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Department of Social Policy public lecture
Good Times Bad Times: the welfare myth of them and us

Date: Wednesday 12 November 2014 
Time: 6.30-8pm 
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speaker: Professor Sir John Hills
Respondent: Polly Toynbee 
Discussant: Professor Holly Sutherland
Chair: Professor Julian Le Grand 

This ground-breaking book Good Times Bad Times: the welfare myth of them and us by John Hills, challenges the idea of a divide in the UK population between those who benefit from the welfare state and those who pay into it.

John Hills is Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at LSE

Polly Toynbee is a political and social commentator for the Guardian.

Julian Le Grand is the Richard Titmuss Professor of Social Policy at LSE. 

Holly Sutherland is a Director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex.

Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users:  

#LSEwelfaremyth

This event is free and open to all with no ticket or pre-registration required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For any queries see LSE Events FAQ or contact us at events@lse.ac.uk or 0207 955 6043


News Posted: 12 November 2014      [Back to the Top]

Disabled people are worth the National Minimum Wage:
Lord Freud's widely-reported recent remark that some disabled people are not ‘worth' the National Minimum Wage (NMW) is not supported by CASE research

By Abigail McKnight and Tania Burchardt

Just before the minimum wage was introduced back in April 1999, disabled people were disproportionately employed in jobs paying less that the NMW rate: 8.5% of disabled men compared to 5.3% of non-disabled men, and 20% of disabled women compared to 13.2% of non-disabled women. This meant that they stood to gain from significant wage increases – but they were also most at risk of lay-offs, if employers responded to the introduction of the minimum wage by reducing the number of their employees.  

At the time, there were a number of calls for disabled people to be made exempt from the NMW for this reason. But our research found that both disabled and non-disabled men and women actually increased their chances of remaining in work over the period that the NMW was introduced.  This was no doubt due to the buoyant labour market at that time.  We also found no evidence among disabled men or among disabled women that changes in their chances of remaining in work were significantly lower than for non-disabled men or non-disabled women respectively.

We concluded that exempting disabled employees from the NMW would be likely to increase discrimination against disabled people by giving a clear signal to employers and others that disabled workers could be treated less favourably. This is in direct opposition to the Equality Act. The vast majority of disabled employees earning less than the NMW before it was introduced did not lose their jobs following its introduction. The introduction of the NMW therefore led to an increase in the wage of these low-paid disabled employees, and, although it was not covered in our original research, one would expect that subsequent increases in the minimum wage have similarly benefitted disabled people in the labour market. 

We suggest that a much better approach would be to continue to keep disabled employees under the scope of the NMW legislation, improve the enforcement of the Equality Act and to support disabled employees with very low intrinsic levels of productivity through supported employment services. Furthermore policy would be better targeted at addressing the low levels of skill and education among parts of the disabled population, which is most often the root cause of low wages and high rates of non-employment.

In the light of the recent comments made by Lord Freud that some disabled people are not worth the National Minimum Wage we would like to suggest that our research findings are just as relevant today as they were when first produced in 2003. Disabled people have been major net gainers from the NMW and there is no evidence to support the case that they should be exempt.

Research paper: Disability and the National Minimum Wage: A Special CASE?


News Posted: 20 October 2014      [Back to the Top]

New report launched
Hard times, new directions? The impact of local government spending cuts on three deprived neighbourhoods

CASE researchers, with funding from Trust for London, have examined, through an in-depth case study approach, three London councils’ responses to the cuts, as well as what those responses have meant for services and residents of one of the most deprived wards of each borough.  The research focused on services for families with under-fives, young people 16-24 and older people 65+.

Key findings include:

  • Front line services for under-fives and young people have been impacted in all wards (with the exception of under-fives services in Camden) but not to the degree we might have expected from the extent of local government spending cuts.
  •  Staff reductions were widely reported in these services and were the principal change in most cases.  Those reductions were being offset as far as possible through paid staff doing more and through use of volunteers.  For this reason more extensive impact to the front line had to this point been avoided.
  • Services for older people had been affected more than services for under-fives and young people in all three wards.  Losses of day centres, reductions in activities, or higher charges had occurred across the case studies.  Adult Social Care makes up the largest part of council spending and as councils are obliged to protect statutory provision discretionary community services are being substantially impacted.
  • In the wards where children’s centre activity provision had been reduced parents reported worsening behavioural problems.  Parents on low incomes were not able to offset those service reductions by paying for private services.
  • Older residents who had experienced changes in local provision reported greater boredom.  In some cases the changes have created  a barrier to access (e.g. inability to pay higher charges) and leaving those older residents more isolated.  Social ties were being severed with service losses.
  •  VCS organisations we spoke with are under increasing pressure, particularly smaller, locally specific ones.  We have to question the long-term potential of VCS provision supplying the antidote to council reductions at the local level given the extent of competition for funding reported.  We have noted here the reduction in all wards of funding to VCS providers of older people’s services and, importantly, the impact of that on older residents’ lives.
  •  This work reflects a snapshot at a particular point in time, just before local elections in 2014 and before a second round of budget cuts.  The situation is likely to get worse.  Several of the service managers we spoke with were unsure of the future of their job or the service they managed.

A summary is available to download here (pdf) and the full report available here

The report is part of the Social Policy in a Cold Climate research programme, jointly funded by Nuffield Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Trust for London.


News Posted: 16 October 2014      [Back to the Top]

Report Launch:
Facing Debt: Economic Resilience in Newham

On 18th July 2014 the final report was launched from a year long research project conducted by the London School of Economics for the London Borough of Newham into the impact of debt and the experience of life on a low income.

 

The rising cost of living, stagnant wages and welfare reform have placed many households under increased financial strain. This report, commissioned by the London Borough of Newham and written independently by Professor Anne Power, offers a powerful insight into the lives of some of the hardest pressed people in our country. This research highlights the struggle of both working and non-working households and explores the relationship between financial planning and skills and attitudes to credit and debt. The report also provides a valuable insight into the real impact of welfare reforms and helps to inform Newham’s ongoing work to strengthen resilience.

 

A panel discussion was held with Polly Toynbee (Guardian), Vidhya Alakeson (Resolution Foundation), Professor Anne Power (LSE) and Sir Robin Wales (Mayor of Newham). The discussion considered the drivers and solutions to increasing levels of personal debt and what can be done locally, nationally and within the community to build economic resilience. The London Borough of Newham also outlined its plans to respond to the analysis in the report.  

The full report is available here (pdf). An audio recording of the launch event is also available.

Watch an interview with a Newham resident who took part in the research.


News Posted: 18 July 2014      [Back to the Top]