Posts Tagged 'Conservatives'

Evaluating New Labour’s legacy

Were you still up for………er……. Lembit Opik? No ‘Portillo moment’: Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke were about the best that the night could deliver. No ‘Edgbaston’ like 1997 (Labour landslide) and no ‘Basildon’ like 1992 (Conservatives hanging on). [Blair’s legacy is that we all write sentences without verbs!]. So New Labour ends not with a bang but with a whimper, and even that was drawn out for days as we followed the courting rituals of the parties. It is a sobering thought to have your books consigned to ‘history’. New Labour, new welfare state? (1999) explored the ‘third way’ in social policy. Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms (2002) examined delivery and achievements against aims and objectives. Modernising the welfare state (2008) examined Blair’s legacy in social policy. Since then, Brown has ‘saved the world’. Some things did get better, but at a cost. ‘Prudence’ and ‘New Labour’ will be wise spenders, not big spenders’ seems like a distant memory. Who would have thought that New Labour would end up redistributing towards merchant bankers (Cockney rhyming slang optional)?

Farewell, then, to New Labour. It may well be that 2010 was an Election better not to win. You can read about Conservative/Liberal Democrat policy in Hugh Bochel’s 2011 book The Conservative party and social policy, and perhaps someone, somewhere is already planning a book about ‘Team Miliband’ (hedging my bets), although ‘The Social Policy of Balls’ has the hint of a bestseller. In an uncertain future for social policy, you can be sure only of one thing: you can read all about it with ‘Policy Press’.

Martin Powell, author of Modernising the welfare state, Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms and New Labour, new welfare state?

Are the first cuts the deepest?

What has happened as far as the tally of injustice goes since the election results came out? For a start the election made one of the graphs in Injustice: Why social inequality persists look slightly out of date. As predicted the Conservative segregation index rose even higher than before. If you have a copy of the book turn to page 175 and put an extra dot in the margin, where 2010 would be, at a height of 16.4%. What happened was that on May 6th 2010 the greatest swings towards the Conservatives occurred in the seats where they were most popular to begin with. This is a symptom of a still dividing country, but it is also a quite inefficient way to increase your support. Thus the Tories did not manage to secure an overall majority. They increased their vote most in the seats they already held. In some of the poorer parts of Britain, and especially in Scotland, the votes for Labour actually increased. The Liberals were squeezed out and lost seats in the middle of this polarisation. They ended up sharing power as no one could rule without them.

Today we saw the beginnings of what this increased political polarisation means, the very first cuts were announced. Among them George Osborne declared the demise ever slowly slightly redistributive Child Trust Fund, cutting payments of £320 million in 2010 and £520 million a year from 2011-2012. In the fund’s place he announced new funding of an almost charitable nature: An extra £20 million each year from 2011 being spent on addition respite care, 8000 one week long breaks for severely disabled children.

What you should expect is much more of this. Cutting something which is actually redistributive and replacing it with something that costs only a tenth as much and is useful but tokenistic – aimed at the most ‘deserving’ of cases. Thus some 4000 council houses will be built; a paltry number, but just enough to salve a few consciences. It would be very better to reduce the wealth of the richest so many gave up their spare homes which others could then use. Similarly, there would have been no need for a Child Trust Fund in the first place had income differential not widened under New Labour.

Other cost cutting is also indicative of what kind of the world the Conservative-Liberal coalition would like to see emerge. David Laws, the Liberal Chief Secretary to the treasury, suggested that the £45 million annual first class travel by public servants should be curtailed. This is good, but far better not to be running train carriages designed for different social classes into the twenty-first century in the first place. It is far simpler just to begin to abandon first class tickets for anyone, and the kind of thing a country that has just become a great deal poorer might have to begin to think of doing (to use track space more efficiently). Would David Cameron’s dream of a big society still have first and second class travel, with just public sector workers, students, families and lower private sector management and anyone else not quite like him in ‘economy’? I worry that is their dream. Too many still want a more unequal world.

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists

Community Care Live 2010

Just back from a busy Community Care Live 2010 – it was great to meet lots of social workers and students and to network with delegates and other exhibitors. I attended a very interesting keynote from Dr Maggie Atkinson – the Children’s Commissioner for England only two months in post – on Wednesday morning. She seems genuinely committed to being a “champion for children” and was an engaging speaker to a sadly limited number of delegates (10am too early perhaps?!).

She outlined her current priorities, which included working with ‘resistant’ families and gaining children’s perspectives on safeguarding. She also said that she accepted the need of the children’s workforce (including social work) for training and development to be able to provide more effective services for children.

Dr Atkinson was able to report that on Tuesday she had met officially for the first time with the new Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. Several delegates at CC Live had grumbled concern that the change of department title from Children, Schools and Families back to Education signalled the new government’s intention to deprioritise the wider range work with children and families, including social work. Dr Atkinson said that she felt the Secretary of State was equally committed to children and families, that there was no apparent change to the remit of the department and that there was no intention to rescind Every Child Matters (so get to grips with it if you need to by reading Making sense of Every Child Matters!). She also said that she was impressed with the new government’s early commitment to ending detention for refugee and asylum seeking children.

In line with what other experienced practitioners were saying at the conference, when asked what one priority she would encourage Michael Gove to take on board it was (appropriately) to “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Perhaps we should send him a package of Policy Press books so he can swot up on some evidence of good and not so good policy and practice!

Karen Bowler, Senior Commissioning Editor, The Policy Press

Win a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling!

Congratulations to Titus Alexander, an active supporter of the Equality Trust and One Society campaign, who has won a copy of Injustice by Daniel Dorling.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010. If you have any questions please email tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk.

The rise and rise of social inequality

What would be your list of the most damaging current social evils in Britain today and how would you explain their survival? A very large number of writers have tried to answer this question over the decades since an answer was first offered by William Beveridge in 1942. In recent years the general public have also been asked more frequently what they think too. A great many evils are listed from all these machinations and consultations.

I thought these lists might be a good place to start when writing the book Injustice, which tries to explain why inequalities persists and are allowed to rise, even having reached, in some cases, their highest recorded levels for almost eighty years (income, health, wealth and voting inequalities). What I found was that almost all the entries in almost all the lists could be put into five broad boxes. These five separated out the five original social evils as identified in the Beveridge report. However, by comparing how the lists changed over time it was possible to see how the natures of each social evil had also changed. What began to emerge, for me at least, was a picture of how each old social evil had transformed into something often very different but equally as damaging when it came to maintaining inequality and hence injustice.

All of the new social evils are arguments for maintaining and increasing inequality or modern arguments for injustice. They are, I claim, what keep us addicted to inequality in the most unequal of countries. Some people used to say that smoking was good for the constitution. It helped you develop a “productive cough”, cleared out the lungs. There are still people today who say that inequality is good, it rewards merit, encourages competition and fosters growth and consumption – these are in effect the “productive coughs” of 21st century society. And, just as there were lobbyists paid to argue for tobacco long after most people came to agree it was harmful, so too there are lobbyists today, who are paid by those who can see a short term gain in bolstering inequality, arguing for injustice and call it ‘freedom’.

Had you told someone in 1942 that there would come a day when smoking was banned in all public buildings they might well not have believed you. If you are told today that within your lifetime you could see social inequalities greatly reduced and the health and well-being of the population greatly increase as a result, will you believe it? Will our grandchildren ever understand why some people equate inequality with freedom?

Daniel Dorling, author of Injustice: Why social inequality persists
Other blogs featuring Injustice include: The Enlightened Economist and Out of Range.

Would you like to win a copy of Daniel Dorling’s Injustice: Why social inequality persists? Simply post a relevant comment to either the ‘The rise and rise of social inequality’ or the ‘Is social inequality addictive’ entry and we will enter you into a prize draw to win copy of the book, we only have one to give away so join the debate now! Closing date 30th April 2010.

Looking back at the Party Conferences and forward to the General Election?

For many British social policy analysts, New Labour has been a disappointment and the differences between the current regime and a potential Cameron-led one are too few. However, my recent book, written with Lewis Williams, suggests that a long hard look at the longer term policy changes since 1979 can tell us quite a bit about what a return to a Conservative Government would bring and how that would compare to both New and Old Labour.

The book, A generation of change, a lifetime of difference? Social policy in Briton since 1979, looks at the past 30 years of changes in benefits and taxation and shows what has changed, for whom and with what results. We use a new and nifty approach by simulating what it would be like to live a whole life under the rules in place in 1979, 1997 and 2008. This captures the whole lifetime welfare state from the cradle to the grave for three model families:

The Lowes: low earners earning half median wages
The Meades: median earners
The Moores: high earners earning twice median wages

New Labour have done a lot to help children and pensioners, especially the Lowes, and the improvements for these groups since 1997 is marked. Old Labour’s approach was heavier on taxation and the Moores paid a lot more but got some benefits nevertheless. Old Labour also had very generous state pensions and help if you were out of a job – a problem that affects the Lowes and the Meades more than the Moores. New Labour and the Conservatives are now closer on taxation and on the treatment of those out of work, and the benefit levels for the latter have been allowed to erode to very low levels indeed.

If you are trying to make sense of the policies that will be announced between now and the General Election and put them into a bigger perspective, read the book and see just how much has changed and just what a potential difference a swing back to the Conservatives may mean.

Martin Evans

Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at the University of Oxford and co-author of A generation of change, a lifetime of difference? Social policy in Briton since 1979

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