rafferty and J. Wiggan

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 40, 2011, p. 275-293

Welfare-to-work policy in the UK increasingly frames 'choice' in relation to employment decisions in terms of consumer-type powers of selection between options within active labour market programmes, with heightened constraints on the option of choosing not to enter the labour market. This paper examines the choice agenda in relation to lone-parent employment, focusing on the period following the 2007 Freud Review of welfare provision. Survey data are used to estimate the extent to which recent policies promoting compulsory job search by youngest dependent child age map onto lone parents' own stated decision making about if and when to enter the labour market. Findings indicate that a substantial proportion of lone parents targeted by policy reform currently do not want a job, and that their main reported reason is that they are looking after their children. Economically inactive lone mothers remain more likely to have other chronic employment barriers such as poor health, sickness or disability which traverse dependent child age categories.

Disabled fear 'pencil test' to claim benefits

J. Brown

The Independent, Apr. 1st 2011, p. 16

SCOPE, a charity that supports disabled people and their families, has criticised the new work capability assessment (WCA) which is being rolled out nationwide on 04/04/11. According to pilot studies of the test, up to two-thirds of those claiming incapacity benefits could potentially work. Among other things, the test asks existing claimants if they are able to lift a pencil or turn on a tap. If the test determines claimants are able to work, their incapacity benefit will be switched to the lower jobseeker's allowance of 65.45 a week. According to Scope, the test does not appropriately determine what barriers keep disabled people from working.

Fitness for work: a test too far

C. Callanan

Community Living, vol. 24, no.3, 2011, p. 8-9

Although the review process for the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is on-going, the coalition government is proceeding with the migration of claimants of incapacity for work benefits onto the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). All claimants will be medically reassessed during the migration process. The main ESA migration programme began on Feb. 28th 2011 and is due to finish in March 2014.

Getting back into work for all

G. Davies

Training Journal, Apr. 2011, p. 41-43

The coalition government is committed to helping long-term unemployed people return to paid work. Unfortunately employers are reluctant to hire unemployed people from disadvantaged groups, especially ex-offenders and young people with few qualifications. Research shows that employers' apprehensions are unjustified as these groups, once hired, perform as well as the average worker.

An Independent review of the Work Capability Assessment

M. Harrington

London: TSO, 2010

This independent review found various problems with the Work Capability Assessment, the medical test used to assess claims for Employment and Support Allowance. It highlighted 'rubber stamping' of Atos Healthcare's medical assessments by Jobcentre Plus decision makers without considering additional evidence submitted to support a claim. It also found that some descriptors used in the medical assessment might not adequately measure the effect of fluctuating conditions, such as mental health problems, on fitness for work. Communication among the agencies involved was also found to be fragmented and sometimes non-existent. The report recommended: 1) that Jobcentre Plus should manage and support the claimant; 2) that a personalised summary of the recommendations should be included in the Atos Healthcare report; 3) that Atos Healthcare should employ 'mental, intellectual and cognitive champions' in every medical examination centre to spread best practice; 4) that a task group should look at the mental, intellectual and cognitive descriptors and report by May 2011; 5) that decision makers should be better trained, gather and use additional information, and explain their rulings to claimants; and 6) that there should be better communication between Jobcentre Plus, Atos Healthcare and the Tribunals Service to improve the quality of decision-making on all sides.

Too fat, too drunk, or just too lazy to work - but not to claim their benefits

J. Sherman and L. Dixon

The Times, Apr. 21st 2011, p. 5

The first breakdown of medical assessments for more than two million people on long term sickness benefit shows that 42,360 of claimants are alcoholic, while more than 37,000 are drug users. A further 1,830 are too obese to hold down a job. Figures released by the employment minister Chris Grayling also show that many of these people have been on benefits for more than 10 years, including 12,000 alcoholics and 9,200 drug users. After pilot studies in Burnley and Aberdeen, more than a third of those assessed were found to be fit to work and will now join the government's new Work Programme. Liam Byrne, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has warned that the government's spending cuts would make work more difficult to find. Many charities have criticised the speed with which the medical assessments have been carried out, saying they are not sensitive to people's ability to work. The government expects thousands will appeal as the tests become more widespread.

Work as a route out of poverty: a critical evaluation of the UK welfare to work policy

I. Newman

Policy Studies, vol. 32, 2011, p. 91-108

The current welfare to work policies in the UK are summarised in this article and eight simple 'claims' that have informed the dominant neoliberal approach to employment policies over the last 34 years are critically evaluated. The weaknesses in the evidence base underpinning current policy are examined. By drawing on Giugni (2009) and looking at the neglected area of the politics of unemployment and the role of the unemployed, it is argued that policy has increasingly been driven by a desire to place responsibility for tackling unemployment on the unemployed themselves and to marginalise their voice and scope for political organisation.

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