This report offers a view on ‘welfare reform’ in recent years from the perspectiveof the Clydebank Independent Resource Centre (CIRC).
It is being written at acrucial moment in the history of welfare in the UK. The Welfare Reform Bill currentlygoing through Parliament represents, in the words of the Social Security AdvisoryCommittee (SSAC), “a major departure from the principles … that have underpinnedUK social protection for almost 60 years”.
system”. The “architect” behind the plan is a former banker, David Freud.
He is thebanker referred to in the main title of the report. He is also the person to whom ‘thebankies’ (people from Clydebank) are addressing themselves – though of coursethey are simultaneously, and every bit as importantly, addressing themselves to thepoliticians who appointed him as their key adviser.Freud’s plan was published in March 2007.
At that moment bankers in generalwere highly regarded. However since then things have changed; for we now knowthat at that moment the UK economy was experiencing a fantastic economic bubble
sector. That irresponsibility and incompetence was, unfortunately, facilitated by the
politicians), took the continuation of the unsustainable boom as given, and based hispolicy thinking on that assumption.Many, including the SSAC, had serious reservations about the ‘direction of travel’in welfare policy even when that assumption was widespread. But with the onsetof what the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund has called ‘thegreat recession’, the latest departure looks plainly wrong-headed. Some of this was
of the Bill in Parliament: “The Bill was conceived in a boom world and by the time itoccurs it will be largely irrelevant to our constituents”.Yet this is perhaps too optimistic, for the greater likelihood is that the measures inthe Bill will be relevant to many, but too often in a very negative, damaging way.And, as one journalist recently observed, the Bill is proceeding through Parliament“at an unseemly speed”. Worryingly: “No one apart from a desperate and despairingcoalition of poverty groups and trade unions seem to much care that this curiouslyscanty bill gives the secretary of state for work and pensions sweeping and vaguely
a raft of ‘work preparation’ activities”.There is little serious debate inside Parliament, and unfortunately not very muchmore outside of it. Such debate as there is has often been conducted in wildly
recipients, based on serious misunderstanding of their lives and circumstances and
as leading surveyors of public attitudes have indicated, the government has itself done much to fuel since 1997.
Such prejudices portray claimants as feckless andidle cheats who ‘neither work nor want’ and who need to be coerced out of their ‘dependency culture’ and into work.But, just as misleadingly, recent government reforms are being presented in termsof the “personalisation” of service to individual “customers”, and “individuallytailored” advice and support to enable claimants to “take control of their journeyback to work”. These latter terms bear just as little relation to the precarious lives of
are linked. They are two sides of a single, and false, coin – the undeserving anddeserving poor.
It is in this context that the people at the CIRC have decided to try to make acontribution to the debate, based on their long-standing experience in serving thetown of Clydebank. It is a contribution which they believe will help to show howwrong the prevailing policies and terms of debate have been in recent years – whenthe economy was in boom, and the policy agenda was rather less harsh. And if thatis true, then as boom turns to bust and the policy agenda becomes yet harsher, thenew measures will be even more wrong.
the report offers a view, from the perspective of the CIRC, of the Freud-inspiredwelfare reforms. First, it focuses on Freud: Who is he, and how did he become so
welfare reform agenda of the government since 1997. This provides the context in
Thanks to Oxfam for funding towards the research for this report. Thanks also to John English, JohnFoster, Bernadette Laffey, Gerry McCartney, Lynne Poole, and colleagues at Oxfam – both in Glasgow(particularly Jim Boyle) and Oxford – for comments and advice. The authors retain full responsibility for anyomissions or errors.
“No one Written Off: Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility – The Response of the Social Security
, 17 February 2009.
Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity: Options for the Future of Welfare to Work
, henceforthreferred to as
The Freud Report
Madeleine Bunting, “Workfare has arrived in Britain”,
See the annual
British Social Attitudes Report
series in the years after 1997 – e.g. the 16
Report(1999/2000), the 18
Report (2001/2002) and the 19
Quotations from article by Bunting, as note 5 above.
2/3‘It is in this context that the people at the CIRC have decided to try to make acontribution to the debate, based on their long-standing experience in serving the townof Clydebank. It is a contribution which they believe will help to show how wrong theprevailing policies and terms of debate have been in recent years...’