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

'ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COMMUNITY CAN DO FOR YOU': OBLIGATIONS, NEW LABOUR AND WELFARE REFORM

B. Lund

Critical Social Policy, no. 61, 1999, p. 447-462

The dominant characteristic of New Labour's approach to social welfare is the bonding of duties to rights. New Labour asserts that the bond between the tax payer and the welfare recipient can be restored only by reconstructing welfare as a mechanism that reconnects the socially excluded to the mainstream via 'character' improvement. This rights/obligations connection has been reflected in the attachment of new requirements to the receipt of cash benefits and in a preference for provision of services in kind rather than payments in cash.

'BEAT POVERTY TO CUT REGIONAL GAP'

A. Sparrow and D. Graves

Daily telegraph, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 4

Reports that Mo Mowlam will be given the task of co-ordinating government action to tackle social exclusion. The government is convinced that inequalities within regions are just as significant as those between them and will pursue policies to combat poverty based on need, not on region.

(See also Financial Times, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 2; Times, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 4; Guardian, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 10)

BROWN SITTING ON £20bn NI WINDFALL

J. Hibbs

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 25th 1999, p. 2

Reports that the Chancellor is sitting on £20bn worth of surplus National Insurance contributions while refusing to raise the basic state pension by more than £0.75 per week.

BROWN UNVEILS SPENDING REVOLUTION IN WHITEHALL

D. Coyle

Independent, Nov. 24th 1999, p. 14

In a radical reform of the government's spending framework, budgets will be set according to policy aims rather than by department. Cross-departmental programmes will include welfare-to-work, Sure start, help for older people, support for young people at risk, and interventions in deprived areas.

(See also Financial Times, Nov. 24th 1999, p. 4; Daily Telegraph, Nov. 24th 1999, p. 10)

DEFIANT PEERS IN FINAL REVOLT

E. Mac Askill

Guardian, Nov. 9th 1999, p. 1

In a clash with the Commons over the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill, the Lords voted by 216 votes to 127 in favour of the government reconsidering its plans to cut entitlement to incapacity benefit. By 153 votes to 140, they also voted to support an amendment to give younger war widows the right to keep their dead husbands pension if they remarry.

(See also Daily Telegraph, Nov. 9th 1999, p. 1; Independent, Nov. 9th 1999, p. 1)

DOES THE UK HAVE A PRIVATE WELFARE CLASS?

T. Burchardt and C. Propper

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 28, 1999, p. 643-665

Article uses two major UK household surveys to examine the determinants of the use of private welfare services. These are defined as home ownership, private health services, private education and private pensions. Results show that there is considerable use of the private sector, but the size of the group consistently using a range of private welfare services is small. Changes in attitude to public financing of welfare spending do not appear to be directly linked to use of private services.

GLOBALIZATION, SOCIAL EXCLUSION AND LABOUR's NEW WORK ETHIC

C. Holden

Critical Social Policy, no. 61, 1999, p.529-538

New Labour's concepts of globalization and social exclusion fit together to produce a labour market policy geared towards increasing labour market participation, aggregate skill levels, and competition between workers in order to increase labour market efficiency within what is perceived to be an ever more competitive world market. The government's emphasis on education and training is not so much an alternative to the low-wage, flexible labour market as a supplement which imposes the discipline of the market not only more forcefully onto the unemployed, but earlier and earlier into the classroom.

GOOD-ENOUGH PRINCIPLES FOR WELFARE

F. Williams

Journal of Social Policy, vol. 28, 1999, p. 667-687

Argues that central to the emerging new welfare order is the concept of the active welfare subject. This is defined differently by the New Right, New Labour and the new social welfare movements. Each invokes a different meaning for 'active', ranging from exercising choice in the welfare market, to the pursuit of paid work with responsibilities to family and community, and the active articulation of welfare needs. Author develops a definition of the active welfare subject as one whose identities are sustained through interdependence, through striving for the mutual recognition of worth and a tolerance of diversity, and whose capacity for self-interested action is mediated through bonds of belonging and meanings of identity, and structured by local, national and international relations of power and inequality.

LABOUR'S RAGBAG POLICIES SHOW LITTLE WARMTH OR VISION

P. Toynbee

Guardian, Nov. 17th 1999, p. 22

Calls for a massive injection of cash to upgrade and improve run down public services such as schools and hospitals and to prevent overworked teachers and nurses from leaving in droves for the private sector.

HELP THE HOMELESS - STOP THE SOUP RUN

J. Daley

Daily Telegraph, Nov. 16th 11999, p. 28

Argues that unconditional help and support from either state welfare or voluntary organisations to feckless groups such as the homeless or teenage single mothers merely encourages them to persist in irresponsible behaviour.

MODERNISING GOVERNMENT SERVICE ACTION TEAMS: ACTION PLAN

Modernising Public Services Group, Service First Unit

London: Cabinet Office, 1999

Action plan sets out what the teams are doing to promote the development of joined up public services that actively help people to get what they need quickly and easily. The Service Action Teams are looking at two generic issues and three life episodes. The two generic issues are:

  • how people access public services;
  • how to meet the commitment for people to be able to notify different parts of government of details such as a change of address electronically in one transaction.

The three life episodes are:

  • bereavement;
  • long term care at home;
  • retirement.

MONITORING POVERTY AND SOCIAL EXCLUSION 1999

C. Howarth et al

York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1999

Reports that the number of families and individuals living on low incomes has remained close to the record levels reached in the early nineties. This however may change as measures introduced by the Labour government, such as the minimum wage, begin to take effect. Findings show that 14 million people are living below a government recognised poverty line, including 4.4 million children. The number of individuals on very low incomes has risen by more than a million since 1995-96, reaching 8 million in 1997-98. Figures also show that the North-South divide remains, as does the gulf between those living in council housing and those living in private rented accommodation or their own homes.

POVERTY GAP PROVES HARD TO CLOSE

S. Wellard

Community Care, no. 1302 1999, p. 10-11

The latest Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty and social exclusion, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 1999 reveals how little impact the government's policies have had so far on the core of the problem.

PEERS RELUCTANTLY GIVE WAY OVER WELFARE REFORM

M. Kite

Times, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 2

Reports that the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill has cleared Parliament despite a revolt by Labour backbenchers in the Commons. 45 Labour MPs voted against the government but were unable to prevent ministers reversing amendments brought in by the Lords 24 hours previously. The Lords then bowed to the will of the Commons and passed the Bill.

(See also Independent, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 8; Guardian, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 13; Guardian, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 2; Financial Times, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 3)

POVERTY TRAPS

D. Walker

Guardian, Nov. 22nd 1999, p. 17

Argues that while the Social Exclusion Unit has produced some rigorous policy analysis and energetic initiatives in the areas of homelessness, community regeneration, etc, but it has yet to make much practical impact on the streets and sink estates.

PRE-BUDGET REPORT

Times, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 14-15

From a welfare point of view, the main points of the pre-budget report are:

  • free TV licences for all pensioners over 75;
  • the £100 winter fuel allowance to be paid to pensioners annually;
  • an extra 10,000 schools to be modernised by 2001 with money from the windfall levy;
  • all budget increases in cigarette duties to go straight to the health service;
  • an extra 10,000 college-based childcare places for lone parents;
  • New Deal for the young unemployed to be extended to those over 25.

Also announced a renewed clampdown on benefit fraud. A task force will look at increasing fines for fraud and forcing those suspected of participating in the black economy will be forced to sign on for benefit every day.

(See also Independent, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 15-17; Guardian, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 24-27; Telegraph, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 8-9; Financial Times, Nov. 10th 1999, p. 5-12.

THE QUEEN'S SPEECH

Announced a new Welfare Reform Bill which would include reform of the Child Support Agency. The Bill will also allow cuts in benefits for criminals who fail to carry out community sentences imposed by the courts and will bring about reforms of the pension system. The SERPS scheme will be reformed with the introduction of a second state pension. A Care Leavers Bill will change the benefits system so that young people leaving care will have support from local authorities to stop them drifting into a life of crime. They will be allocated a Young Persons Adviser who will keep in touch with them after they leave care. A Post-16 Education and Training Bill will place all education and training beyond the age of 16 under a new learning and skills council. Ofsted will inspect A-level courses in schools, sixth-form colleges and further education colleges, but a new Adult Learning Inspectorate will take over responsibility for all 16 to 19 training and for post-19 training outside higher education. Finally the Special Educational Needs Bill will provide parents with a right of access to "an independent parental supporter"

(Official Report)

SHARING THE NATION'S PROSPERITY: VARIATION IN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONDITIONS ACROSS THE UK

Cabinet office

London: 1999

Key points of this report into the nation's prosperity are:

  • the range amongst regions for GDP is narrower in the UK than Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, but wider than Spain, Portugal, Greece and Australia;
  • disparities between regions undoubtedly exist (unemployment in February-April 1999 varied from 3.7% in the south-east to 10.10 in the north-east;
  • some variations within regions are allegedly more striking than those between them (in the north-east unemployment ranged from 14.3% in Hartlepool to 6.5% in County Durham);
  • London has 22 of England's 100 most deprived districts; north and Midlands have 60;
  • north-east is the only region the where the proportion of working-age people in jobs has fallen since 1997.

(See also Guardian, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 10: Financial Times, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 2: Times, Dec 7th 1999, p. 4 and 5; Independent, Dec. 7th 1999, p. 3)

SHOULD THE INSPECTOR BE A BRUISER?

T. Travers

Public Finance, Nov. 19th-25th 1999, p. 26-27

Contrasts the gentle and measured approach of the National Audit Office to regulation of the public services with the aggressive stance of Ofsted. Argues that public service regulation needs to be made more consistent, otherwise individual parts of the state sector will be put under randomly different pressures to perform in particular ways.

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