Tag Archives: New Economics Foundation

IDS is Smiling in his dream job, will he help us create more dream jobs?

The Independent On Sunday claims that Iain Duncan Smith has the broadest smile in Downing Street this week, having started his dream job of Work and Pensions Secretary. We see his appointment as a real boost for the Community Allowance campaign. His work in developing the Centre for Social Justice and its role in highlighting the benefits trap highlight many areas of  real agreement on the problems with the benefit system and what needs to be changed. The Centre for Social Justice’s report on benefits – Dynamic Benefits: Towards Welfare that Works, also give us some idea of  the approach that IDS may take in the coming months and we have found some things to smile about too.

We have argued strongly that the benefit system should provide a step up for people and not act as a trap. Yet many recent discussions of welfare reform have been dominated by plans to increase compulsion and threats to withdraw benefits for non-compliance. We have demonstrated time and time again that it is the benefit system that is at fault not the people claiming benefits (see this short film if you would like to hear more). The Centre for Social Justice have also concluded  “For many, the answer to unsustainable welfare bills is to introduce ever tighter rules for receipt of benefits, and to cut generosity for some claimants. However, this approach has never worked. it is not the particular levels and conditions that are at fault, but the structure of the system itself.”

We have also long campaigned for the role of part-time work to be recognised as a positive and valuable opportunity for people currently claiming benefits. We have asked for changes to be made to the earning disregard to enable people to take on part-time jobs and actually be better off. The Dynamic Benefits Report recognises the importance of part-time work and how the current system prevents people taking up job opportunities “For many carers, a low-hours job is all they can take on; and for others an entry-level job represents a stepping stone to higher-earning employment. yet, virtually all initial efforts to work are penalized“. The report recommends a radical change to the earning disregard to support people to take up part-time work.

The Independant on Sunday article also concluded that raising the earning disregard and allowing people to work part-time was a “no-brainer” but was concerned there would be no demand by employers for people who were on benefits. We know that part of the answer lies within local communities where we can offer  part-time jobs with training and support but also make a real difference to the local community – by ensuring the jobs have a local benefit, making a real difference to local community and to the tax payer  – as every £1 spent on the Community Allowance results in £10 worth of social value being created.  We estimated that at least 80 part-time jobs could be created in every neighbourhood through a Community Allowance – providing stepping stones on the pathway to work for thousands of benefits claimants across the country. Over 100 local community organisations have signed up to support the Community Allowance. Over 70 organisations have expressed an interest in being involved in piloted the Community Allowance in their local communities. The Dynamic Benefit Report also recognised the core role that the voluntary sector and local communities can play.

Last week Oxfam thrown its weight behind the campaign for the Community Allowance. We are now writing to IDS to ask for a meeting, hoping his understand of the benefit trap and what can be achieve by local communities will finally enable the benefit system to provide a step up for people and places. To find our more about the Community Allowance  and add your support to the campaign please visit our website at http://www.communityallowance.org/

The Inverse Care Law – Guest Blog from Lord Adebowale

We need a welfare state that is fit for the 21st century. We need to redesign it away from a post war vision of a very different society to what we live in today. There are gaps in the welfare state through which people fall because it’s not personalized enough. It is of great concern to me that for too long we appear to have been suffering from the inverse care law—the more you need, the less you are likely to get.

What worries me about some of the language around welfare reform at the moment is the idea that people on benefits are enjoying a nice lifestyle paid for by the taxpayer. They’re not. We need to get away from a punitive element in welfare reform that believes that if you treat people harshly, that will improve their ability to move up the ladder.

I have always argued that the welfare state should be about providing a step up for people.

The Community Allowance would create a step up for people and some of the poorest places in the UK, which have seen a lack of change over the last 10-20 years. If you are born in a place with high crime, low educational outcomes and poor health, there is an expectation that you will die under the same circumstances.

In my work on the Aylesbury estate in south London I realized one of the problems on estates like this is that the myth becomes the reality, and anyone from the estate could be written off.

The Community Allowance would create job opportunities for people in areas like Aylesbury. The jobs would simultaneously benefit the community and enable the individual to take small manageable steps towards sustainable employment. The New Economics Foundation’s recent work showing the Social Return on Investment of the Community Allowance clearly shows the economic argument for this.

And yet small organisations dedicated to delivering welfare-to-work services in disadvantaged areas will struggle to win contracts to deliver the Flexible New Deal and other areas of the welfare to work agenda because there is no mechanism to recognise and reward the work they do. Although some people are ready to get straight back to full-time work, for others this would be too great a leap. It wouldn’t work for employers, and would be likely to push people back into drugs and crime. This approach threatens to raise the cost to the public purse in the long-term, not only through benefits but also through other health, social care and criminal justice costs.

There needs to be a mechanism to reward the work that is done to prepare those most in need of the support to get work, rather than just job entries. 

It must not just be about getting people into a job, but also about measuring the progress people have made towards getting into work. That distance travelled can be measured and must be.  The Community Allowance could provide an ideal first step up onto the ladder of progress and opportunities for people who have been out of work for a long time, cycling on and off benefits.

Real life involves people failing and going around the cycle of trying to improve their lives on more than one occasion. A civilized society allows for that to happen.

Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive, Turning Point

Successful Parliamentary Event for the Community Allowance

On Monday 2nd November we held an event at the Houses of Parliament, hosted by Lord Archy Kirkwood, a Liberal Democrat Peer who supports the Community Allowance campaign. Lord Kirkwood used to Chair the DWP Select Committee and said at the event, “When I first heard about the Community Allowance, I thought the DWP will never go for this, but I’m really pleased to see how much progress has been made.”

Over 60 people attended the event which was held to do three things:

1. to launch a new publication from the CREATE Consortium; a collection of essays from people across the political spectrum saying what they think about the Community Allowance

Cover of Booklet Contributions came from people as varied as Lord Adebowale, Chief Executive of Turning Point, Phillip Blond, Director of new think tank ResPublica, Sir Trevor Chinn, businessman, Hilary Cottam, Director at Participle, Julian Dobson, Editor of New Start, Will Hutton, Executive Vice-Chair of the Work Foundation, Glenn Jenkins, resident and Chair of Marsh Farm Outreach, Luton, Neil O’Brien, Chief Executive of the think tank Policy Exchange, Dame Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB and Julia Unwin CBE, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation amongst others.

We will be publishing their contributions to this blog over the next few weeks.

2. We also launched a new report by the think tank nef (New Economics Foundation) a predictive Social Return on Investment analysis of the Community Allowance. This predicts that for every £1 invested in the Community Allowance £10 worth of social value will be generated.

3. We announced our three pilot partners for our first pilot of the Community Allowance over the next couple of years. They will be introducing themselves in more detail on this blog over the next couple of weeks but for now, they are:

Foresight in North East Lincolnshire

Learning Links in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight

St Peter’s Partnerships in Manchester

We were overwhelmed by the number of exceptionally high quality proposals that we received from community organisations across the UK that wanted to pilot the Community Allowance. It was a very difficult decision making process and we wish we were able to work with more of the organisations who sent proposals to us. It shows what a need there is across the country for an initiative such as the Community Allowance and has made as more determined than ever to keep working until it’s available for anyone on any benefit anywhere in the UK.