Paul Treloar's blog

Welfare reform in the 2015 election

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With the 2015 General Election fast approaching, we’re hearing lots of the usual promises from all of the parties about what they’ll do if they make it into government post May 7. From the standard commitments to the NHS, through the enduring promises of sorting out the economy, down to pledges to deal with immigration and look after the elderly, the party manifestos and messages contain many common themes.

Sanctioning hunger

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If I need to take a day off work, I don’t usually lose one month’s salary as a result. However, if you’re claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and delays to your bus journey mean you arrive ten minutes late for an interview at the Jobcentre, you could well find yourself having your benefit stopped for four weeks or more through a sanction.

Fair for who? Child maintenance and family tests.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he wants to see all domestic government policies subjected to a ‘family test’ in future, apparently to ensure that families aren’t undermined or made worse off financially.  But does the ‘family test’ itself pass the test?

Initially at least, it may be difficult to understand why anyone would be against such an approach. Indeed, we have been arguing that government should pay attention to a wide range of policy areas, such as employment, benefits, and family support services, to reduce child poverty and help improve the lot of poor families for many years.

One concern, however, is that it’s unclear whether the proposed ‘family test’ applies to lone parent families, too.

Rights (and wrongs) of sanctions

At Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), we’ve had longstanding concerns about the use of sanctions, which are basically cuts to benefit payments of up to 100% for up to 3 years, and the obvious knock-on impacts on child poverty.  And as the letter in today's Times that we and others have signed shows, we’re not alone in having profound concerns with how sanctions are working.

Until now, there’s been little authoritative evidence of how sanctions are being applied, rightly or wrongly, beyond data suggesting a huge increase in their application in recent years.