Should welfare be a ‘moral mission’?

Claudia Wood calls for welfare reform based on a grasp of what works, not a crusade.

I was asked today to comment on the unfolding dispute between the Archbishop of Westminster and David Cameron regarding the 'morality' of welfare reform. The Archbishop made the point that while the case for reforming welfare was sound, the way it had been implemented had led to unintended consequences which meant people were facing destitution – an outrage in such a wealthy country. He was no doubt referring to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by benefit sanct...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 19 Feb 2014
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Bottom-up public services

Ally Paget reacts to Ed Miliband's plans to give more power to public service users.

Yesterday, Ed Miliband set out his party’s vision for a more responsive, more accountable state. While he acknowledged the need for further cuts, it is also highly encouraging to see Labour committing to public services designed from the bottom up as the key to saving costs in the long run. It’s heartening, too, to see Miliband building on the ‘choice and competition’ agenda which, though a watchword of the Coalition’s reforms, also underpinned the previous Labo...

Posted by Ally Paget on 11 Feb 2014
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Jamie Bartlett charts the online reaction to Channel 4's controversial documentary series.

I’ve rarely seen a programme talked about as much as Channel 4’s documentary Benefits Street. The kitchen sink drama has been hailed as a gritty real life account of life on welfare; bemoaned as ‘poverty porn’ that demeans and stereotypes poor people; and proof of broken Britain. Two weeks ago no less than half of the BBC’s Question Time was dedicated to the programme (granted, it was a slow news week).   The programme has generated bytes and bytes of onli...

Posted by Jamie Bartlett on 11 Feb 2014
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People power

Duncan O'Leary provides some advice for Ed Miliband ahead of a major speech on public service reform.

Ed Miliband is due to give the Hugo Young Lecture next week. It comes at a time when the opposition is starting to show its hand on policy, but these sorts of occasions are often worth watching in any case. They present opportunities for politicians to paint their ideas on a broader canvas. In 2009 David Cameron delivered the lecture and made his pitch on the big society ('The recent growth of the state has promoted not social solidarity, but selfishness and individualism....

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 07 Feb 2014
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Mind the gap

The attainment gap in education isn't closing. We need to work out why, says Ian Wybron.

GCSE figures released last week show that the gap in attainment between richer and poorer students is widening. Demos analysis of the latest figures show that, in 2013, 38.1% of children on Free School Meals hit the government’s benchmark of 5 or more A*- C grades at GCSE (including English and Maths), compared to 64.8% of all other pupils. This represents a national attainment gap of 26.7% - an increase of 0.3% on the previous year. Looking at the local level reveals more. Not only di...

Posted by Ian Wybron on 27 Jan 2014
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Mixed messages weaken families’ relationships

Jo Salter explains how current social policy undervalues the supportive role that family can play.

There is a growing tension between the role of public services in supporting families, and sanctioning their behaviour. This may strike some as an abstract, political problem, but in the daily lives of struggling families these mixed signals can cause doubt and confusion that serve to undermine trust in public services among their intended recipients and risk compromising their effectiveness. In research published by Demos today, which explores the relationship between families in Scotland f...

Posted by Jo Salter on 21 Jan 2014
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When the going gets tough

In trying to 'out-tough' the Tories on welfare, Rachel Reeves is losing the argument, writes Claudia Wood.

It is becoming clear that the run up to the general election will increasingly turn into a game of one-upmanship. With each populist pledge the Conservatives make regarding immigration or welfare, Labour is prompted to bring out its own version. In October, as Rachel Reeves took over from Liam Byrne as the shadow work and pensions secretary, she vowed that ‘Labour would be tougher on welfare than the Tories’. This approach confirmed the Conservatives’ success in reframing t...

Posted by Claudia Wood on 20 Jan 2014
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Creating competition

Taking on the banks' market dominance doesn't mean breaking up the banks, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

This week, the stranglehold that high street banks have over key bank services - like current accounts, small business lending, and mortgages - came back into view thanks to Ed Miliband's eye-catching pledge to break up the bigger banks. This would create more competitors, Labour reasons, improving services for consumers. There is no doubt we need more competition in financial services, but there are other ways to deliver competition - ways that may also be more effective in de...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 20 Jan 2014
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Government as 'shop steward'

Duncan O'Leary continues his series profiling the options for economic reform by Government, looking at jobs and low pay.

Last week I posted the first blog in a short series on what a new Department for Economic Reform might look to do and how. Below is the next instalment, on government as shop steward. Next week: government as industrial activist. Mission: Government as shop steward Diagnosis: Britain has a jobs problem – and the issue is quality, not just quantity. Structural changes have undercut the position of workers: globalisation means more competition for jobs, technology is replacing routin...

Posted by Duncan O'Leary on 17 Jan 2014
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We don't need another review into bank competition

Ed Miliband should reduce barriers to entry, not call for another review, argues Jodie Ginsberg.

Banking in Britain is not competitive – at least not in the way that you or I would understand. A market that works effectively is one in which consumers feel they have genuine choice. For most bank retail customers, and owners of small businesses, it is pretty unclear what that choice is. People are more likely to get divorced than change their bank account, or so the old adage goes. Even though it is now far easier to switch bank accounts – thanks to a new 7-day switching proc...

Posted by Jodie Ginsberg on 16 Jan 2014
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