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Archive for July 14th, 2011

Reform of Public Services: Good or Bad?

 

The long expected white paper on open public services has finally been published and reactions to it, as expected, have been very mixed. The paper sets out five main objectives:

 

  1. Choice – Increasing choice giving people direct control over services they use
  2. Decentralisation – Power over services to be held more locally. Community budgets to be introduced in 50 more local authorities
  3. Diversity – Opening public services to new providers in voluntary, public and private sectors. Instead of having to justify competition, Cameron said, the new default will be to justify a monopoly on service provision
  4. Fairness – Measures include a new people premium to be introduced to help disadvantaged children into the best schools and community organizers to work in the worst areas
  5. Accountability – Payment by Results a big lever in achieving better accountability, as will greater transparency

 

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) issued a welcoming response to the White Paper from Chief Executive Sir Stuart Etherington:

“This paper is a useful start in looking at the tasks ahead. We want to see a smart, effective and innovative commissioning system which values what all sectors can bring to the table and has the interests of service users and communities at its heart. There needs to be a major overhaul of commissioning to ensure a level playing field for all providers.”

 

NCVO has previously maintained the notion that the voluntary sector should not have an automatic right to deliver publicly funded projects but has always advocated that where it is practical, given the skill base experience and intimate knowledge of the disadvantaged, the voluntary sector should step in.  The NCVO points out that one of the major obstacles currently barring this was funding.  If properly resourced, specialised organisations dealing with for example drugs, ex-offenders, and poverty could make a positive contribution. An example could be given in the much heralded Work Programme were many providers are using a triage system to indentify the  needs of each individual, identifying any barriers , and the voluntary sector  could provide effective solutions in this situation.

Whilst the objectives have been well received, as with all Government White Papers the ‘devil is in the detail’.  Trade Unions have been critical of the proposals. The General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Mark Serwotka announced on Monday:

“This has nothing to do with people power; it’s about handing more of our public services over to private companies so they can make massive profits at taxpayers’ expense.

“The government can not be trusted to act in the wider public interest and it can not be trusted with the welfare state. People will see through these plans and the deliberately misleading use of words like ‘fairness’ and ‘balance’ to cushion the blow.”

What appears obvious is that for this experiment to be given chance to work it must be sufficiently resourced.

 

David Healey

Project Support Officer

Websites:  Cabinet Office, the Guardian, NCVO, PCS

Sources:

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/open-public-services-white-paper

http://www.guardian.co.uk/voluntary-sector-network/2011/jul/11/public-services-white-paper-voluntary-sector

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/news/public-services/our-statement-public-services-white-paper

http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/news_centre/index.cfm/id/54FAA7DD-FF6D-4185-9B3FCC719C04517B

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Unemployment falls but claims continue to increase

The largest increase in unemployment was in the North West where levels increased by 24,000

The biggest improvement was in the West Midlands with unemployment decreasing by 32,000

The Office of National Statics (ONS) today announced that the unemployment had improved by 0.1% to 7.7 %. Over the past quarter, there has been a 26,000 decrease in unemployment to 2.45 million across the UK.  The report also it identified:

  • The number of people unemployed for over one year fell by 37,000 to reach 807,000.
  • The quarterly fall in unemployment occurred mainly among people aged from 16 to 24. The number of unemployed people in this age group fell by 42,000 over the quarter to reach 917,000.

That was the good news, what was not so welcome was that:

  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 for the three months to May 2011 was 70.7 per cent, unchanged
  • There were 1.52 million people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in June 2011, up 24,500 on May
  • The number of men claiming JSA increased by 15,000 to reach 1.03 million and the number of women claimants increased by 9,500 to reach 493,900, the highest figure since August 1996
  • In the three months to May 2011, 144,000 people had become redundant in the three months to May 2011

Unemployment rates in the regions varied.  The largest increase in unemployment was in the North West where the levels increased by 24,000 to 292,000 or 8.6% of the population.  The biggest improvement was in the West Midlands with unemployment decreasing by 32,000 to 226,000 or 8.5% of the local population.

The Labour Force Survey identified that the majority of those made redundant were women. Given data suggested by organisations such as The Poverty Site, this increase could have a catastrophic effect on disposable incomes within the family group. For example, it identifies that up to three-quarters of those considered as having very low incomes are either from working-age adults or arguably more seriously, couples with children.

 

David Healey

Project Support Officer

Website:  ONS, the Independent, the Poverty Site

Sources:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=12

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/unemployment-falls-but-claimant-count-soars-2312837.html

http://www.poverty.org.uk/05/index.shtml?2

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Government announces response to consultation on future changes to child maintenance

On Monday, 11th July the Government published its response to the consultation on the future of child maintenance. Under the new system:

  • The Government wants to support parents to make their own family-based arrangements which are in the best interests of their children
  • Parents will be able to obtain initial information and support on the range of options available to them through a ‘gateway service’
  • Parents can then decide whether to make their own, family-based arrangements, using the help they have received, or to use the new, much improved, child maintenance service, for which there will be a charge – although it will still be heavily subsidised
  • Parents on the lowest incomes will have a heavily discounted upfront charge to join the service
  • Cases involving domestic violence will be fast-tracked directly onto the statutory service and no payment will be required to enter the system. THIS IS GOOD,
  • Parents who fail to pay their maintenance will be pursued with the full range of enforcement tools available, and will face additional penalty charges to help meet the cost paid by the taxpayer of having to fund any enforcement action against them EXCELLENT

Government figures showed that the current child maintenance system is deeply flawed as, “the CSA currently spends over 40 pence for every pound transferred from the non resident parent to the resident parent – this does not represent value for money to the taxpayer.”

These proposals appear to have been welcomed by groups who wanted the present system totally overhauled. Nick Woodall, Director of Policy and Development at of the Centre for Separated Families, announced in a press release:

“’The Government says that fundamental to its approach is the recognition that families need around separation extend beyond issues of financial support such as child maintenance. We believe that this change is long overdue. For too long, family separation has been dealt with as a purely financial issue”. THIS IS SO TRUE

However, in a an early response to the government plans, the UK’s leading children’s charity Barnardo’s demanded that the coalition abandon any proposals to charge collection fees on families receiving benefits or on low incomes. Anne Marie Carrie, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s said:

“Barnardo’s believes that proposed charges to be levied on parents claiming child maintenance are both unreasonable and unfair. Our services work with families who live on just £13 per person per day. Parents in this situation cannot afford to pay these kind of fees that will inevitably cause undue hardship during a time of difficult family breakdown.

“The Government must make take its mandate to better support families living below the breadline. If the welfare of our children is to be paramount, a system must be created that truly meets the needs of those living in poverty.”

Comment

There is an argument to say that parents on low incomes or in receipt of benefits should be treated with the same consideration as those who have suffered domestic violence. There are also concerns that a family in the process of separating and dealing with the adverse effects of the welfare reforms could lead to the family finding it impossible to resolve the situation or successfully part.

David Healey
Project Support

Websites: DWP, Separated Families, Barnardo’s

Sources:

120711/http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/jul-2011/dwp082-11.shtml

http://www.separatedfamilies.info/media/press-120711

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/strengthening-families-response.pdf

http://www.barnardos.org.uk/news_and_events/media_centre/press_releases.htm?ref=70629

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Work and Pensions Committee

 Select Committee Announcement

14 July 2011

For Immediate Release:

AN48 2010–12

 

Publication of special report:

 

Government responds to Select Committee report on contracting arrangements

Report of Session 2010–12 HC 1439: 6th Special Report of Session 2010–12

To be published at 11.00 a.m. on Monday 18 July 2011

 

The Report will be available to download from the Committee’s website on the day of publication. Click here

 

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Open Public Service

 

 

….more coming…..

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