Councils fail to spend almost half of crisis funds

Responses to freedom of information requests by the Guardian newspaper have revealed that at the end of January, councils were yet to spend £67 million of the £136 million allocated to local welfare assistance schemes.

New cash injection to help young improve their skills and job prospects

The government has announced The Youth Employment Initiative, a new £170 million programme, which is designed to help young people, aged 15-24 into employment.

Labour pledges to overhaul the fitness-for-work tests that it introduced

It has been announced that the Labour party would overhaul the controversial “work capability assessments”, if they are elected next May.

Oxfam: Welfare reform has pushed over a million households into greater poverty

A new report by the charity Oxfam and the New Policy Institute has warned that 1.75 million households have seen their finances tumble in the wake of the government's welfare reforms.

Food banks see 'shocking' rise in number of users

The Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, says it has handed out 913,000 food parcels in the last year, compared to 347,000 the year before.

Northern Ireland’s Social Development Minister supports funding to encourage benefit take up

Northern Ireland’s Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland, has announced further funding to support voluntary and community organisations that are committed to implementing new ways to increase benefit uptake.

Extended benefit sanctions push up numbers seeking advice on paying bills

The Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has reported a 60 per cent spike in people seeking advice about paying bills since the period that JSA is withheld was increased from one week to four weeks last December.

Benefit claimants ‘required to do more to find work’

Employers can expect more job applicants through Jobcentre Plus as the government has outlined tougher rules for anyone hoping to receive Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). These requirements will build on the ‘claimant commitment’ that began rolling out last year, whereby claimants must sign a commitment to take certain actions, such as regularly applying for a minimum number of jobs, to find work.

Steven Morgan has been announced as the new Chair of the National Procurement Service for Wales Board.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt has today announced the appointment of Mr Steven R. Morgan as the new Chair of the National Procurement Service for Wales Board. He has previously worked in the public and private sector.

The National Procurement Service for Wales (NPS) manages contracts for common and repetitive spend across the public sector in Wales and helps to reduce expenditure; eliminate duplication, develop a sustainable procurement model and increase efficiency.

Miliband outlines Labour plans to devolve powers over skills funding, employment and the Work Programme

Labour leader Ed Miliband has delivered a speech and written to council leaders setting out his plans for devolution of economic powers. Mr Miliband has said that under Labour’s proposals; cities, counties and LEPs will take control of local economic plans, investment in infrastructure, skills budgets and the Work Programme.

DWP slashes number of employees the Health and Work Service will assist by a third

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has cut the number of employees its new Health and Work Service (HWS) will be able to support back to work by more than a third.

The service offers non-compulsory medical assessments and treatment plans for people who have been off work for more than four weeks. However, as part of its aim to limit the number of workers accessing the service, the DWP has admitted that it may restrict employer referrals or extend the early intervention period to beyond four weeks.

Councils have run out of emergency funds set aside to help those affected by the bedroom tax

Despite the government increasing the money available to local authorities, many councils had already exceeded their budget for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in February, several weeks before the end of the financial year on 31 March. Consequently, thousands of people are at risk of being “driven into destitution”, as the emergency funds set aside to help those worst affected by the measure become increasingly sparse.

Doors are closing on housing benefit claimants

A new report by the London Assembly Housing Committee entitled ‘Assesing the consequences of welfare reform’, has found that landlords across the capital are increasingly more reluctant to rent to housing benefit tenants, which is affecting one-third of claimants.

Most workers on zero-hours contracts are paid less than the national average wage

New analysis of wage levels completed for the TUC, has found that almost four in five, or 79 per cent of those employers on zero-hours contracts receive less than the average national rate of pay.

Disabled researchers propose alternatives to failed job tests

A new report entitled Beyond the Barriers, which was entirely researched, written and supported by disabled people, aims to kick-start a significant new debate about the failure of sickness and disability support in the UK. Topics covered include what must be done to improve it and why, and how current systems should be re-designed so that all members of society can achieve their goals and aspirations.