All posts filed under: Welfare State

The Bedroom Tax Explained

In April 2013 the Conservatives introduced a change in the housing benefit rules for local social housing residents called the under-occupancy penalty. Critics like Labour dubbed it the bedroom tax. Since it has been introduced, families who are regarded to have too much living space by their local authority have received a reduced payment. Families are assessed to as how many bedrooms they actually need. The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple. Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender, and those under 10 are expected to share whatever their gender

Measuring child poverty

The issue of measuring poverty is a problem that both Coalition and Labour governments have struggled with in recent years. The annual Joseph Rowntree Foundation report released on the 24 November 2014 defines poverty in the terms of ‘relative income poverty’ where those earning less than 60% of the median national income are considered below the poverty line. New Labour agreed to this definition, with Labour setting targets to reduce those in relative poverty to 10% of the UK population. However, the Rowntree report explains how in 2007-08 ‘23% of the UK population was in poverty – 13.5 million people’ under the New Labour government. (Foundation, 2014) This shows how Labour struggled to deal with the question of measuring poverty. However, the Conservative Party have been keen to redefine how the government measures poverty.

Disability benefits and controversial means testing

The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is the test designed and used by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to determine the entitlement of disabled welfare claimants. These assessments were directed by private company Atos Healthcare. The test is controversial and has been criticised for the high proportion of those tested being found ‘fit for work’ despite having marginal to severe disabilities. The Welfare Reform Act 2007 replaced Incapacity Benefit with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the PCA with the WCA under the Labour government. The aim was to make the medical tests more rigorous and to stop abuses of the system. However, the WCA program did not pick up pace until 2010 when the Coalition government expanded its role to reassess the 2.5 million people that the DWP had already judged to be entitled to Incapacity Benefit. The government also made changes to the framework of the test to make ESA harder to obtain. The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable …

The Coalition Welfare Reforms Explained

Coalition Welfare reforms Job Seekers Allowance (JSA): The Department for Work and Pensions have set up schemes aimed at getting unemployed people back to work, it has caused much controversy Critics have dubbed the programmes as “Workfare”, likening them to unpaid labour, or forcing people to work for their benefits. To get people back to work by either Work Experience (November 2011, 34,200 people had started a Work Experience placement), Sector-based work academies, Mandatory Work Activity, Community Activity Programme and the Work Programme. JSA has been cut to at least £56.80 a week, varying on an individual’s situation. Universal Credit: A new in- and out-of-work credit, which integrates six of the main out-of-work benefits. The aim is to increase incentives to work for the unemployed and to encourage longer hours for those working part-time. “The main differences between Universal Credit and the current welfare system are: Universal Credit will be available to people who are in work and on a low income, as well as to those who are out of work most people will …

Weekly Parliament Roundup: 6th-13th November 2013

Weekly Parliament review – 6th -13th November 2013 Commonwealth Summit Prime Minister David Cameron will still attend the Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka despite India and Canada boycotting the event. There have been calls for the PM to boycott the event, especially from Labour members who proposed that they would strongly support the Prime Minister if reversed his decision to attend. On the other hand, Foreign Secretary William Hague stated that if the Prime Minister decided not to attend the summit, it would damage the commonwealth without making any positive change in Sri Lanka. The summit will concern the country’s Human Rights records and Cameron has pledged to put ‘serious questions’ to the Sri Lankan President Mahinda  Rajapaksa  about his regime’s widely condemned Human Rights records and allegations of war crimes against the Tamil minority. Concerns over rise in personal debt in the UK The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee Mark Garnier has raised concerns over the level of personal debt in the UK. He recently stated on The World This Weekend on …

Woodhouse Weekly Pick of the Papers (4/11/13-10/11/13)

Pick of the Papers (4/11/13-10/11/13) Woodhouse’ weekly pick of the papers is devoted to keeping A level politics students up to date with the political news and on track with the Unit 1 and Unit 2 syllabus. 1.  Ed Miliband’s momentum confronts Cameron with a sharp dilemma Source: The Guardian Politics topic: Elections Summary: Labour is frustrated by Conservative stalling over agreeing to the general election TV debates between the leaders, Miliband has a “boost in ratings” and “most people, including Mr Miliband, mainly attribute this to the impact of his pledge to freeze energy bills”. 80% of voters “favour the energy price freeze but only half as many think he could actually deliver it”. ALevelPolitics help: Read the energy bill crisis article on Cameron’s dilemma 2.  Ignore Russell Brand: Vote and make MPs notice you, says think tank Source: The Independent Politics topic: Democracy and Participation Summary: Parties will change their economic decisions and policies to people who actually vote, not people who do not vote. Turnout has fallen among the young and the least affluent and “The cuts …

Video/Audio: Philpott ‘lifestyle’ fires up debate over child benefit cap

From Channel 4 News From the Today Programme listen to ‘Derby fire deaths: Were benefits to blame?’ on Audioboo     Some commentators have said Philpott’s lifestyle illustrates “all that is wrong” with the benefits system. When asked if the Philpotts were a product of Britain’s benefit system, Mr Osborne said: “It’s right we ask questions as a government, a society and as taxpayers, why we are subsidising lifestyles like these. “It does need to be handled.” He said Philpott “was responsible for horrendous crimes, crimes which have shocked the nation”. His comments came amid pressure from the Tory Right to restrict child benefit to two children per household. Former Conservative leadership challenger David Davis told The Times: “I don’t think it is a good idea to make policy on the back of one story. But there is a strong argument to restrict child benefit whether it is to two, three, or four children.” Government figures show that the vast majority of the 7.9m families claiming child benefits have just one or two children – …

The Health and Social Care Act 2012

One of the coalition’s flagship policies is their widespread reform of the National Health Service as legislated through their Health and Social Care Act which passed earlier this year. While the previous Labour government did achieve some improvements on the NHS, giving it more resources, dramatically cutting waiting lists, and improving quality of care in many areas. However they still left much to be improved upon with high inefficiency as well as lagging behind Europe in several areas. The Coalition’s reforms were set to improve this by reforming the system entirely, however while they do have some advantages overall they will not improve the delivery of healthcare for all in a significant way.

Is the Welfare State in Danger?

During the year of 1945 the Labour party under Clement Atlee laid down the foundations of the welfare state and subsequently, since the 1950’s the welfare state has been regarded as one of the UK’s most significant and precious assets. This staple asset was introduced as a response to the five “Giant Evils” in society: squalor, ignorance, want, idleness and disease. The welfare state utilizes a part of the annual government budget to guarantee a minimum standard of living and social protection in the event of insecurity. This social programme is expressed in a range of institutions; from the National Health Service to compulsory state education. All three mainstream political parties have reached and expressed a rare consensus to protect and uphold the welfare state. However to what extent the welfare state will be protected is debateable by each individual party. Seeing as it was a Labour party initiative, the party has continuously increased government spending on the welfare state. Since Labour came to power in 1997 there have been particularly large average annual increases …

Universal Credit

The introduction of a universal credit system lies at the heart of the substantial overhaul and reform of the benefits system by the Coalition. The Coalition’s initial White Paper 21st Century Welfare focused on ‘structural reform’ of the system and broadly speaking, the objective of Iain Duncan Smith’s aim is one that was once shared by New Labour in 1997 of aiming to ‘make work pay’ (making having a job financially worthwhile). Despite this consensual goal, the Coalition have argued that the welfare reforms put forward and implemented by New Labour created a complex system of welfare payments and fiscal transfers (tax credits). This meant that the overall system of claiming became deeply problematic which, in turn, led to financial incentives to work being undermined and an abundance of under payments and over payments. Iain Duncan Smith’s answer to these problems is that of ‘Universal Credit’, a scheme that vastly simplifies the tax and benefit system. Instead of having a conglomeration of individual payments given to claimants, the universal credit is a single set of …

UK unemployment at 8.4%

During Brown’s government, unemployment was on the decline, now figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), show that UK unemployment rose by 28,000 to 2.67 million during the three months to January. The unemployment rate currently stands at 8.4%. Youth unemployment (16-24 year olds) rose by 16,000 to 1.042 million, a rate of 22.5%. In addition to this, the number of people claiming Job Seeker’s Allowance increased by 7,200 to 1.61 million in February. Regardless of these alarming figures, the government see this as an improvement with the rise of unemployment being at its lowest in a year, showing signs that the Labour market is stabilising. The ONS also showed a small increase in the number of people in work – up by 9,000 in the three months to January. The Coalition government believes that they need to encourage responsibility and fairness in the system, meaning providing help for those who cannot work, training and targeted support for those looking for work, but sanctions for those who turn down reasonable offers for work …

The Coalition and ‘Slave Labour’

The government’s work experience programmes have come under criticism, with some companies raising concerns over the removal of benefits from those who fail to take part. The scheme was introduced to get job seekers back to work. Employment Minister Chris Grayling gives his analysis of the state of the programmes (interview below from Radio 4 Today 24/2/12). Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

Audio: Health Bill Woes

A YouGov poll published on Monday for Progressive Polling and the Unite union has found that the majority of people are on the side of those opposing government’s Health Bill. President of YouGov, Peter Kellner, Policy Exchange director Neil O’Brien and LSE researcher Dr Zack Cooper, debate if the Health Bill is still alive and well. Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | RSS

Michael Gove’s Education Reforms

Back in 2010, Michael Gove promised a series of major reforms to the education system; which he felt had been overly bureaucratised by Labour. An overhaul of the national Curriculum was first on the agenda, involving a large slimming down of its framework. By focusing on Science, Maths and English in particular Gove’s aim is to give schools more freedom in subjects they teach. Gove also has advocated more teacher power in disciplining students and called for reforms in teacher training. In order to remove the bureaucracy started by Labour, Gove plans to tighten up league tables in an attempt to prevent teachers’ inflating rankings – Schools rewarded based on achievement in 5 core subjects, instead of all subjects.

Saving money or saving the NHS?

David Cameron was accused of “playing a dangerous game of divide and rule” by only inviting royal medical colleges and health practitioners that he believes will back his NHS reorganisation to a special summit at Downing Street on Monday. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary has claimed doctors groups have had the door “shut in their faces”.