Welfare reform green paper
The proposals laid out in the Green Paper have been communicated piecemeal over the past few months, and represent no great surprise.
Benefits-related proposals include:
- Simplifying the current out-of-work benefits to just JSA and ESA. All under-50 IB claimants will be transferred and reassessed under the new regime between 2010 and 2013
- Drug treatment or cutting of benefits for addicts
- More Access to Work funding to help people with disabilities
- Stronger 'conditionality' - automatic sanctions for missing most kinds of delivery without a valid emergency. It's not immediately clear how this differs from the current regime
Delivery-related proposals include:
- The flexible New Deal delivery model, which may not come as a surprise for anyone involved in bidding for it. This includes mandated work skills training where necessary.
- Replacing the range of specialist disability provisions (Work Step etc.) with a unified specialist provision, to be contracted out in the same way as Pathways and FND in 2009
- Delivery up to age 65, and for lone parents with no children below 7, among other measures already announced previously. The paper also proposes mandatory skills training on lone parents once their children reach 5, and in-work tax credits and support to assist the transition to employment
- Pathfinders to test new DEL / AME rules in Manchester, Norfolk, and Lambeth Southwark and Wandsworth.
- The 'Right to Bid' to replace or augment any delivery of employment-related services, so providers could theoretically take over aspects of core DWP delivery if they can find savings or benefits
- It's well known among some claimants that violent or threatening behaviour is an instant ticket out of the need to attend any further jobcentre or provider activity. There's a proposal to sanction violent customers with e.g. 2 weeks JSA. Obviously this won't solve the issue, but they're asking for other suggestions.
- 'Work for dole' is not set in stone at this point, but has been suggested as the solution to the repeater issues for customers who come out the other side of flexible New Deal without a job
- The current contracting rounds and their budgets will establish the core of delivery for years to come. If DEL / AME is relaxed, how will they spend the money from it? Increasing the number of customers won't work - they're limited by the available total. Increasing the amount of money per customer wouldn't work either.
- Relaxation of the 16 hour rule, finally!
- They're looking at allowing voluntary work by benefit claimants without cutting them off
- The DEA role could be merged into the unified specialist disability provision, resulting in privatisation by 2010
- The extra costs associated with the proposals are Â£200-300m per year, with expected benefits of Â£300-400m excluding wider benefits such as tax and NI, according to the impact assessment (pdf)
Despite the flood of government announcements in the past week, the green paper is the only one to make the headlines across the media. The Times had no less than five subtly different pieces about its publication. Notably, every newspaper was broadly supportive of the proposals, and with the support of the Conservatives and most of the Labour party, it would take a miracle to derail the green paper before it becomes law.
- A round-up of the proposed reforms from the Times
- The Independent's Johann Hari supports it from a liberal left-wing perspective
- The Daily Mail visits Wisconsin and slavers over the prospect of a lifetime two year limit on benefits, removing housing benefits from uncooperative clients, and people surviving off charity handouts
- Frank Field says that the higher-rate ESA will be swiftly 'cracked' by claimants, undermining the proposed reforms
- The Guardian is the only ambivalent newspaper, seeing it as more of the same
- The Health Service Journal offers a healthcare provider perspective
- ACEVO Chief Exec is almost bubbly
- Charities have mixed views
- The PCS think it's bad in almost every imaginable way
- The TUC and CIPD both sound a note of caution
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