Tom Boland and Ray Griffin from Waterford Institute of Technology review the Irish government’s Pathways to Work policy
During the high growth of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ period in Ireland (1997-2007), Irish parliamentarians and policymakers consciously ignored the OECD-wide push towards more ‘active labour market policies’ and particularly benefit conditionality. However, during a very acute recession, with unemployment rising from 4% to 15%, the state applied for an IMF/EU/ECB bailout. One of the conditions of the resulting 2010 ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ was the implementation of active labour market policies. The political talk was of both doing things and being seen to be doing things to restore confidence in the bond market. So in 2012 the new government implemented the Pathways to Work policy, largely based on that in the UK, but taking some inspiration from Australia and elsewhere. Read More
Laura Welti, Manager of Bristol Disability Equality Forum, gives a timely reminder of the original purpose of unemployment-related benefits for Disabled people
The Welfare Conditionality Project’s recent blog and briefing on disability raised interesting points. But in discussing the higher value of unemployment-related benefits for Disabled people, we also need to return to the original purpose. Only then can we address the issues raised by recent benefit changes.
Dr Sharon Wright comments on recent developments and the balance between sanctions and support. See also her comment piece in The National
Benefit sanctions are a core part of the UK Coalition Government’s welfare reforms, but how do sanctions affect people living in Scotland? New evidence shows that benefit sanctions have removed £32 million from the Scottish economy and there are concerns that poverty and hardship are being created on a scale and intensity unseen for more than half a century. Three quarters of referrals to food banks have been related to benefit sanctions or delays. Sanctioned claimants have been found to cut back on food and heating, borrow from family and friends, use payday loans and miss rent payments.
Those following the Commons Work and Pensions select committee inquiry will know that employment minister Esther McVey told MPs the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions is falling (see our blog). The latest DWP statistics confirm that the number of JSA and ESA sanctions has indeed fallen to just under 900,000 in the year to September 2014.
But what lies behind the headline numbers? Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow has made a detailed study. His latest newsletter finds that sanction numbers have fallen broadly in line with claimant numbers – so proportionally the figure is fairly stable at about 6.5 per cent of claimants per month. This monthly figure does not tell the whole story of cumulative figures. Dr Webster says that of all those claiming JSA during 2013/14, almost a fifth – more than 500,000 people – experienced sanctions.
The current newsletter also has the first analysis of ‘mandatory reconsideration’ figures, and his own estimate of the amount of benefit lost to service users through sanctions.
Read Dr Webster’s previous newsletters here.
Janis Bright considers the latest developments at the inquiry into benefit sanctions
Against the talk of public inquiries taking years to complete their circuit, the Commons select committee system is a proper Usain Bolt. The Work and Pensions Committee’s current inquiry into benefit sanctions, which began taking evidence only in December, is sprinting along with the general election coming up fast on the inside.
Sarah Johnsen introduces a briefing paper exploring the issues
Concerns about high unemployment rates and levels of poverty amongst single parent households have prompted a number of OECD countries to target lone parents for ‘activation’ reforms. These reforms aim to increase their participation in the paid workforce. In some respects the UK has been slower to apply work-related conditions to this group than other OECD countries, but their entitlements are now increasingly tied to their participation in the labour market.
The most significant change has been the introduction of Lone Parent Obligations (LPOs). These were introduced in 2008, at which point lone parents with a youngest child aged 12 or older were transferred from Income Support to Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). The age threshold has since reduced, such that all lone parents with a youngest child aged five or older are required to seek paid employment.
The latest DWP statistics show ever more sanctions being imposed on claimants. Is there a link with food poverty? Janis Bright comments on Dr David Webster’s latest statistical briefing
People sanctioned by the welfare system are having to ‘rely on the kindness of strangers’, according to the YMCA. The UK’s oldest youth charity cites the sanctions regime introduced in 2012 as the ‘main cause’ of the rise in food banks. To an extent, the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into hunger agrees, saying sanctions are among the reasons for more people turning to food banks. And then there are widely publicised individual cases like that of John McArthur, Read More
Peter Dwyer, Jenny McNeill, and Lisa Scullion introduce our latest briefing paper, on disability and welfare
Welfare conditionality has only relatively recently been extended to disability benefits. The change has brought reclassification of some people as fit for work, alongside increased requirements for many others with impairments to undertake job search and training activities or face harsh benefit sanctions. All of that has made the rights and responsibilities of disabled people a flashpoint of recent welfare reforms.
In the next of our series of blogs highlighting the project’s briefing papers, Peter Dwyer and Lisa Scullion examine attitudes to migration and conditionality in the UK.
Migration, it seems, is never far from the minds of politicians and the public alike. Only last week the government minister Michael Fallon spoke of certain towns being “under siege, [with] large numbers of migrant workers and people claiming benefits”. Although he has since apologised for his remarks, and accepted he should have used less emotive language, the rights and responsibilities of migrants who enter the UK to live and work and the impact that migration may have remain subject to contentious debate. Read More
Professor Del Roy Fletcher introduces his briefing paper on conditionality and offending:
Offenders have traditionally been subjected to sanctions and support in the criminal justice system to promote behavioural change. This approach is increasingly defining their experience of the benefits system. Successive UK governments have sought to help offenders into work as a means of reducing the high rates of re-offending. This has extended the active welfare state into the criminal justice system and led to a close alignment of welfare and criminal justice policies (see DWP and MOJ Joint Strategic Review of Offender Employment Services). It is in this context that offenders have been targeted for specific behavioural measures and this is the focus of the next in our series of briefing papers. Read More