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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2012): Welfare state - UK

The big squeeze: warning over incomes as Britain goes on strike

P. Inman and K. Allen

The Guardian, Dec. 1st 2011, p. 1-11

High inflation, cuts and the longest period of wage stagnation on record would see the spending power of the average British family plummet over the next five years, a leading think tank warned. An Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis predicted that average incomes, adjusted for inflation, would fall by 3% in 2011 and further in 2012. The director of the IFS, Paul Johnson, said: 'In the period 2009-10 to 2012-13, real median household incomes will drop by a whopping 7.4% - a record matched only by the falls seen between 1974 and 1977.' The think tank warned that families with children would be worse off in 2016 than they were 14 years earlier as they coped with more than a decade of austerity.

Cameron questioned over cash to tackle problem families

P. Wintour

The Guardian, Dec. 16th 2011, p. 18

David Cameron faced questions over whether he had found enough Whitehall cash to effectively help the 120,000 problem families said to cost nearly 8bn in state support. Cameron announced 448m of funding and said he hoped a further 675m would be advanced by local councils over the next three years. The cash from Whitehall was designed to fund caseworkers to help tackle deep-seated problems faced by 'chaotic families', and co-ordinate the often overlapping work of local agencies. Local councils would not receive the 448m cash until they could show Louise Casey - the new 'troubled families tsar' - that their interventions had cut truancy, antisocial behaviour or addiction. The scheme would formally be voluntary, but if a family refused to co-operate, councils already had the powers to evict tenants, take children into care or issue antisocial behaviour orders. The proposals were largely built on ideas introduced by Tony Blair and then expanded by Gordon Brown. Cameron claimed in his speech that Labour's approach had failed, but the research he published on the effectiveness of family intervention projects derived from ideas developed by Casey and ministers during the Labour years

(See also the Independent, Dec. 16th 2011, p. 35)

Governing welfare reform symbolically: evidence based or iconic policy?

P. Carter

Critical Policy Studies, vol.5, 2011, p. 247-263

This article presents findings from an ethnographic study of policy implementation and features data in the form of artefacts. It begins by giving brief details of the ethnographic study of Sure Start implementation that generated the data. After outlining the shifting policy context, it presents five artefacts and discusses their significance using the postmodern concepts of hyper-visibility, governmentality and performativity to analyse the data. The article demonstrates how, despite the rhetoric of evidence-based policy and practice, the meanings of policy are open to interpretation. The artefacts brand, materialise, reify and attempt to discursively govern a range of somewhat abstract or paradoxical policy ideas in the course of implementing welfare reform. They symbolise the commodification of public services, the fluid nature of policy, the uneven course of reform and the challenges of policy implementation.

Household finances under pressure: what is the role of social policy?

R. Joseph and K. Rowlingson (guest editors)

Social Policy and Society, vol. 11, 2012, p. 67-142

This themed section examines household finances in the context of the 2007 banking crisis which triggered the biggest global economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The coalition government elected in the UK in May 2010, through its emergency budget aimed at reducing the deficit in the public finances, precipitated the biggest cuts in public sector funding in living memory. Rising unemployment and the increasing cost of living put an even greater strain on household finances. These events have created new risks for households in the management of assets such as pensions, savings and housing, and also in respect of borrowing and debt. Contributors address a number of fundamental questions about the role of housing assets, savings and debt during a period of high risk and uncertainty. Questioning the respective roles of the state, the market, the third sector and the individual/family provides linking themes across the articles.

Open for business?

J. Hirst

Public Finance, Dec. 2011, p. 28-33

In a sharply deteriorating fiscal climate, the government is proposing more choice, decentralisation and accountability in public services, at local neighbourhood and individual level. A presumption is to be made in favour of a range of providers and against local state monopolies. Ministers have also undertaken to promote voluntarism, mutuals and social enterprises. This roundtable of experts discussed whether or not this agenda could succeed in a period of local authority budget cuts, the risks involved, and the extent of public buy-in.

The troubled families who blight Britain

T. Ross

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 16th 2011, p. 14

The Prime Minister announced an initiative to be run by local councils to tackle 120,000 problem families. A network of trouble shooters would co-ordinate action by social services, police, teachers and job centre staff to help chaotic families reform. Money taken from Whitehall budgets would be spent on preventing school truancy, cutting crime and anti-social behaviour, and helping parents find paid work. Councils would be paid by results and would be expected to find 60% of funding for the initiative themselves.

Unravelling equality: the impact of the United Kingdom's spending cuts on women

M.-A. Stephenson and J. Harrison

Political Quarterly, vol. 82, 2011, p. 645-650

The UK coalition government announced plans for far reaching public spending cuts in its emergency budget in 2010. Since then there has been considerable discussion about the disproportionate impact these cuts are likely to have on women. This article examines a recent report on the gender impact of the cuts in one medium-sized city, Coventry, in the context of this widespread national concern. The report provides a blueprint for the kind of analysis that should be carried out all over the country to ensure that the impact of spending cuts on women is better understood and acted upon.

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