Category Archives: Social Policy

A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Nat O'ConnorNat O’Connor, IRiSS, Ulster University

We all know that living on a low income is a daily challenge.

It’s not just about carefully planning the week’s spending—and deciding what things to do without—but it is a balancing act to deal with unexpected expenses: a medical emergency, a debt to be repaid or an extra cost for a child’s school trip.

And there is no point at which someone waves a magic wand and says here’s money that will clear your debts and allow you to patch up the fabric of your life. Most people won’t inherit money or be given a lump sum when they reach retirement age. Continue reading A Fair Economy is About More than Just Cash

Welfare reforms are based on the wrong assumptions about benefit recipients’ motivations and actions

profile photoSocial security systems are being transformed according to untested assumptions about how benefit recipients act. Sharon Wright provides evidence to challenge several core myths on which British welfare reforms have been based. There is a wide gap between the dominant way in which welfare subjects are represented in political and media debate and the lived experiences of those receiving benefits and using support services.

Over the last 15 years, British welfare reforms have focussed on individualising responsibility and contracting-out services. These strategies share a behaviour change logic that assumes the source of the problem is to be found in the flawed motivations and actions of benefit recipients and their job coaches. Consecutive UK governments have been strongly committed to the idea of ‘getting people off benefits and into work’, despite long periods of minimal unemployment rates and exceptionally high employment rates. Continue reading Welfare reforms are based on the wrong assumptions about benefit recipients’ motivations and actions

The Brexit debate is far from over: there will have to be a further vote

Britain has voted for Brexit. What comes next is remarkably unclear. In an article originally published on the LSE Brexit Vote blog on 24th June, and on the Democratic Audit UK blog, James Strong argues that four questions remain, and whether it is a general election or a second referendum, further polls will be required. To read the article on the Democratic Audit UK blog, click here.

Democratic audit_Brexit debate far from over
Credit: European Parliament CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

First, when will the Brexit negotiations begin? This morning David Cameron broke two promises he made during the referendum campaign. He resigned as Prime Minister. And he announced that he would not immediately inform the European Council that Britain wishes to withdraw from the EU, in line with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is significant. Once a state activates Article 50, it has two years to negotiate its future relationship with the remaining 27 member states. After two years its membership terminates automatically. Continue reading The Brexit debate is far from over: there will have to be a further vote

The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking

Paul Cairney
Paul Cairney

This was originally posted on Paul Cairney’s blog, Politics & Public Policy.

This is an introduction to the Open Access journal article – “The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking: what issues are territorial and what are universal?” by Paul Cairney, Siabhainn Russell, and Emily St Denny, in Policy and Politics.

The ‘Scottish approach’ refers to the Scottish Government’s reputation for pursuing a consultative and cooperative style when it makes and implements policy in devolved areas (including health, education, local government and justice). It works with voluntary groups, unions, professional bodies, the private sector and local and health authorities to gather information and foster support for its policy aims. This approach extends to policy delivery, with the Scottish Government willing to produce a broad national strategy and series of priorities – underpinned by the ‘National Performance Framework’ – and trust bodies such as local authorities to meet its aims. In turn, local authorities work with a wide range of bodies in the public, voluntary and private sector – in ‘Community Planning Partnerships’ – to produce shared aims relevant to their local areas. ‘Single Outcome Agreements’ mark a symbolic shift away from ‘topdown’ implementation, in which local authorities and other bodies are punished if they do not meet short-term targets, towards the production of longer-term shared aims and cooperation. Continue reading The ‘Scottish approach’ to policy and policymaking

The Conservative government’s promotion of financialisation is transforming citizenship in the UK

Craig Berry
Craig Berry

Craig Berry is Deputy Director of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. His latest article ‘Citizenship in a financialised society: financial inclusion and the state before and after the crash’ is available on fast track.

While the New Labour-ish language of ‘financial inclusion’ and ‘asset-based welfare’ has been quietly eschewed, since 2010 the Conservative Party has continued its predecessor’s agenda around promoting more extensive and intensive participation in the financial system, through asset ownership, in order to enable individuals to play an enhanced role in ensuring their own long term financial security.

This agenda is, understandably, usually assessed in terms of the impact on financial well-being. Yet its implications for the meaning and practice of citizenship may be just as significant Continue reading The Conservative government’s promotion of financialisation is transforming citizenship in the UK

Thinking beyond the market: housing, planning and the state

Allan Cochrane
Allan Cochrane

by Allan Cochrane, Open University, UK

Everybody seems to accept that there is something wrong with the way that housing is delivered in Britain, particularly in England. In some parts of the country house prices are stubbornly high and rising; elsewhere there seems to be housing nobody wants. All political parties are committed to enabling people to live in homes that they own, yet levels of home ownership are falling as the proportion of the population living in private rented housing rises. More people now live in private rented accommodation than in social or council housing. The massive decline in council house building since the 1980s has not led to a significant rise in the building of new homes for sale.

The solutions on offer by the major political parties seem to circle around the provision of some sort of subsidy to first-time buyers, as well as looking for ways of persuading (sometimes effectively bribing) local authorities and neighbourhoods to allow developers to build in their areas. Under the last Labour government, regional and local targets were introduced for new housing, albeit with few levers to ensure that the targets would be met. The latest proposal from the Conservative Party is to allow tenants of housing association properties to buy the homes they live in at discounted rates, with little reflection on the extent to which the sale of council houses has brought more private rented property onto the market, rather than increasing home ownership.

There is a powerful rhetoric that blames the planning system for the problems. Planners are said to be too slow to grant permission for development and to Continue reading Thinking beyond the market: housing, planning and the state