A new book examined the reforms in activation policies in the United States of America and eight European countries (the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, France, Portugal, and the Czech Republic). It said there had been two key trends during the ten years to 2010 (a strengthened role for the market in the governance of activation, and greater individualization of service delivery) and that the sovereign debt crisis in Europe had led to further reforms.
Source: Ivar Lodemel and Amilcar Moreira, Activation or Workfare? Governance and the neo-liberal convergence, Oxford University Press
A report provided the findings from an independent review of jobseeker's allowance (JSA) sanctions for claimants who failed to take part in mandatory back to work schemes. The report said that 90 per cent of sanctions referrals came from the Work Programme and, of all cases referred, 28.7 per cent were upheld as 'sanction applied' (finding that the claimant had not complied with the requirements they had agreed to). However, of those decisions that were subsequently reviewed, between 43 per cent and 53 per cent (depending on the programme) had the decision to apply a sanction overturned. The report raised particular concern about claimants' understanding of the sanctioning processes, and lack of knowledge of hardship payments, as well as their understanding of the conditionality attached to their receipt of JSA. It made recommendations for improving: the letters sent to claimants, and broader communications; claimants' understanding of what they were required to do; and communication and understanding of the sanctions process. The government published its response to the review, accepting all of the recommendations.
Source: Matthew Oakley, Independent Review of the Operation of Jobseeker's Allowance Sanctions Validated by the Jobseekers Act 2013, Department for Work and Pensions
A report examined the operation of the Work Programme and made recommendations regarding the role of the voluntary sector in future welfare-to-work schemes. Recommendations included: the involvement of service users and voluntary organizations in the design of future schemes; a role for local and specialist providers; changes to payment models (since payment by results did not fit well with the financial situation of many voluntary organizations, owing to the need to meet up-front costs); better assessment of individuals' needs; and making better use of volunteering as a step towards employment.
Source: Ramzi Suleiman, Stepping Stones: The role of the voluntary sector in future welfare to work schemes, National Council for Voluntary Organisations
An audit report said that the Work Programme had a poor start but was now 'at similar levels to previous programmes', although behind the original forecasts. The report noted difficulties with contracts and performance indicators, which were not operating as originally intended, and said that the Department for Work and Pensions had also found it difficult to improve outcomes for harder-to-help groups. It said that the programme had the potential to offer value for money if it could achieve the higher rates of performance that the department now expected.
Source: The Work Programme, HC 266 (Session 201415), National Audit Office, TSO
Two reports considered options for evaluating the labour market impacts of universal credit: one related to the general roll out of UC; the other related to the 'live' initial roll out in the north west of England.
Source: Stuart Adam, Monica Costa Dias, and Barbara Sianesi, Evaluating the Labour Market Impacts of Universal Credit: A feasibility study, Ad-hoc Research Report 6, Department for Work and Pensions
Source: Evaluating the Impact of Universal Credit on the Labour Market in Live Service and the North West Expansion, Ad-hoc Research Report 7, Department for Work and Pensions
A report examined the role of further education in relation to single parent employment, and the impact of qualification levels on pay, job security, and duration of unemployment. The report called for increased government investment in training for single parents, and for the government to fund their training to level 3 qualifications (equivalent to A level).
Source: Making the Grade: How government investment in further education can benefit single parents and the state, Gingerbread
A report examined the attitudes and behaviours of non-working (or very part-time working) partnered parents living in low-income households, prior to the roll-out of universal credit. The study had looked at what influenced people's decisions to move into work, what motivated them to increase their hours of work, and how these decisions might change over time. The findings were used to inform the Child Poverty Strategy, published alongside this report.
Source: Sharon Collard and Sara Davies, Making Decisions About Work in Low-Income Couple Households: Final report to the Child Poverty Unit, Research Report 869, Department for Work and Pensions
A special issue of a journal examined the governance of quasi-markets in welfare services.
Source: Social Policy and Administration, Volume 48 Number 2
Links: Table of contents
Notes: Articles included:
Katharina Zimmermann, Patrizia Aurich, Paolo Graziano, and Vanesa Fuertes, 'Local worlds of marketization – employment policies in Germany, Italy and the UK compared'
Isabel Shutes and Rebecca Taylor, 'Conditionality and the financing of employment services – implications for the social divisions of work and welfare'
James Rees, Adam Whitworth, and Elle Carter, 'Support for all in the UK Work Programme? Differential payments, same old problem'
The government responded to an independent review of the work capability assessment, a process used by the United Kingdom government to determine whether people with disabilities were considered able to return to paid employment.
Source: Government's Response To The Year Four Independent Review Of The Work Capability Assessment, Cm 8843, Department for Work and Pensions, TSO
The Northern Ireland Executive began consultation on proposals to create a strategy for economic inactivity, with a view to ensuring that the right support and incentives were available to help people to make a successful transition into employment.
Source: ï¿½Enabling Successï¿½: A consultation on a new strategic framework to tackle economic inactivity in Northern Ireland ï¿½ Driving social change through economic participation, Northern Ireland Executive