Welfare reform – A new deal, but is it a fair deal?

16th March 2011.

The Welfare Reform agenda was a focus of much policy attention from the previous Labour administration. The Coalition has placed continued attention on this agenda through the reforms outlined in the Welfare Reform Bill which was introduced to parliament on 16th February 2011. The Bill was based upon the proposals outlined in ‘Universal Credit: welfare that works’. Launching the Welfare Reform Bill, David Cameron commented:

‘It brings the most ambitious, fundamental and radical changes to the welfare system since it began. At the heart of this Bill is a simple idea. Never again will work be the wrong financial choice. Never again will we waste opportunity. We’re finally going to make work pay – especially for the poorest people in society. And we’re going to provide much greater support for unemployed people to find work – and stay in work’.

The Bill therefore proposes to build upon previous policy changes introduced by Labour, while also introducing a step change in the scale of reform. It takes a more radical approach to tackling the welfare reform agenda by seeking to reduce the complexity of the system; ensuring work pays for residents who are out of work; and increasing the level of sanctions which can be placed upon jobseekers. At the same time, the Coalition is currently reforming welfare to work support services through the introduction of the Work Programme.

This Bulletin examines the core elements of the Coalition’s proposals for tackling the Welfare Reform agenda through the Welfare Reform Bill and the introduction of the Work Programme. The Bulletin then highlights some of the key opportunities for the Bill to tackle worklessness but also some of the main areas of concern.