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Welfare Reform on the Web (June 2006): Welfare state - UK

Blair subtracts the divisions

M. Samuel

Community Care, May 18th-24th 2006, p.18

The recent structural changes within central government have implications for social care. The new Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will assume responsibility for all equality issues and for social cohesion. The Cabinet Office will take cross-government responsibility for social exclusion and the third sector, with the DCLG also having an as yet undefined role.

Partnerships and collaborative governance in welfare: the citizenship challenge

K. Rummery

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.293-303

Article identifies a number of issues and challenges for citizens arsing from partnership working in the welfare state:

  1. There are concerns that the policy emphasis on partnership working in health and social care diverts resources, energy and attention away from agency failures to deliver their core objectives
  2. There is the issue of professionals’ and agencies’ attention being diverted away from directly improving the range and quality of their services towards delivering the partnership agenda
  3. There is evidence that partnerships tend to result in changes in the planning and delivery of services that meet the needs of professionals and agencies, not those of users.
  4. There is a lack of evidence that partnership working per se delivers improved outcomes for users
  5. There is a danger that partnership working will strengthen the role of agencies in a way that can disempower citizens and lead to their social exclusion.

Protect and survive

P. Revell

Public Finance, Apr.21st-27th 2006, p.21-27

The failure of the system for preventing paedophiles from working in schools which came to light early in 2006 caused a national furore. Government is planning to reform the system by establishing a “central barring unit” to take all decisions about barring any person from working with children or other vulnerable groups. Employers will be able to make instant online checks through a “secure system”. There is concern that the Criminal Records Bureau will be unable to cope with the extra workload, and that the current climate will prevent community groups and local employers from working with and in schools.

Reform need not mean privatisation if public services are localised

J. Freedland

The Guardian, May 17th, 2006, p.29

The author argues that the debate regarding welfare reform should transcend the public vs private paradigm. The present highly centralised and bureaucratic welfare state has to enter into a phase of ‘devolution’ if it is to survive in the new century. The new welfare system should be delivered by local authorities who should tailor their services for the communities they serve. Private companies are not the only alternative to the state. The new public services should be partnerships between the state, local authorities, the public and voluntary organisations from the ‘third sector’. Participation from actual users of public services is stressed. These are represented by “social networks in which users are not just recipients, but designers of the services they use.

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill 2006

C. Daly

ChildRight, issue 225, 2006, p.8-11

Presents a clause-by-clause analysis of the Bill which reforms the system for vetting and monitoring volunteers and staff working with children and vulnerable adults. Concludes that much of the Bill, particularly that relating to the placement of names on the list of those barred from working with children, is difficult to understand in the absence of planned secondary regulations. There is also concern about the very low threshold for placing a person’s name on the barred list. It is surprising that the two separate lists in operation at present under the Protection of Children Act 1999 and the Education Act 2002 respectively will apparently continue to exist.

Update on PFI debt refinancing and the PFI equity market.

National Audit Office

London: TSO, 2006 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC1040)

The opportunities to refinance the debt finance of PFI projects have arisen as the PFI market has matured. In this report the NAO examines:

  1. How the level of debt refinancing gains which the government has secured compares with the Office of Government Commerce expectations in 2002.
  2. How well the new arrangements to share debt refinancing gains have been working
  3. Whether there are any risks for authorities from debt refinancing; and
  4. How the maturing PFI market is affecting the use of equity capital in PFI projects.

Welfare reform: a lost opportunity

F. Field

Political Quarterly, vol.77, no.1, 2006, p.52-60

This article considers how well the New Labour government is doing in achieving its four overriding welfare reform objectives of combating pensioner poverty, ensuring that work pays, transforming passive welfare receipt into more active agency and ensuring that the Child Support Agency functions effectively. The government has had clear success in tackling pensioner poverty, but its strategy is not sustainable in the longer term. The £5bn welfare to work budget has been spent with little evidence that the level of employment is substantially above what it would have been without the programme. The Child Support Agency remains in disarray.

Working with the voluntary sector

Committee of Public Accounts

London: TSO, 2006 (House of Commons papers, session 2005/06; HC717)

In recent years government has increased the role which voluntary sector organisations (VSOs) play in public service delivery. There is, however, a lack of expertise, experience and understanding of the sector across government departments with the result that departments can fail to capitalise on opportunities to enhance public service delivery. This report concentrates on central and local government funding of the VSOs and examines the progress made by central government to improve the way it works with VSOs and the steps being taken by HM Treasury and the Home Office to build funders’ capacity to work effectively with VSOs.

You want fairness, you pay up

J. Whyte

The Times, May 5th 2006, p.20

“When it comes to dealing with healthcare and education costs, we are still mired in a Marxist swamp”. The author forcefully argues that choice and fairness in health and education are severely curtailed by the existing welfare system. It is unfair for taxpayers to be forced to pay equally for a health system that treats people unequally (i.e. according to greatest need) or that parents should be penalised for willingness to pay for a good education for their children. The author concludes that removing the advantage of wealth and the consequent increase in choice stagnates both the health service and school system; unhealthy people’s treatment is subsidised by the healthy and gaining a good secondary education is currently a game of chance.

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