News in Brief
The impact and implications of Welfare reform have again dominated the news. The week began with a number of national disability charities warning that ‘benefits cuts are fuelling abuse of disabled people’. The Guardian also published the views of four disabled people who had experienced abuse and Ian Birrell wrote a typically strong piece claiming that disabled people were ‘at the mercy of ministers and the media’. Emma Harrison, the Chief Executive of A4E and who also heads up the Working Families Everywhere project warned the Prime Minister that the benefit cap ‘could be too crude a tool’ especially for some of the most vulnerable families
Northumberland County Council highlighted the effects of some of the reforms on their residents and highlighted how they could access help if people were affected by the changes.
Meanwhile, both the New Statesman and the Huffington Post, among others, highlighted that HMRC had written off £10.9 billion in unpaid tax last year, according to the Public Accounts Committee. Many readers will be aware that benefit fraud is estimated at around £1.5 billion per year.
The Work Programme
The Guardian produced a video looking for jobs in response to Maria Miller’s suggestion that ‘there isn’t a shortage of jobs’. Action 4 Employment, who are one of the firms delivering the Work Programme, were slammed for their ‘abysmal record’ by the Public Accounts Committee, who appear to have been quite busy this week.
The Social Market Foundation called for a ‘use now, pay later’ scheme for childcare, which received extensive coverage in the media, including this supportive article in The Telegraph. IPPR produced these two graphs showing the role of childcare in Nordic countries while The Daily Mail argued that it might ‘make more economic sense to pay families to look after their own children instead, during their early years at least’ . On Friday morning, it was reported that David Cameron, speaking at a Nordic summit, was ‘examining the idea of tax breaks for people who hire cleaning or other household services, as a way of generating extra jobs and freeing more women so they can join the workforce’
When the schools performance data was released a couple of weeks ago, we highlighted that some of the language in the accompanying press release was quite robust. The New Policy Initiative blog this week picked up on this and analysed some of the data that was released in relation to pupils eligible for Free School Meals.
Also in education this week, The Guardian covered a report that suggested that a ‘quarter of children were performing poorly at school due to problems at home’, the OECD produced a report which ‘put the UK 25th out of 35 developed nations in terms of the numbers of 25 to 34-year-olds who did not stay in education up to the age of 18’, a Barnardo’s report called ‘Staying the course’ suggested that the Bursary Fund, the replacement for Educational Maintenance Allowance had been ‘disastrous’ and Channel 4 reported that child poverty was behind a ‘Breakfast Club boom’ in primary schools
The Northern Echo’s ‘Foundation for Jobs’ campaign was hailed by David Cameron as ‘a brilliant initiative’
Friday 10th February 2012 is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day
Signpost(s) of the week
The ACEVO Commission on Youth Unemployment, headed by David Miliband published their report ‘the crisis we can’t afford’ this week
An interview with an OECD analyst warned that ‘income inequalities have reached a level not seen for the past 30 years’
JRF have appointed Kate Bell as a new Child Poverty Consultant and are now sending out monthly updates. You can subscribe to these here
And here is JRF’s Chief Exec Julia Unwin arguing that the ‘welfare reform debate ignores the facts about poverty’
Northumberland County Council have set up a website looking at parenting, poverty, prevention and participation which is worth a look
Graphic of the week
Our blog post next week will be a summary of the child poverty figures for the North East from the recently produced ‘Child Poverty Map of the UK’. Here, by way of a quick taster, is the map of the region by Local Authority area.