Policies to promote equal treatment between men and women have been an important part of getting the needs of women recognised in social security provisions. However, the unequal situations of men and women in the labour market have significant implications for policy. This article examines the limits of equal treatment in the context of new labour market trends and hence, new demands on social security. To what extent can a formal equal treatment approach tackle the substantive inequalities between men and women?
The topic of benefit simplification regularly returns to the policy agenda. A simpler system, easy to understand and to deliver, is a goal that everyone wants to reach. Simplification is both a political and an administrative issue and, although these two issues cannot be entirely separated, this article focuses on the administrative side. The first section discusses how the government’s commitment to modernisation has, in various ways, focused attention on the need for simplification of benefits. The second section considers simplification from the three rather different perspectives of the DWP, the claimants of benefits and the public in general.
Tax credits were introduced in 2003 as the main instrument to deliver the Labour government's commitments to increase work incentives, make work pay and reduce poverty levels among working families. This paper uses a case study of one family over several years to explore and illustrate the experience of being in the tax credit system. The analysis highlights the importance of tax credits to family income, but also the negative impact of late and incorrect payments, payments that varied in inexplicable ways, reductions in awards for overpayments and the lack of detailed information about awards.
This chapter draws on in-depth interviews with 50 lone mothers who had recently started work, in order to explore whether or not they felt themselves to be better off in work, and what they meant by this. These mothers clearly felt a strong push away from Income Support, with employment seen as a route to independence, which living on benefits did not provide. They wanted to work for more money but also for social contacts, self-esteem, and autonomy, and to feel that they have a purpose in life. Some of the women were also looking to the future, hoping to buy their own home, planning for their pensions, and thinking about the time when their children would grow up and leave home. But on the other hand, many were also anxious about leaving the relative security of Income Support for what were often potentially insecure, sometimes temporary jobs; about managing financially while waiting for wages and Tax Credits to stabilise into regular payments; and about coping with the demands of work.
Since the 1970s, the number of lone-parent families has more than tripled, their employment rate has fallen, their receipt of benefits has risen, and their poverty rate has increased significantly. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has stated that the current Labour government has initiated a significant policy shift, one that begins to reconceptualise lone parents as workers as well as parents, and which, for the first time, sets an employment target for policy. This chapter focuses on lone parents rather than their children, concentrating particularly on the New Deal for Lone Parents. It discusses the developments in the context of the lone-parenthood situation and policy debate in Britain. The New Deal for Lone Parents is the first of the Labour policies affecting lone-parent families, and it remains the policy component uniquely associated with this group. The objectives of the programme are ‘for lone parents to be offered advice by the Employment Service to develop a package of job search, training and after-school care to help them off benefits and into work’. The chapter also outlines other policies directed towards the employment of lone parents, explores the outcomes so far, and discusses future policy directions.
Beveridge’s 1940s plan for social security set out a scheme with three main elements (Beveridge, 1942). These were: national insurance benefits (funded by contributions from workers, employers and the government, intended as a replacement for earnings loss through identified contingencies including unemployment, sickness, widowhood and retirement); national assistance benefits (funded from general taxation, means-tested support for non-working people with low incomes); and family allowances (funded from general taxation, paid at the same rate for all families, regardless of income level). Thus, with the partial exception of family allowances, the main function of social security benefits was clearly to replace lost earnings, not to pay benefits to working people.
This system operated with little change through the 1950s and 1960s, when unemployment was low. But the insurance-based system was not well suited to the higher levels of unemployment from the 1970s, not least because this excluded groups without insurance cover, including long-term unemployed people (who exhausted their contribution) and young unemployed people (with no contribution record). Other non-working (sometimes called ‘inactive’) groups were increasing in number, including lone parents and people with long-term sickness or disability. And the number of working families in poverty was also increasing. Here we start by looking at changes to benefits for unemployed and non-working people, then consider benefits and tax credits for people in work, and in the final section we look at how these have come together in the form of Universal Credit. This chapter focuses on social security benefits and tax credits, and the work obligations attached to these.
Decisions about who should and should not be expected to support themselves through paid employment are central to all systems of social protection. This is an issue in which there has been a significant gender divide in most countries. For men, paid work is generally expected, unless for reasons of sickness, unemployment, or retirement. Of course, these are themselves all conditional and subject to change – retirement ages can be moved, unemployment and sickness can be defined more or less stringently – and there are examples of this sort of change in recent policy in many countries. But the changes affecting men tend to be at the margins, a shifting of boundaries between the economically active and inactive, rather than a fundamental change in the expectations driving policy. For women, in contrast, there seems to be a much more radical transformation taking place in a number of countries. Women with children are increasingly being defined as part of the labour force, as among those who are expected to support themselves through employment, rather than as primarily at-home caregivers.
This policy shift has particularly affected lone mothers and is reflected in two main sorts of changes: changes in the conditions under which lone parents can claim benefits without some form of work-related activity test; and the inclusion of lone parents in labour market programmes. This chapter examines both of these, drawing first on the material from the six national chapters to highlight key points for each country and then to make comparisons across the countries.
Policy makers across the world are confronting issues relating to lone parents and employment, with many governments seeking to increase the participation of lone parents in the labour market.
This book is based on an up-to-date analysis of provisions within particular countries, examining whether and how policies support and encourage employment, and drawing out policy lessons. The countries examined are the UK, USA, Australia, France, the Netherlands and Norway. Unlike other studies which have considered this issue, this book includes both country-specific chapters and makes thematic comparisons across countries. Chapters are written by leading experts on lone parenthood in each country.
Lone parents, employment and social policy is essential reading for students in social policy, sociology, human geography, gender and women’s studies, as well as policy makers and practitioners in the field of lone parents and employment. It will be of interest to those who want to know more about these policy developments but also to those interested in broader issues about gender and welfare states.
The political and economic landscape of UK social security provision has changed significantly since the 2008 financial crisis. This fully revised, restructured and updated 3rd edition of a go-to text book covers all the key policy changes and their implications since the elections of 2010 and 2015.
With contributions from leading academics in the field this book critically examines the design, entitlement, delivery and impact of current welfare provision. The first half of the book examines social security across the lifecycle from Child Benefit to retirement pensions. The second half focuses on key issues in policy and practice including new topics such as the realities of life on benefits in an era of austerity, and the pros and cons of Universal Basic Income.
• Framework supports teachers and students, encouraging analytical thinking of issues and providing pointers to related sources
• Authoritative and evidence-based arguments
• Clear section and chapter summaries, overviews, questions for discussion, website resources and a bibliography
• Includes tables, charts and text boxes for clarity, interest and appeal
This book is suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate students of Social Policy taking modules on Social Security Policy, Poverty and Inequality, Income Support and Welfare Reform, as well as Social Work students and those on other Social Science degree programmes.
This article examines the challenges in designing income-tested benefits for people of working age. This is particularly difficult in the context of changing patterns of work and volatility in earnings and income. Matching benefits to needs requires timely assessment and payment. We compare the treatment of timing issues in the working-age welfare systems of the United Kingdom and Australia. The article discusses how these different but similar systems deal with the timing of income receipt and benefit adjustment, problems of overpayment and debt, and draws out some lessons for the design of income-tested provisions.