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Welfare Reform on the Web (August 2007): Social security - UK

Dreams deferred

S. Fergus

Roof, July/Aug. 2007, p. 22-23

The restrictions placed on social assistance for young people are trapping them in a cycle of welfare dependency. Firstly, the so-called 16-hour rule prevents young people aged 19 and above from claiming housing benefit if they study full time. This is preventing many of those without family support from completing their education. Secondly, the single room rent restriction reduces the amount of housing benefit young people under 25 receive. This leads to shortfalls of an average of 35.00 per week between housing benefit received and actual rent and pushes young people into marginal housing such as informal lettings or friends' floors.

The Social Fund

Work and Pensions Committee

London: TSO, 2007 (House of Commons papers, session 2006/07; HC 464)

The Social Fund provides loans, grants and payments to the poorest in society to cover one-off expenditure on necessities and help them to cope with emergencies which cannot be paid for out of regular income. It acts as a financial lifeline and a safety net for many vulnerable people, but its operations have come under much criticism over the past few years. The Government has been working to remedy some of the Fund's problems. There has been an injection of an extra 90 million into the discretionary fund since 2003 and centralisation of operations and a Standard Operating Model have been introduced with the aim of improving customer service and efficiency. However, according to this report there are still many problems: outdated distribution of budgets, inaccurate decisions, lack of consistency and poor management information. There is still not enough money in the Community Care Grant budget for all those who have been assessed as having a high priority need, a situation the Social Fund Commissioner described as 'unacceptable'. Complaints have arisen from the Government's attempts at reform, particularly surrounding the telephony and application process for Crisis Loans. The report concludes that resourcing of the Social Fund is inadequate to remedy its poor performance in terms of both staff numbers and training; furthermore, there has been no formal consultation process on reform and no timetable for improvements.

Why a citizens' basic income? A question of gender equality or gender bias

A. McKay

Work, Employment and Society, vol. 21, 2007, p.337-348

Looks at the concept of a citizen's basic income as a basis for social security reform which aims to guarantee a minimum income for all members of society. Argues that the traditional view of the concept as an extension of market mechanisms does not support gender equality; and puts forward a case for a citizens' basic income based on a more inclusive idea of citizenship. Includes information about the gender pay gap and women's participation in the UK labour market.

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