Daily Telegraph, Mar. 29th 2012, p. 22
The Prime Minister set out his vision for public services reform. He envisaged a country where citizens could choose the schools and hospitals they used and where private and voluntary sector providers could come in and offer new services. He wanted funding to be targeted on the most disadvantaged and service providers to be made accountable to local people. He announced three new policy initiatives: 1) an independent review to look at how choice could be extended to the most disadvantaged; 2) publication of draft legislation enshrining in law the right to choice; and 3) a consultation on how to make it easier to set up neighbourhood councils.
London: TSO, 2012 (House of Commons papers, session 2010/12; HC 1853) From a welfare reform point of view, the most controversial move in the 2012 Budget was to freeze the age related allowance which means that existing pensioners start paying tax at a higher income level than workers and to abolish it for future retirees. Those who have already retired would see their tax free allowance frozen at £10,500 or £10,650 for the over-75s. Workers retiring in the future would only benefit from the same tax free allowance as everyone else. The tax free allowance would increase to £9,205 for all taxpayers from April 2013, lifting 2 million low paid workers out of paying income tax at all. Money raised by the tax raid on pensioners would be used to fund a reduction of the 50p top rate of income tax to 45p from April 2013. Moreover, a million more people would pay higher rate income tax as the starting level for the levy would be cut by £1,000. The wealthy were also targets for a series of changes to stamp duty, which increased to 7% on properties costing more than £2m. Charitable donations of more than £200,000 would also attract less tax relief, as the Treasury wanted to clamp down on rich people reducing their tax bill by making large gifts to worthy causes. On state pension reform, the Chancellor confirmed the he planned to scrap the earnings-related first and second state pensions and bring in a flat rate payment of £140.00 per week by 2016. The Chancellor also watered down plans to strip child benefit from households including a higher rate taxpayer. Only families with one person earning over £60,000 would lose the benefit entirely and it would be reduced for those earning between £50,000 and £60,000. Plans were announced for a further £10bn cut in welfare benefits by 2016.
Children and Young People Now, Feb. 7th-20th 2012, p. 8-9
The government has set its sights on improving the lives of the 120,000 most 'troubled' families in England. Funding on offer to achieve this works out at just under £10,000 per family, spread over three years. This is insufficient to cover the cost of intensive support schemes that have been proved to work. Lack of funding could mean that intensive work with families is diluted.
The Guardian, Mar. 28th 2012, p. 15
The government announced plans to give councils a £4,000 payment for every one of Britain's 120,000 troubled families if they kept their children in school and out of police stations or if they could get a long-term unemployed adult into work. The financial reward system was outlined in a letter to council chief executives from Louise Casey, Tony Blair's former "respect tsar" who returned to government under the coalition. It formed a new social contract between the state and local authorities over the issue of the most blighted families in Britain. The government said children in such families were severely disadvantaged as they were often surrounded by drugs, drink or domestic violence. Officials said many households had one or more under 18-year-olds with a proven offence in the last 12 months. Others could have children permanently excluded from school. The payments-by-result system would give councils £3,900 if:
The Guardian, Mar. 13th 2012, p. 8
The British government was spending £25bn a year on the consequences of social breakdown and a pittance on its underlying causes, Iain Duncan Smith said. The work and pensions secretary was to propose a switch in spending towards early intervention, and to enlist private investors in his campaign. Duncan Smith and the Department for Education planned to form an Early Intervention Foundation, and to persuade the City and local authorities to invest up to £10bn to prevent social breakdown in a public-private partnership. The intention was that investors would make money by backing projects or agencies that steered vulnerable people away from crime, drugs, unemployment truancy or family breakdown, so saving state spending on social failure.
Equality and Human Rights Commission
In this wide-ranging review of how human rights law is being applied by public services, the Commission hits back at widespread criticism of the Human Rights Act and the human rights industry. It sets out ten areas in which it believes public bodies have failed to meet human rights standards, singling out care of older adults. The report claims that, at its most extreme, the abusive, cruel and degrading treatment meted out to older adults is similar to torture. It criticises the care regulator, the Care Quality Commission, on the grounds that it has failed to identify and prevent abuses of human rights, adding that many vulnerable people have no idea how to complain. The report goes on to accuse councils, the police, and social services of failing to intervene in cases of serious ill-treatment of children, disabled people and women at risk of domestic violence.
The Guardian, Mar. 13th 2012, p. 8
New research warned that the government's welfare reforms and the introduction of the universal credit would make up to 150,000 of the country's poorest single parents up to £68 a week worse off, potentially pushing 250,000 children further into poverty. The aim of the universal credit was to ensure that work always paid more than benefits, but research by Save the Children suggested that for some single parents in work, the changes could have the opposite effect. Single parents working longer hours on low pay, who were already below the poverty line, were at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty. A single parent with two children, working full-time on or around the minimum wage, could be as much as £2,500 a year worse off under the new system.