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Welfare Reform on the Web (November 2000): Welfare State - UK

BELIEVING IN BRITAIN

Conservative Party

London: 2000

Draft Tory party manifesto includes proposals to free universities from state control by replacing annual government grants with endowments worth £1bn each. Universities would not be allowed to touch the capital but would be allowed to use the interest to make whatever financial arrangements they liked. In healthcare, a Patients Guarantee would lay down maximum waiting times for treatment based on clinical need, but only in trial areas to begin with. In welfare, the Tories would create a funded optional alternative to the basic state pension for young workers, allowing them to have contributions invested by the private sector in a government-approved scheme. Unemployed people who could work and refused to do so would lose their benefit entitlement, and the disabled would be assisted back to work through improved rehabilitation services.

BLAIR'S SCARS

P. Taylor-Gooby

Critical Social Policy, vol. 20, 2000, p. 331-341

Current welfare policy emphasizes individual responsibility and biases the role of the state towards promotion of equality of opportunity and the provision of services targeted on specific lower income or disadvantaged groups. However, some policy-makers and professionals in the public services adhere to a different understanding of the operation of state welfare that identifies problems as the outcome of structural inequalities and not as the failure to grasp opportunities. They therefore reject the emphasis on enhancing equality of opportunity promoted by the government.

COMPREHENSIVE SPENDING REVIEW

P. Convery

Working Brief, issue 117, 2000, p. 3-5

Examines how the new funds made available through the July Comprehensive Spending Review might impact on a range of social inclusion programmes including welfare-to-work, neighbourhood renewal, education and training and interventions for young people at risk such as Sure Start.

FACING THE FUTURE

M. Pirie and R. Worcester

London: Adam Smith Institute, 2000

Results of a survey in July 2000 show that 46% of respondents thought the welfare state would disappear over the next 50 years.

FOREIGN LEGION

S. Milne

Guardian, Sept. 1st 2000, p. 15

The UK relies heavily on recruiting public service workers such as doctors, teachers and nurses from overseas. Article attributes the crisis to poor pay, lack of affordable housing in London, and a poor image following sustained criticism of the public services over the past 20 years.

FREEDOM IN A LIBERAL SOCIETY

Liberal Democrats

London: 2000

Pre-election manifesto pledges an increase in taxes on Britain's highest earners to fund billions of pounds of extra spending on health, education and pensions. Promises to boost the number of doctors by 5,000, nurses by 20,000 and police by 6,000 above the numbers pledged by Labour. Primary school class sizes would be reduced to 25 pupils, university tuition fees abolished and free nursery education introduced for all three-year-olds. The basic state pension would be increased by between £5 and £15 a week, with most money going to the over 75s.

INEQUALITIES IN LIFE AND DEATH: WHAT IF BRITAIN WERE MORE EQUAL?

R. Mitchell, M. Shaw and D. Dorling

Bristol: Policy Press, 2000

Argues that a modest redistribution of income and wealth through taxation and by enforcing the minimum wage would reduce the premature death rate among those under 65 in the country's poorest constituencies. The researchers estimate that reversing inequalities in income and wealth to their 1983 levels would reduce death among the under-65s by 7,600 a year. Eradicating child poverty would avoid 1,183 deaths of boys and 224 of girls.

THE MAKING OF A WELFARE CLASS? BENEFIT RECEIPT IN BRITAIN

R. Walker and M. Howard

Bristol: Policy Press, 2000

Book analyses the reasons for the rise in benefit take-up that has more than doubled social security spending in real terms since 1971. Key factors have been structural economic change, demographic trends, changes in family life and individual aspirations and the introduction of new benefit regimes. The latter is shown to have been particularly significant in respect of disability with benefits introduced in the 1970s in recognition of disabled people's special financial needs and in respect of help for families, with the replacement of family allowances by child benefit having hugely increased the numbers claiming. The authors find no evidence for the existence of a social underclass dependent on welfare, and argue that social security has fostered economic and social progress by offering financial protection to casualties of social change.

NEW POST OFFICE BANK PLAN

J. Treanor

Guardian, Aug. 25th 2000, p. 2

Reports that Abbey National are developing a plan to allow post offices to offer a range of banking facilities under franchise. This plan is seen as an alternative to the government's proposed universal bank.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL: ONE YEAR ON: MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Department of Social Security

London: TSO, 2000 (Cm 4865)

Reports indicators which show the positive impacts of government policies in lifting children and the elderly out of poverty, in helping the unemployed back to work and in regenerating communities.

QUARTER OF HOUSEHOLDS NOW LIVING 'IN POVERTY'

A. Frean

Times, Sept. 11th 2000, p. 10

A new report 'Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain' shows that the proportion of households regarded as living in poverty rose from 14 to 24 per cent between 1983 and 1999. The survey suggests that many of the calculations used to set benefits, such as income support and the working families tax credit, underestimate the real costs of living in Britain today. High rates of poverty not only have the effect of worsening health, education and job skills, but they also damage personal relationships within families and across ethnic groups and society as a whole.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Sept. 11th 2000, p. 10; Independent, Sept. 11th 2000, p. 6; Guardian, Sept. 11th 2000, p. 10)

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