In her latest guest blog for us, disability rights advisor Laura Welti raises an issue of practicalities for some welfare benefit recipients
I have recently been approached about the arrangements for those without a bank account to access their benefit payments.
The government, albeit reluctantly, contracted a high street chain to pay out benefits monies to individuals without bank accounts upon the provision of certain evidence. The chain has a presence in many areas of Bristol where I am based (and I assume elsewhere too). But there is a fundamental flaw in the arrangement that has been resulting in people having no cash whatsoever for several days after they should have been able to access their benefit payments. Read More
In this guest opinion piece, David Webster from the University of Glasgow gives his critical view on the presentation of sanction figures
After their election in 2010, ministers embarked on a campaign of ‘sanctions’, that is, withdrawals of benefit, against claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance. They inherited a level of 533,000 a year, but drove it up to a peak of over one million in the year to October 2013, while also increasing the length of the penalties. Numbers of sanctions have since fallen, but only to a rate which is similar to the highest seen before 2010. Employment and Support Allowance sanctions have also increased. Britain’s voluntary sector has produced a forest of reports documenting the huge negative impact of the sanctions campaign on their vulnerable service users. But throughout, the government has tried to minimise it. It happened without any announcement, taking claimants and voluntary organisations by surprise. While official statements since 2013 have frequently highlighted the falls that have taken place, during the run-up to the peak they always denied that there was any clear trend. And the DWP routinely claims that ‘sanctions are only ever used as a last resort,’ ‘in a small (or ‘tiny’) minority of cases’. Similarly, it has persistently denied that sanctions drive people to food banks, in spite of the evidence. Read More
Following the recent ‘bedroom tax’ hearing in the UK Supreme Court, Jed Meers from the University of York considers the potential implications of the upcoming judgment for policies relying on elements of conditionality
The much litigated Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy – more commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’ – has limped its way to the UK Supreme Court.* Many will understandably assume the case has few consequences beyond the claimants involved. The policy is fairly narrow in scope and to some extent has been superseded by the upcoming lowering of the benefit cap and changes to Local Housing Allowance (not to mention the ever-imminent Godot of social policy, Universal Credit). There is, however, more here than immediately meets the eye. Read More
Dr Shelley Bielefeld from the Australian National University considers the controversial introduction of cards to replace cash welfare payments
The Australian Government’s cashless welfare card policy experiments have been contested terrain since they were first introduced as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in 2007. Originally applicable only to Aboriginal welfare recipients there, cashless welfare cards (referred to in national debate as ‘income management’) have since been expanded and now operate in multiple Australian jurisdictions. However, indigenous welfare recipients are disproportionately represented amongst those subject to income management, and Aboriginal communities are grossly over-represented in terms of the geographical locations the government has selected for income management trials. This gives rise to ongoing concerns about racial discrimination, access to justice, structural violence and denial of citizenship rights for Australia’s First Peoples. Read More
Following unsuccessful judicial challenges on human rights grounds to the household benefit cap and to mandatory work placements, Mark Simpson of Ulster University considers whether the fundamental right to human dignity is respected by a third pillar of the UK’s ‘welfare-to-work’ regime – Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions
Human dignity is a fundamental concept in human rights law, whose protection is arguably the objective of all human rights. Although a precise definition can be elusive, Christopher McCrudden (writing in the European Journal of International Law) proposes that dignity demands: protection from inhuman and degrading treatment, ability to meet one’s essential needs, individual autonomy and protection of cultural identity. Read More
Proposals to develop Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in a number of towns and cities have provoked controversy on a number of grounds, but most especially with respect to the increased powers they provide to fine or prosecute people for sleeping rough. Our team member Prof Sarah Johnsen investigates.
PSPOs enable local authorities to apply to prohibit activities that are having, or are likely to have, a persistent and unreasonable detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. They may ban a whole gamut of things considered to be a ‘problem’ in a defined area. Prohibitions featuring in some include: lying down or sleeping, depositing materials used or intended for use as bedding, begging, consuming intoxicating substances, and improper use of public toilets. Read More
PhD research student Helen Stinson considers fundamental questions about the welfare safety net, prompted by her time working with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Three months ago I started my internship at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. As co-funders to my PhD, they offered me this opportunity to complement my academic studies and enhance my understanding of the role that evidence based research has in influencing policy and practice.
On my first day I was set the task to review a number of current welfare benefits to find out if there were any recommended policy changes that could reduce levels of poverty in Britain. With more than 31 different welfare benefits to review, this was initially quite a daunting assignment! But, with the support of the anti-poverty campaign team, my initial apprehension developed into a deepened appreciation for the importance of exploring the origins and history of different welfare benefits. Through this valuable experience, I have gained further insight into current political debates. I’ve learnt that it is critical to recognise the tensions that underlie political debates on the different policy reforms. Read More
Local conditionality is becoming increasingly prevalent, finds Deven Ghelani from social policy software and consulting business Policy in Practice
We have been working with a number of local authorities since 2012, as elements of the welfare system have been localised.
One of the trends we have noticed is the introduction of local ‘conditionality’. So far, it has usually been applied at national level, by Jobcentre Plus. The introduction of conditionality by local authorities may have largely gone unnoticed, but it is an important side-effect of localisation. Read More
Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, Sheffield Hallam University, summarise four research reports they have published on the effects of welfare reform in Scotland
Welfare reform is a Westminster Government policy that affects all parts of Britain, but the impact of the reforms varies a great deal from place to place. The research undertaken at Sheffield Hallam University over the last three years has led the way in documenting the financial losses at the national, regional, local authority and neighbourhood level. Significant parts of this research have focussed on Scotland, where four reports have been commissioned by the Scottish Parliament.
In a special seminar in Glasgow on 21 September, convened in collaboration with Policy Scotland, the Sheffield Hallam team is laying out the findings of the four Scottish reports. This is the first time all four reports have been considered together. Read More
Joanne Brown discusses preliminary findings from her ongoing PhD research which is exploring the lived experiences of welfare support and sanctions for people receiving Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Welfare advisers implement policy at the ground level, but to what extent does this affect the way policy is shaped? Initial interviews with ESA recipients have indicated that two factors are relevant. Both the approach of the adviser and the constraints they work within can influence the way in which a welfare claimant engages or disengages with back-to-work support. Read More