Tag Archives: welfare reform

A trio of damning reports on impact of Government’s welfare reforms

Joseph Rowntree FoundationThree reports published today on the impacts of the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms should concern anyone who is interested in creating a fairer society.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes two reports on wider welfare reform in general and the Bedroom Tax in particular which should inform those who are responsible for the Liberal Democrat manifesto as well as our ministers.

photo by: HowardLake
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Opinion: The Generation Gap

Day 46: Generation GapThe generation gap used to refer to the differing attitudes of young people and their elders to sex, drugs and rock and roll. For young people today, it has come to mean what the American author of the article linked below describes as “the economic hellhole our parents have handed us.”

Earlier this year, Rolling Stone magazine published an article under the title Five economic reforms millennials should be fighting for.

photo by: quinn.anya
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Opinion: Towards a sensible welfare system

Piles of money. Photo credit: czbalazs - http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1236662Where is the development of Lib Dem welfare policy? It’s hard to see any. Even the recent living standards policy paper (pdf) said “we do not believe that this paper is the appropriate place to determine a Liberal Democrat approach to welfare reform. this is an area that needs further debate within the Party.”

We all want a society in which technology, employment, education, high pay, low inequality, progressive taxation and cheap homes reduce the need for means-tested benefits, but this long-term …

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Opinion: Don’t close spare room subsidy loophole – just yet

In January, it was revealed that there was a loophole in the Government’s welfare reforms. The loophole relates to those people claiming Housing Benefit whilst in the same property for at least the past 17 years.

The government have indicated they will reverse this loophole as soon as possible. Reports suggest legislation will be brought forward in March.

I would call on the government to hold on closing this loophole until the independent review, ordered by Nick Clegg, has reported back on the implications of the spare bedroom subsidy.

I base this on my own experiences. Although I lost my seat in May

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Deserving poor, undeserving poor and welfare reform – can you have one without considering the others?

Like many people, I often hear about welfare reform in terms of finding ways to cut spending in difficult times with a degree of nervousness. Experience tells me that, at one extreme, dozens, nay thousands, will suffer horribly, whereas at the other, the public are apparently horrified by the number of alleged skivers. But to even suggest that there might be deserving and undeserving poor is anathema to those who believe in greater state action in challenging poverty.

And yet, without using such phrases, the debate seems to have swung towards making such distinctions. For example, EU migrants without work are …

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Opinion: Benefits cap – right or wrong?

There’s a lot in the news about the Benefits Cap following yesterday’s dismissal of the case where three single mothers took forward a legal challenge to the cap on their benefits.  They lost, but perhaps we as Liberal Democrats should question the logic behind the benefits cap.

Now, on one hand, when you look at it, £500 per week seems like a lot of money. Even for a family of three. With this in mind, it seems completely legitimate to cap the amount of support families receive to £26,000 per year. With the average earnings in the UK resting at …

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A few thoughts after Matt’s brave post – we have to make the system more realistic, fair and compassionate

It’s impossible to read Matt’s brave post on his battles not just with his own severe illnesses, but with the welfare system without feeling deeply moved. I felt upset and angry at the many failures of the state to give him the care and support he needs. I’m not just talking about medical care. It’s about having to fight for the benefits which put food on the table and keep a roof over his head. A liberal society takes care of those who are too ill to make their own living. There can never be a compromise on this. …

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The Steve Webb interview: How I built a modern, inclusive, liberal State Pension system

steve webbAt the excellent Social Liberal Forum Conference on Saturday, a group of eight bloggers spent the lunch break interviewing Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb just before he delivered the second Beveridge Memorial Lecture.

The thing about Steve Webb is that he might have Professor in front of his name and MP after it, but he’s  in no way intimidating, though. He speaks with authority, but engagingly so,  has no airs and graces and has a knack of explaining some complex concepts in language that even I can understand. He …

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Sarah Teather on landlord immigration checks: “I just foresee an enormous amount of misery”

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather was interviewed on The World at One about the Government’s plans to make landlords check an individual’s immigration status when they came to rent a property. She said that unless there were drastic changes to the plans, she couldn’t see herself voting for it and she said that Liberal Democrat MPs weren’t happy about it either.

She said she was worried that landlords would simply not bother to let their properties to people whose immigration status may be in doubt. She added that if the Government modelled this new …

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Clegg: Welfare for wealthy must be cut first

The BBC is reporting that Nick Clegg is insisting that any further welfare reform must start with high earners.

The fact that we’re asking people on low incomes to pay through their taxes to basically pay the fuel bills of people who don’t need to heat their homes because they live in sunny parts of Europe and maybe didn’t even work here before they retired, I think that lifts the lid on a wider problem in our welfare system.

I don’t think you can have a debate about welfare that is provided to people at the bottom, if you’re not

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Well done, Ed Balls. He’s opened up space for a proper welfare debate. Lib Dems now need to claim that space.

Ed Balls has done us all a favour. His announcement last week that if he were Chancellor he would put a stop to winter fuel allowances for well-off pensioners means Labour has joined the Lib Dems in saying we need to focus the welfare budget where it’s needed most, not keep on re-distributing from the worse off to the better off in the name of universalism. It’s why I chose him as my 38th Liberal Hero.

And yesterday he was at it again, highlighting quite how much of the welfare budget the state pension represents — some £74 …

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Lib Dem attitudes to poverty and welfare: 3 interesting findings from today’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation report

Three interesting findings from today’s report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) — Public attitudes to poverty and welfare 1983-2011 — carried out by NatCen Social Research, exploring public attitudes to poverty and welfare over the past three decades.

1) Interestingly… Lib Dem supporters are less likely than Labour supporters to believe that people live in need because of laziness or a lack of willpower.

nat cen jrf laziness

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The Independent View: Universal Credit..will it work?

When the first Universal Credit (UC) pilot was launched in Ashton-under-Lyne last week, much attention was paid to the practicalities of the new benefit, from the timetable to the IT system, the challenge of online claims to the problems with monthly payments. A new report published this week by Child Poverty Action Group and the TUC, however, considers the bigger question of whether UC can deliver on its broader objectives, and in particular on how the new benefit can truly ‘make work pay’.

UC relies on two key design features to deliver on this promise. First, it allows claimants who …

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Opinion: Welfare reform and poverty

Recently on Lib Dem Voice I wrote a short article arguing for equal reform emphasis between poverty alleviation through welfare, and longer term actual poverty reduction including inter-generational poverty reduction . It seems to me that in times of budget squeeze, the means for reducing the need for welfare  – social safety net – in the first place, are worth re-thinking. (To pre-empt objections I am not arguing against the provision of welfare, or for a reduction in weekly welfare payments, or for exclusionary policies).

The really difficult challenge for policy in reducing poverty and the need for welfare is …

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Welfare Reform – are we missing the Big Picture?

The welfare system is a vital part of any modern democracy. The general UK public want people protected from absolute poverty. We invented it – arising from our liberal reformist abhorrence of concurrent poverty and extreme wealth. Unfortunately it became central to big-state socialists’ social engineering policies. It has become a vast industry, with such complexity that its original aims have been all but lost. Amidst the financial crisis it falls to us, its inventors, to overhaul the sprawling system and propose major post-Coalition reforms..

Current Tory reforms aim to reduce complexity and cut the size of the welfare bill – …

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Opinion: A radical approach to welfare – forget changing benefits

The word ‘radical’ is to welfare reform what a pot of paint is to a wall full of cracks. The less you really know what to do to fix things, the more you slap it about all over the place in the hope that it will cover up things.

When you peer carefully at the detail of what is said after the roaring demand for radical reforms, you see what usually follows is either an absence of quite what form the radical action should take (‘radical, radical, we must be radical; just please don’t ask me how’) or simply by a …

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LibLink: Danny Alexander – The rich are paying more in tax under the Coalition, than under Labour

Over at the Telegraph, Danny Alexander follows up his piece in last week’s Sun on Sunday defending the Coalition’s benefits and tax changes — Bedroom blockers and tax dodgers will pay — but this time in less tabloid terms:

… cleaning up the mess left by Labour involves difficult decisions everyday that impact on people’s lives up and down the country. Few more so than some of the changes to our tax and welfare system that have come in this week. The welfare changes this week are difficult, but right and necessary to ensure that people are always better off

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Danny Alexander rejects George Osborne’s comments on the Philpott case

Danny AlexanderI told you the other night that Sarah Teather had condemned George Osborne’s comments connecting the Philpott case to the welfare system. Some people made comments along the lines that it was only a backbencher, and no Liberal Democrat minister had said such a thing. Well, yesterday, Danny Alexander did. The BBC has the story. Danny said:

George Osborne is clearly right that there needs to be a full debate about the future of our welfare system but the Philpott case is an individual tragedy. Children have died in

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The Liberal Democrat perspective on welfare reform that needs to be heard

On Monday, I wrote about the good things Liberal Democrats are doing in Government and also expressed  concern that nobody was out there giving the Liberal Democrat perspective  in a way that would resonate with and encourage members and activists. I know that some of them felt a bit exposed. They were out there on a day when we were under  media pressure, and nobody was giving them any air cover. It’s a balance, of course. There have been times when we’ve complained that our ministers are out there defending things we  feel uncomfortable with. These things can be …

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LibLink: Danny Alexander – Bedroom blockers and tax dodgers will pay

Lib Dem chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander has published a robust defence of the Coalition’s welfare reforms in The Sun on Sunday. Here’s how it starts:

Last week a young woman came to talk to me about her housing situation. Her frustration was obvious. She was working hard in a low-paid job and was stuck in an overcrowded home with a young family and desperately needed to move to a bigger home. She couldn’t understand why she had to wait so long to get a home that was the right size for her and her family. It’s a story

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Next week in the Lords: 11-14 February

House of LordsIt may only be February, but like schools, half-term is approaching fast (don’t forget, Easter is a bit earlier this year). And with the break starting on Friday, there’s still quite a bit of business to squeeze in. Curiously, there are no oral questions or debates initiated from the Liberal Democrat benches all week, but the agenda isn’t without interest.

On Monday most attention will be focussed on the Second Reading of the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill. Baroness Stowell of Beeston has the unenviable task of leading …

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Welfare: right policy, wrong reasons?

Many column inches have been filled with comment over the government’s decision to restrict a number of benefits and tax credits to increases of 1% over the next couple of years.

This piece (£), however, by the FT’s economics editor, Chris Giles, warrants a special mention, not least because it is makes some interesting points that nobody else seems to have done.

Here’s a (fairly lengthy) extract:

In any case, good evidence exists on living standards to assess the merits of restricting benefit uprating. According to the most recent year of data, 2010-11, the crisis has caused real household net incomes around the

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Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: “Lib Dems are on the side of reasonable welfare reform, not indiscriminate welfare cuts”

Nick Clegg’s latest letter has hit my inbox, this week reflecting on his five years as party leader — and in particular how he believes the Lib Dems are “anchoring this government in the centre ground”. The example he uses is one that is likely to dominate politics in 2013: welfare reform. As Nick points out, the Tories had wanted swingeing cuts: it was the Lib Dems who at least ensured parity between public sector pay and benefits payments, both receiving a below-inflation 1% cash rise.

And if I had a Christmas wish, by the way, it would be this …

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Opinion: Time for Lib Dems to change the debate on welfare

autumn statementOn Friday evening, a page entitled “We’re interested in your views about the fairness of our benefit reforms” popped up on the Conservative party website. It invited people to comment on the decision announced in the Autumn Statement that the Coalition want to limit increases in most welfare benefits by 1% for the next three years.

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Nick Clegg’s speech: Governing Britain from the centre ground: building a stronger economy in a fairer society

 Nick Clegg at rallyNick Clegg gave a keynote speech at the Royal Commonwealth Society on the eve of his 5th anniversary of his election as Liberal Democrat leader. This is what he had to say:

I don’t suppose it’s exactly controversial to suggest that I and my party have changed over that period. Today I will argue that we’ve changed for the better.
Because my purpose here today is to explain, clearly and simply, what the Liberal Democrats offer the people of
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Some positive news on the Work Capability Assessment

One of the most difficult aspects of the welfare reforms for many Liberal Democrat activists to bear was the removal of Employment and Support Allowance after a year from those placed in the Work Related Activity Group. Our anxiety is compounded by what we see as a deeply flawed assessment system which does not take fluctuating conditions seriously. I wrote a critique of the application form earlier this year which explains some of the problems.

The Work Capability Assessment was introduced by Labour in 2008.  The Coalition has improved it under the guidance of Professor Malcolm Harrington, but not to …

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Opinion: Tuition fees – a progressive model for welfare?

Given the proportion of public sector spending it accounts for, in austere times welfare spending has come under the spotlight, with sizeable cuts having already being made.

Looking at who is accessing benefits to ensure those in receipt of them should be is to be welcomed. A blind eye should not, however, be turned to wealthier individuals in receipt of things like winter fuel allowance whilst cuts are made to some of the poorest in our society.

It is right that Liberal Democrats have distanced ourselves from Cameron’s musings that everyone under 25 should not be able to rely on support from …

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Liberal Democrats reject Steve Hilton’s £25 billion welfare cuts call

David Cameron’s adviser Steve Hilton heads off for a sabbatical in California, where he will be learning more about governance.

However, he is  reported in several newspapers to have left a wee parting present, a paper calling for a further £25 billion cut in welfare spending. He wants to see people, particularly single parents, encouraged into full time rather than part time work. No mention is made of how the resulting child care costs would be met, of course. Maybe he hadn’t thought of that.

The Times (£) reported that these plans had not been shared with the Liberal Democrats but, …

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Liberal Democrat MPs fight for blind people hit by welfare changes

The Independent reports that Liberal Democrat MPs are trying to change the new assessment process for the Personal Independence Payments  which will replace Disability Living Allowance. They believe that they may lead to blind people being denied the help that they need. This is a measure introduced by the Welfare Reform Act. The MPs are concerned that the new assessment process focuses on mobility  and does not sufficiently take into account the ways in which being blind or partially sighted can affect everyday life.

People who have sight loss need the extra help to, for example, help with cleaning, ironing …

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Lib Dem spring conference: a quick guide to the highlights

The traditional pre-conference rally at Liberal Democrat conferences seems more lively and informal than the main set piece speeches during conference, so expect even more football references than usual from Party President Tim Farron this evening when he speaks in Gateshead.

Nick Clegg’s speech rally speech will feature an attempt to set a different message for the party, looking much more positively to the future:

We’re in Government, and it is a better Government for it. Fairer, freer and greener.

Lower taxes for working people. Fairer chances for our children. And the beginnings of a new, green economy that benefits everyone in

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