The riots in English cities in 2011 magnified debates about the extent to which a ‘Broken Britain’ had emerged in which urban disorder, and more mundane but persistent anti-social behaviour, were manifestations of crumbling community fabrics, declining citizen responsibility and a failing criminal justice system. Despite the furious debates following the summer of 2011, tackling anti-social behaviour has not been given the rhetorical or legislative prioritisation by the Coalition that had characterised the New Labour administration and, in particular, the personal commitment of Prime Minister Tony Blair to a ‘Respect Agenda’ which had seen a plethora of new measures and the introduction of the now infamous ASBO. However, as our recently published Briefing Paper: Anti-Social Behaviour discusses, the Coalition Government has recently introduced the new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
Earlier this year, the installation of ‘spikes’ to deter rough sleepers from bedding down in the doorway of a luxury London apartment block prompted a social media storm and widespread public outrage. Attempts to make towns and cities less conducive to rough sleeping do in fact have a long history in the UK and overseas. They first hit the headlines in the USA, when a number of metropolitan authorities installed ‘anti-homeless sprinklers’ and seats that were impossible to lie on within public spaces. Here in the UK, the practice of gating off alleyways or removing seating is relatively commonplace in areas deemed to have a rough sleeping or street drinking ‘problem’.
In the first of a series of blogs highlighting our recently published briefing papers, Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick explore the issues surrounding conditionality in social housing.
What is the role of social housing? Alongside other aims – to provide affordable accommodation of a decent standard to households on a low income (see here and here), and to create and maintain ‘mixed’ and ‘sustainable’ communities (see here and here) – some would argue that social housing is increasingly serving the function of ‘disciplining the poor’ via the regulation of tenant behaviour (see Alex Marsh’s blog on this theme here). It is this aspect of social housing policy and practice that is the focus of the next in our series of briefing papers. Read More
Following the publication of ‘Welfare sanctions and conditionality in the UK’ by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last week, responses have been posted by academics working in the field.
Ken Gibb, an applied economist at the University of Glasgow, had this to say about the report:
“I have just read the new Joseph Rowntree Foundation Round-up ‘Welfare Sanctions and Conditionality in the UK’ by Beth Watts, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Glen Bramley and David Watkins. This draws on the ESRC Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change research programme (based on a series of briefings related to that programme). This is an excellent summary of the breadth and depth of the issues, the evidence that exists on the perceived effects, impacts and mechanisms of different forms of conditionality and also includes a valuable discussion of the ethics of welfare sanctions and increased conditionality.” Continue reading the full blog
Meanwhile, Alex Marsh, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Bristol, wrote this:
“One of the most striking developments in policy design in the UK is the rise of conditionality. It most prominently affects those who are out of work and seeking assistance from the welfare system, but it features across a range of other policy areas including housing and health.
Commentators might, quite rightly, rail against IDS and his insensitive disciplinary regime of seemingly indiscriminate sanctions, but he has only taken a system that was initiated by the Blairites in the 1990s and distilled it into something purer. He has made the conditions placed on receipt of assistance more stringent and the sanctions for transgression harsher. Indeed, it could be credibly argued that in some cases the system is now ludicrously harsh and vulnerable people are being set up to fail.” Continue reading the full blog
A new report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation today focuses on conditional welfare arrangements, which require people to behave in a certain way to access welfare goods. Sanctions within the benefit system seek to incentivise work-seeking behaviour on the part of claimants, with the intention of tackling ‘welfare dependence’ by increasing the rate and speed of job entry.
Much recent controversy has surrounded the rapid escalation in the use of sanctions under Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Monthly JSA sanction rates have risen from 2 to 2.5 per cent of claimants in 2000-2006 to 6 per cent by late 2013, and now stand over 7% (see Figure 1). While the number of ESA claimants affected by sanctions is small by comparison, a rapid increase in sanctioning of claimants in the ‘work related activity group’ is now also evident. According to Dr David Webster, in 2013/14 there were just short of 1 million sanctions under ESA and JSA, the highest figure since JSA was introduced in 1996 by a considerable margin. Read More
Followers of our blog will likely have seen the comment and analysis of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statistics from Dr David Webster in previous posts (The Great Sanctions Debate: Evidence and Perspectives). On 13th August, the DWP released the latest statistics relating to sanctions on Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) Sanctions.
Dr Webster has kindly allowed us to publish his briefing paper, which summarises the information provided in these statistics, as well as commenting on other recent developments in relation to sanctions. Among the headlines are the increase in the number of JSA/ESA sanctions being applied in recent years. The document also contains links to the original DWP data.
The ‘Smarter Sanctions’ report produced by Policy Exchange has prompted many responses from those working in the field. David Webster has published his response (you can download it here), and Professor Lawrence Mead of New York University has sent this open message to the author, Guy Miscampbell: Read More
Trends in the use of benefit sanctions – and their impacts on the individuals who receive them – have been subject to widespread media coverage and debate recently. ‘Hungry Britain?’ – an episode of Panorama aired on BBC 1 on 3rd March (and available here) – raised the question of whether increasing numbers of food banks in the UK are the result of imprudent decisions, poor budgeting skills and misplaced priorities on the part of individuals or the result of welfare reform, in particular the increasing use and stringency of out-of-work benefit sanctions. Read More
Today sees the launch of the new website for the Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support and Behaviour Change research project.
We would like your opinions and views on welfare conditionality, your reaction to our work and experiences of implementing or living with the impacts of conditional welfare.
Your contributions will help us frame our research approach and inform our future work.
Use the comments box here or under each article in the blog.