Weekly Round up 27/01/2012

News in Brief

Welfare reform

The Welfare Reform Bill has continued to dominate the headlines over the past couple of weeks and it is almost impossible to provide a full summary of that coverage here. So  I won’t try to. The Guardian’s coverage has been very comprehensive – including, as ever, their letters section – and the hashtag #wrb on Twitter is also very useful. What I will attempt to do here is highlight some stories or angles that haven’t received as much coverage and provide a summary of some of the different elements that have been discussed. Apologies if some of these are already out of date – the pace is pretty quick….

Social Fund – both Baroness Ruth Lister and Polly Toynbee – along with Guardian readers  – wrote in defence of the Social Fund but Baroness Lister’s amendment was defeated on Wednesday.

Benefit cap – the government suffered a very heavy defeat in relation to the proposed benefits cap of £26,000 per family although the government promised to press ahead with their plans anyway.

Delays – concerns were raised in The Telegraph that Universal Credit may not be ready for introduction in April 2013, a concern that has been noted in previous round-ups.

Cost – an excellent and timely (in the wake of the immigrants & benefits ‘stats’ coverage) JRF blog pointed out that unemployment benefits are a fraction of the welfare bill

Employment & Unemployment

Unemployment figures released this week made particularly grim reading with around 1.3 million people working part-time because they could not secure a full-time job. In child poverty strategy terms, these people are not ‘doing the right thing’ as this involves getting a full-time job. On a slightly more positive note in relation to the labour market, the Living Wage campaign continues to enjoy some successes and Tom Clark wrote a piece in The Guardian encouraging a focus on low earners similar to the current one on high earners and executives.

Financial Inclusion

The BBC provided coverage of debates on payday loans in Wales, which accused loans companies of ‘sucking money from the poor’

Child Protection

Any links between poverty and child protection issues are quite sensitive and I’m not usually keen on drawing attention to perceived links. For me, it becomes a little too easy to provide fodder for those that think poverty is a result of ‘poor’ parenting, feckless families and moral deficiencies. However, The Journal, a regional paper in the North East, highlighted local council’s concerns that child protection cases were rising as a result of the economic crisis, with domestic violence and unemployment being mentioned explicitly. It would be interesting to explore this a little more.

Education

School performance figures were released on Thursday with the accompanying comment from School Minister Nick Gibb leaving people in no doubt where the blame for ‘poor performance’ of pupils lay:

We should have high expectations for all children regardless of their circumstances. Today’s figures reveal a shocking waste of talent in many schools across the country. All too often, pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t given the same opportunities as their peers. But there are great examples of schools achieving the best for their disadvantaged pupils. If they can get it right, then so can all schools.

Health

News, at the start of the week, that poorer families were consuming 30% less fruit and vegetables than they were in 2006, with rising food prices and the economic situation being to blame

General comment

Gavin Poole suggested in The Guardian that he proposed benefit cap was ‘not about the money’

Mary Riddell suggested in The Telegraph that Ed Milliband would be judged on his stance towards welfare and not wealth

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian doing what Polly Toynbee does

Graphic of the week

It has to be this from Political Scrapbook that compares the average cost of fraud per benefit claimant with the average cost of over claimed expenses per MP.

Apologies for the missed week last week but we are busy elsewhere as well. Thanks for your contiuned interest and support.

Kind regards,

Steve

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