It’s been manifesto week in the election campaign, and despite all the political cross dressing (austere Labour and spendthrift Tories) there are clear dividing lines in the parties’ approaches to public policy. This is particularly true when it comes to the world of work and pay.
If traditional electoral logic were to hold true the Tories might expect to be riding a wave of popular support. Growth has returned, jobs are being created and the deficit is down (even if it has not been eliminated) – all which should play well not just with captains of industry but also with the electorate.
Equity and entitlement are two words which are central to the practice and analysis of social policy. They also constitute key foundations of the welfare state that has been built up in Britain over many years. Yet they are not so often invoked as social aspirations in the mainstream discourse of post-crisis Britain.
Yesterday’s ONS revelation that the absence of productivity growth over the past seven years is unprededented in the post-war period is both a body blow to the economic record of the coalition and the economic orthodoxy that underpins it.
We are just days away from the start of the 2015 election campaign. Politicians will soon be stepping-up their last minute efforts to win over undecided voters in what is set to be a hard fought and close election.
As noted recently by the OECD – the West’s most prominent pro-market think-tank, lest we forget – inequality has been shown to hamper economic growth.
Many words can be used to describe failing policies – whether it’s a “toxic brand” or the “blunders of government”. Whatever words we use, though, there can be few policies that are more toxic than the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) – the test that determines whether disabled people can claim Employment and Support Allowance.
The think tank Class has been running a series ahead of the general election on some of the big issues facing the country. Entitled ‘What’s At Stake…’ the series has covered various big issues like health, welfare and work. Today’s addition looks at what is at stake for social security.
The Green Party’s conference finishes today; but what about one of its most famous policies, the citizen’s income (CI)? After Natalie Bennett’s difficult interview with Andrew Neil earlier this year, the Green Party dropped the CI from its manifesto and listed instead as a long-term goal.
This week Channel 4 News has made headlines twice; first for its Dispatches investigation into benefit sanctions and then an undercover investigation in Yarl’s Wood detention centre. The common thread that runs through the two is not only the abuse of power, but the outsourced abuse of power.
Last weekend the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission released a report which was pretty much a challenge to the political parties; tell us how you are going to tackle poverty and improve social mobility.
The Commission is led by the Labour MP, Blairite and always-entertaining Alan Milburn.
It is a well-known fact that London has fared best economically out of the recession; job creation is booming and the economy is growing at an incomparable rate to the rest of the UK.
Statistical blogging is hardly the most thrilling of subjects I’ll admit, but sometimes it’s vital to understanding the problems the UK faces. Poverty, for example, is one of these issues; everyone wants to stamp out poverty, that is a given, but how we measure it helps us understand it.
Yesterday saw the official roll out of the Universal Credit nationwide, or rather what was a pretty limited roll out.
This week is Decent Job Week, a TUC campaign to raise awareness for those trapped in insecure and low paid work.
Poverty is not caused by men and women getting married; it’s not caused by machinery; it’s not caused by “over-production”; it’s not caused by drink or laziness; and it’s not caused by “over-population”. It’s caused by Private Monopoly. That is the present system.
Well-being is rising in the UK – and analysts argue that this is due to falling unemployment. This is an easy link to make, given that unemployment is so damaging to well-being (as well as to other indicators of health).
That unemployment is falling is good news – for well-being and for the economy.
George Osborne, amongst others, took to the stage today at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham with a pretty clear objective in mind, to set out vote-winning policies and ideas for the next election.
For the past three years, I have been exploring whether there is much we can do to counter one of society’s most devastating ills. It is associated with a wide range of problems including poor mental health, social isolation and even suicide.
Less work so we can all work – 2003 Argentinean Rail Worker’s strike slogan
Work – which in this context means a structured system of waged labour – not the millions of hours we all spend every year caring for each other, raising children, cleaning, cooking and the myriad other tasks that the economy takes for granted – does not, at least for those
Today IPPR are hosting an event on the release of their ‘Condition of Britain’ report; a report that is widely expected to be heavily reflected in Labour’s 2015 manifesto.
As summer begins to take hold, it is a reminder that conference season is on the other end of the season, for the Labour party it means that their National Policy Forum is soon and that in a year’s time we will have had the general election.
Today Ed Miliband pledged the Labour party’s latest policy in their response to the ‘cost of living crisis’. The next Labour government would commit to strengthening and increasing the minimum wage in what Miliband sees as the most significant change to the minimum wage since its introduction.
The miners lost because they only had the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end the bayonets always win.
Mary Harris Jones
Last week the government announced the closure of two of the last deep-pit mines in Britain at Kellingley in North Yorkshire and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire.
The persistent themes of Ed Miliband’s vision for the Labour party inevitably have a lot of overlap with each other. The theme of responsible capitalism, which has been promoted since Miliband’s ascendency to leadership, surely has in it stipulations for a responsible and moral job market.
Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.
“Where is the humanity?” asked Bart Simpson, one-time presenter of his own news programme Bart’s People – a show that spoke from the heart about the trials and tribulations experienced by ordinary people in his home town of Springfield.
Today IPPR has released a report today that looks into possible future paths for the welfare state in the face of complex social challenges it faces. Such challenges include an ageing population, long term unemployment and chronic illnesses; all issues that can and will have an impact upon the size of the welfare bill in years to come.
Labour’s big announcement on welfare earlier this week was the proposed introduction of new skills courses in English and maths for people at risk of long-term unemployment. The idea is that around 10 per cent of new unemployed people (and even more who are long-term unemployed) have extremely poor basic numeracy and literacy skills.
In proportion as the mass of citizens who possess political rights increases, and the number of elected ruler’s increases, the actual power is concentrated and becomes the monopoly of a smaller and smaller group of individuals.
Last year we had a promise from David Cameron that we would be seeing permanent austerity, a deliberate and long-term shrinking of the state; yesterday, George Osborne gave us his figures for that.
The whole point of the Eugenic pseudo-scientific theories is that they are to be applied wholesale, by some more sweeping and generalizing money power than the individual husband or wife or household. Eugenics asserts that all men must be so stupid that they cannot manage their own affairs; and also so clever that they can manage each other’s.
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy, the Universal Credit, has yet again come under scrutiny for its goalposts being moved once more. The work and pensions secretary has been widely criticised for the faltering progress of his best known reform, resulting in an appearance before the work and pensions select committee yesterday afternoon.
Once again health tourism is on the front page of the Daily Mail. Today’s splash, which claims to tell the true cost of health tourism, railed against what it claimed was a £2bn cost to the tax payer.
Unsurprisingly, this is not the real figure; instead it is more like £70m, 0.06% of the health service’s budget.
Both the left and right in British politics are obsessed with economic outcomes. The impact of a policy – whether it is a tax cut, tax rise, welfare reform or a free school meal – is almost exclusively evaluated and argued over in terms of its economic effect.
The Crown Prosecution Service announced this week its intention to deal with fraudulent benefit claimants under the Fraud Act, thereby increasing the maximum sentence for benefit fraud to up to 10 years. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from Number 10 to this news has been welcoming, to say the least.
The idiocy of this policy barely needs repeating.
The cornerstone of the Coalitions’ welfare reform agenda is the idea of ‘welfare dependency’. That people, as they remain reliant on the social security system, acclimatise to being unemployed; they no longer want to work, they adapt to a life without work and they get used to a life on benefits.
It’s no secret that public attitudes and relationships with the welfare state are changing, but reports released this week have shed some light onto what is a murky and complex subject and have left us with some interesting questions.
It has been a bad few days for the Government’s welfare to work programme. On Wednesday the Resolution Foundation released their report into low pay in the UK today, the extent of which was shocking.
There is a large network of what policy academics call ‘active labour market policies’ (ALMPs); or what politicians refer to, in the increasingly Americanised language of social security, ‘welfare-to-work’.
ALMP’s are big business.
This week the Daily Telegraph has published an investigation into pay for voluntary sector chief executives, finding that the number of executives receiving pay packages worth over £100,000 has increased by 60% since 2010.
The decision by the government to bring in other providers to work alongside ATOS Healthcare in delivering the Workplace Capability Assessment (WCA) for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants has come as little surprise to those who have consistently campaigned against the company and the assessment in recent years.
The news that 90% of staff at Sport Direct are employed on zero-hour contracts is shocking. But this business model is by no means unique. The Guardian deserves kudos for exposing Sport Direct’s unfair employment practices but the problem of Zero-Hour contracts is larger than any individual employer.
The Universal Credit has today officially landed. After a trial run in four boroughs around the country, Iain Duncan Smith’s controversial policy has been implemented in full.
To mark the occasion the Works and Pensions secretary went on Radio 4’s Today program and managed both to vastly discredit himself and shock many of those listening.
It’s more bad news for the much maligned Universal Credit (UC) today; yesterday Labour attacked the government for the national-roll out of their controversial policy being delayed. Liam Byrne set out the party’s objection when he described the Universal Credit as “the biggest white elephant in Whitehall”.
In their quest to find employment more women than men now work in Britain than ever before. This is how The Times reported news from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that women are returning to the workplace in their droves.
It is a well lamented fact of the contemporary job market that the existence of zero-hour contracts is so widespread.
There is a lot of debate, particularly fuelled by the political right and the tabloid press, about the extent to which unemployed people are genuinely looking for work. People on the right argue that there needs to be a tighter sanctions regime so those who are failing to look for work are encouraged to do so.
In the harsh light of day after yesterday’s raft of welfare reforms, both George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are being pushed to defend themselves. The former has lashed out at Labour and other critics, and the latter is being pushed to put his (minimal) money where his mouth is when it comes to his claim that he could live on £53 a week.
It’s National Apprenticeship Week this week and I can’t imagine a better time to cast an eye over the current state of play with regards to these essential opportunities for young people wishing to train in a specific role.
An apprenticeship has long been a respected way into the world of work, and apprentices can play a vital role in British business.
When I was interviewing informal carers last year about their experiences of caring and their finances, I was struck by how rarely they expressed anger about their situation; frustration, despair, humour, pride, optimism and fatalism, but not anger.
The welfare debate: busting the myths and misrepresentations
Having regularly found myself banging my head on tables in frustration while engaging in discussions about cuts to benefits, I feel compelled to bust some common myths and misrepresentations that are distorting current debates around welfare.
The coalition government’s decision to increase most benefits (from Jobseeker’s Allowance to Tax Credits) by less than inflation marks a new low in the post-war history of welfare in the UK. First, it is unprecedented since the war.
“We are the party of those in work, his is the party of unlimited welfare.” With these words at last week’s PMQs, the Prime Minister sought to exploit a new line of attack against Labour.
Traditionally, the world of Human Resources (such a cold expression) nee Personnel (not much better) has been considered a woman’s domain.
The debate around George Osborne’s Autumn Statement has barely begun to gather momentum, with the announcement a mere three weeks away.
It is disappointing, if unsurprising, to read in research released by Scottish Widows that women’s pension savings have fallen relative to men’s in the last year.
Labour and Ed Miliband desperately need to carve out a position on social security. Boxed in by public popularity with the tough Tory stance, Labour has resorted to an unconvincing defensiveness on welfare reform: often accepting new policies ‘in principle’, but stating that Labour would do it just a bit differently.
Britain’s economy is crumbling under the drastic choices of our Tory-led government, grounded only in the sheer ideology of austerity, with no grip on growth.
Since Labour’s election defeat in 2010, most political and policy attention has been focused on redefining the party’s economic mission. In the context of ongoing financial woes – many of which the public have blamed Labour for – this is not too surprising.
In delaying the extension of flexible working to cover all employees, the government has missed a rather large trick. Omitted from the Queen’s Speech, space was instead found for legislation which will allow the sharing of maternity leave between both parents.
On Sunday, Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, announced – in an interview with the Independent on Sunday – a new tougher approach to what the Government has called England’s ‘120,000 troubled families’.
There are two ways of viewing the government’s use of emergency legislation to extend Sunday trading throughout the Olympics.
One way is is that the Sunday Trading (London Olympic and Paralympic Games) Bill, which will temporarily suspend trading laws for the biggest retailers during the games, is a betrayal of the spirit of the Olympics.
As Duncan Weldon highlighted in his article on Shifting Grounds, No end to the ‘squeeze’ in sight, the recent fall in the headline rate of unemployment has largely been driven by an increase in part-time employment. Whilst a part-time or temporary job is better than no job, the instability these jobs can bring signifies a problem for long term growth.
Labour are enjoying their best month since the general election defeat in 2010. Columnists and pundits from across the political divide are now openly discussing the likelihood of a Labour majority in 2015. Even Miliband’s strongest critics have been forced to recognise his position has strengthened.
If you thought we had talked about tax quite enough for one year, you may find this blog post a tad disappointing. Tax and the implications of this year’s budget is yet again (or potentially still) on the agenda.
Ask anyone whether they approve of benefit fraud and the answer is universally no.
On Tuesday George Osborne expressed his incredulity that some of the richest people in our society pay the least tax. This once again brings to the fore the supposed distinction between avoidance and evasion, one which even the excellent Richard Murphy was not entirely clear about on the Moral Maze last month.
Come 2015 Labour will need a compelling vision of the state and its role within society and relationship with the economy. Tony Blair was right in ‘A Journey’ when he wrote of how parties can reap political rewards by dominating the policy agenda – even if such policies run into opposition in the short term.
A4e, the welfare-to-work company, has had a tough time of late. Back in February, the company’s founder Emma Harrison resigned as its chairman amid allegations of fraud. Critics of public service outsourcing pounced upon A4e’s misfortune as an example of the dangers of using the private sector to deliver public services.
In his budget, the chancellor has provided a measure of relief for people in work. The faster raising of the minimum tax threshold is a welcome development, and will certainly help towards paying for increasingly expensive petrol, energy and food.
The Britain that greeted an incoming Labour Government in 2015 would feel very different to the social landscape that New Labour sought to deal with in the 1990s. Labour’s policy agenda has to respond to the circumstances and aspirations of today’s low and middle income voters, not those of yesteryear.
Academics in social policy like to talk about three different types of ‘welfare state regime’. At one end of the spectrum we have the Nordic regimes: characterised by generous, universal benefits that are paid out as of right.
Plenty of things unsettle the modern Labour Party, but it often seems positively tortured about one issue in particular: long-term unemployment, and exactly how it should respond to Iain Duncan Smith’s increasingly troubled Work Programme.