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Series: CASE Studies on Poverty, Place and Policy
Poverty is still a real issue within Britain today and this essential series provides evidence-based insights into how communities and families are dealing with it.
Published in conjunction with the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, this series draws together fresh research and sheds important light on the impact of anti-poverty policy, focusing on the individual and social factors that promote regeneration, recovery and renewal.
This chapter explores the consequences of devolution for inequality. It discusses whether and why devolution might have been expected to have had an impact on inequality within and between the four UK nations, and then looks at the evidence, focusing on income and educational inequalities. The first section briefly reviews the degree of devolution that Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have each enjoyed since 1997. The second section describes the policies pursued in practice in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland since devolution and explores the extent to which they represent a divergence from the past and/or a divergence from policy as it has evolved in England and the UK. The third section reports changes over the period 1998–99 to the present. The final section offers an assessment of whether devolution has so far produced more effective strategies for reducing inequality and poverty than would have occurred in its absence.
Soon after it was elected in 1997, Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’ government became embroiled in a row about the implementation of cuts in benefits for lone parents that had been set in train by the outgoing administration. In the late spring of 2008, another huge row broke out over the treatment of those with low incomes. Huge damage had been done to the government’s and particularly the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s, reputation for being on the side of the poor. These two events bracket the period covered in the book – one of sustained economic growth and low unemployment, which at the time of writing appears to have come to an end. This book brings together evidence on each of these domains with the aim of providing a balanced assessment of more than a decade of New Labour government.
This chapter discusses challenges for poverty and inequality arising from higher levels of immigration. It examines both how migrant communities are faring in terms of labour-market experiences and educational outcomes, and possible effects of immigration on the employment prospects and wages of non-migrants. The chapter also looks at who has migrated to the UK in the period 1997–2007 and analyses the changing socioeconomic profiles of migrant communities. It then examines the impact of migration on broader progress towards greater equality in the UK.
This chapter considers the impact of New Labour policies on inequalities in the labour market, focusing in particular on the experiences of previously disadvantaged groups: younger and older workers, the long-term unemployed, lone parents, disabled persons, and women. While New Labour did not set out to reduce inequality in the labour market as a main policy objective, it has tackled inequality in employment rates as the result of a number of major policy objectives and through setting a range of targets. The three main targets are: to achieve ‘full employment’ through the Employment Opportunity for All agenda; to eradicate child poverty by 2020; and to reach a 70% employment rate among lone parents by 2010. While policies designed to meet these targets have had an impact on the unequal distribution of work across individuals and households, they have not addressed labour-market inequality in terms of earnings inequality.
This chapter looks at public attitudes to inequality, poverty, and redistribution, using quantitative and qualitative sources to ask whether public opinion has become more or less progressive since 1997 and whether New Labour’s attempts to redefine the party have influenced the way people think about these issues. There is a growing body of opinion that more radical measures will be needed to make further progress in reducing poverty and that this in turn will require much stronger public support. This chapter attempts to pull together the evidence on attitudes to social justice and the beliefs and values that underpin them.
When New Labour came to power in 1997, there was great enthusiasm within government for tackling deprivation, particularly area concentrations of problems. There were several important reasons. First, the growth of inequality during Margaret Thatcher’s years had not been reversed. Second, social housing had become far poorer as a result of targeting access more systematically at the most deprived and vulnerable households. Third, levels of worklessness, benefit dependency, and lone parenthood had all risen steeply and became more concentrated in the poorest areas, particularly in large council estates. This chapter considers the government’s attempts to regenerate poor neighbourhoods and inner cities, drawing on extensive work carried out by CASE researchers in 12 low-income areas across much of New Labour’s period in office.
With older people in mind, this chapter assesses New Labour’s progress towards its twin goals of tackling poverty and social exclusion among today’s pensioners and ensuring that more of tomorrow’s pensioners retire on a decent income. In 1999, New Labour set out its blueprint in Opportunity for All. This chapter discusses New Labour’s policy agenda in the area of pensions and then assesses the extent to which it has been successful in improving the living standards of the poorest pensioners, now and in the future. It starts by considering the background and inheritance faced by New Labour, including the policy legacy and demographic context that prompted and helped to shape the government’s pension reforms.
This chapter takes a wider cross-national perspective, asking whether a decade of Labour government has improved the UK’s international standing on indicators of poverty, inequality, and child well being. Despite various efforts, in 2007, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a report that placed the UK bottom of a child well being league. The first half of the chapter is dedicated to the material well-being domain. The second half examines relative progress in education, risks and behaviours, peer relationships, and subjective well being. At times, discussion is restricted to European Union (EU) member states because of the data available, but, where possible, information for other OECD countries is included.
This chapter sets the scene for the rest of the book by examining the evidence on income poverty and income inequality. The assessment includes the results of micro-simulation, which allows one to separate the effects of tax-benefit policy from the effects of demographic and labour-market changes, addressing the tricky question of the counterfactual: what would have happened in the absence of policy changes? The chapter also looks at the distributional impact of public expenditure on benefits in kind such as health and education. Inequality measures generally exclude benefits in kind, but as public spending tends to be higher on poorer households, increases in spending can make a significant difference to the state’s overall redistributive impact.
This chapter looks at the government’s efforts to improve living standards and opportunities for the poorest children. It assesses progress towards the child-poverty targets as well as the impact of early-years policies, intended to stop a class divide in child development from being established long before children reach school. Labour’s agenda for tackling poverty and disadvantage among children was serious and wide ranging, but with the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that its policies did not match the scale of the challenge. The strategy began well and ambitiously, and by 2004 there were positive signs that it was succeeding in improving the daily reality and future prospects of poor children. However, it was noted in 2005 that this success should be considered just a start.