News in Brief
Liam Byrne and welfare reform
Liam Byrne wrote an article on welfare reform for The Guardian which called for a ‘tough minded social revolution’ that would ‘get communities working again’. Ian Duncan Smith siezed on this as evidence that “At last the Labour party has admitted what we all already knew, that you lost control of welfare spending and the British people have had to bear the cost of that failure.” and the Daily Mail suggested that the move was an attempt by Ed Miliband to ‘shrug off his party’s ‘soft on spongers’ image’. Other responses included letters to The Guardian, a panel run by the same newspaper and a number of blogs including ones from Owen Jones and Brendan O’Neill.
It was also reported that government ministers may be about to back down on a proposed benefit cap
An IFS Report for the Family and Parenting Instititue released this week suggested that 500,000 families with children under five will fall into absolute poverty by 2015-16 and that a couple with two children will be £1,250 a year worse off by 2015. The report received coverage in The Guardian, The Telegraph and the BBC with a blog in The Telegraph asking “Should tax cuts for people on low incomes prioritise people with children?”
Barnardo’s released a report on the ‘vicious cycle’ of debt and high cost credit for families on low incomes and Shelter issued a press release which highligthed that almost a million people have taken out a payday loan to help pay their rent or mortgage. Finally, Save the Children suggested that just 3% of families had received support from a government scheme aimed to help families at risk of fuel poverty.
UCAS announced a drop in the number of UK born student applyign to go to university this year has dropped by almost 8%. The Guardian took this as news that the tripling of tuition fees was having an effect whilst commentators in The Telegraph and The Financial Times had different opinions
A new campaign to encourage families to eat healthily for under a fiver was laucnhed this week. The BBC covered the story on its website and, as ever, the comments are as illuminating as the article itself.
Research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Housing and The Guardian highlighted that housing benefit caps would make 800,000 homes unaffordable to those on the lowest incomes. The Guardian included a map of the cuts and an article in the same newspaper highlighted the cost to wider society of the changes. Grant Shapps announced new allocations guidance for council homes and stated that:
‘For years the system for social housing has been associated with injustice – where rewards are reaped for those who know how to play the system the best. Despite this terrible image a lazy consensus in social housing has ensured that, for an entire generation, no one has bothered to do anything about it. That’s why I have today published new guidance for councils that will release them from the one-size-fits all approach and give them genuine freedom to ensure people benefit from living in a social home when they need it, for as long as they need it. No longer will people who gain a council house be able to leave their aspiration and ambition at the door – instead, they will be helped to make a better life for themselves and their communities.’
In the wake of the Stephen Lawrence verdicts, The Telegraph suggested that ‘poverty, not colour, was the real dividing line in modern Britain’ and Zoe Williams, in the Guardian, argued that ‘Labour has been hiding behind child poverty for far too long’
Graphic of the week
Troubled families – I’m not usually a fan of linking discussions about child poverty with the separate policy agenda relating to ‘troubled families’ but I do think it can be helpful at times. The graphics on Flickr show the long term consequences for individuals and wider society of not supporting families with different needs but they also show the relatively small number of these families – even according to the government’s own estimates. In the North East, for example, there are approximately 5500 – 6500 families and this is at the higher end of the estimates. We also know that there are over 130,000 children in the North East living in poverty and so, unless these families have over 20 children each (not even the Daily Mail would suggest this was the case would they?) then poverty cannot be blamed on chaotic lifestyles, poor parenting or idleness.
Signpost(s) of the week
Two ‘blog’ signposts which might be of interest to readers this week. One is a blog focused on social policy , run by Paul Spicker in Aberdeen University and the other is an excellent updated resource, courtesy of Gareth Morgan, whose blog is also worth looking at, for those wanting to understand what benefits will be like after the Welfare Reform Bill.
Newcastle City Council have recently set up 2 Commissions to explore different aspects of inequality in the city. One is a Living Wage Commission which is currently running a consultation period until January 27th and the other is a Fairness Commission which has produced a scoping report, available here.
Finally, Brunel University are running a free seminar on ‘Young people under the coaltion government’ on Friday 24th February