Information Bulletin

Summary of News and Publications from the Week ending 4 April 2014

JRF Activity
Publications How have low-income families been affected by changes to council tax support? - Almost 600,000 low-income families in England are facing a second successive year of above average council tax rises, far in excess of the increase facing households on average. Blogs The Great Housing Disaster: do private landlords risk becoming the new bankers? The unique challenges dementia presents for black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Poorest face a council tax bill increase five times the average.

‘The Minimum Wage: silver bullet or poisoned chalice?’ a new report from the Institute of Economic Affairs recommends the abolition of the minimum wage for under 18s and for employees under 24 who have been unemployed for more than one year, for the first year of employment. It also recommends that Low Pay Commission regionalises the minimum wage from October 2015 taking into consideration economic conditions and business' ability to pay. 57% of people in poverty live in the suburbs, claims a new report from the Smith Institute. Between 2001 and 2011 the number of suburban areas with above-average levels of poverty rose by 34%. Unemployment rates grew nearly three times as quickly in the suburbs than in the rest of the country over the last decade. Scope has launched a new strategy to improve the lives of disabled people which calls for the value of extra costs payments such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payments to be protected and Scope is launching a Commission in June to investigate drivers of disability related costs and how to tackle them. The report also calls for strategies for economic growth such as City Deals to include and provide more work opportunities for disabled people. ‘Better living, higher standards: improving the lives of disabled people by 2020’. The Asda Income Tracker for March concludes that the average UK household had £5 a week extra discretionary income in February 2014 compared to February 2013, representing the fastest growth in the index since November 2012. Based on analysis of IFS data, Labour has released figures showing that the average family is £974 worse off than in 2010.

Two-thirds of the unemployment in Europe is a structural problem that pre-dates the economic crash, says a new report from IPPR. More must be done to develop the skills of young people who don’t go into higher education and to keep skills updated throughout working lives. The UK has seen a drop in training/education during the recession four times greater than other European countries. ‘European Jobs and Skills: a comprehensive review 2014’. George Osborne has said he is committed to securing the ‘fullest’ possible level of employment by helping business to create new jobs and cutting taxes. He stated an ambition to make the UK ‘the best place in the world to create a job; to get a job; to keep a job; to be helped to look for another job if you lose one’. London charity Community Links has published a report on the cumulative impact of welfare reform, focusing on the people in the borough of Newham. ‘Troubled families’ targets may be missed unless delivery speeds up, says a new public accounts committee report. By October 2013, the scheme had achieved ‘lasting improvements’ in the lives of 22,000 families, leaving a further 98,000 to be ‘turned around’ by May 2015. Only 4% of sustained employment outcomes have been achieved. The quality of provision for pre-school children needs to be raised to help break the ‘cycle of disadvantage’ experienced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to Ofsted’s first stand-alone annual report about early years. Information for parents to make choices about early year providers is unclear and inaccessible says the report, and providers in the sector need to be made more accountable. 23% of workers in Wales earn less than the living wage, the largest proportion of all the home countries. BMA Scotland has stated, in evidence to an investigation by Holyrood’s health and sport committee, that health inequalities in Scotland remain entrenched and have risen, since the health of people in the least deprived groups had improved at a faster rate than those from the most deprived communities.

An all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty has been launched, to be jointly chaired by Frank Field MP and the Bishop of Truro, Tim Thornton. The government should exempt all households that contain a person in receipt of higher level disability benefits (DLA or PIP) from the ‘bedroom tax’ says the latest report from the Work and Pensions Committee on support for housing costs in the reformed welfare system. The ‘bedroom tax’ is causing financial hardship to vulnerable people who were not the intended targets of the reforms the report concludes. The discretionary payment eligibility criteria which vary by local author, should also be brought into line - the report recommends the government issues guidance to local authorities that disability benefits should be disregarded in any means tests for discretionary payments. The Liberal Democrat president has this week withdrawn the party’s support for the ‘bedroom tax’ citing ‘huge social problems’.

Climate change in other countries will have a greater effect on the UK than climate issues at home, due to the impact on food security, according to analysts responding to the UN climate change report. The UK imports almost 40% of all food and its population is expected to increase by 10 million in the next 40 years. The UK Fuel Poverty Monitor report 2014, from the NEA and Energy Action Scotland, says that the government’s decision to cut or dramatically modify existing energy efficiency programmes was a mistake and recommends ‘massively expanding’ resources for energy efficiency, especially for low-income households in England, where there is currently no support since the Warm Front Programme ended. It also recommends that the full impact across all home countries should be assessed before UK-wide policies are put in place. A consultation on the operation of the National Planning Policy Framework has been launched, because research suggests that some ineffective and inefficient local planning authorities may be meeting the Government’s planning performance targets, while eff icient authorities overseeing good development may be in special measures because they miss ‘arbitrary and unsatisfactory’ targets. Evidence should be submitted by 8 May 2014. A gross annual income of £35,896 is needed for the average mortgage in Yorkshire & Humber, where the average home costs now costs eight times the average income, according to the latest Home Truths report from the National Housing Federation (NHF). The report reveals only 47% of the number of new homes needed in the region are currently being built and that private rental costs are expected to rise by 50% by 2021.

An Ageing Society
The King’s Fund Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England has issued a call for responses in its interim report, including future funding options and its proposal for a single, ring-fenced budget. ‘A new settlement for health and social care’. Strategies such as a £10 a month membership charge, means testing of ‘continuing care’ and higher taxes on alcohol, sugary foods and tobacco, will be needed for the NHS to survive the next five years of austerity and become an integrated health and social care service, according to a report from think tank Reform. ‘Solving the NHS Care and Cash Crisis’. The Campaign to End Loneliness is calling on Clinical Commissioning Groups to make more funding available for schemes aimed at reducing loneliness. This follows a survey where 36% of GPs did not think loneliness contributed to an early death and did not recognise loneliness as a significant contributor to the likelihood of adverse health behaviours such as excessive drinking, smoking, obesity and low exercise levels. The Commission on the Voluntary Sector & Ageing has published a study that examines the risks and opportunities facing the voluntary sector as a result of the UK’s ageing population. It predicts how the sector might thrive or struggle in the future, depending on the planning they do now. ‘Age of Opportunity: putting the ageing society of tomorrow on the agenda of the voluntary sector today’. Paul Burstow writes about the changes which should remove the anomalies about human rights in private and council arranged care, as part of the care bill. Out of the 4,000 reviews now on the Good Care Guide website, 31% of the home care agencies which had been reviewed were rated as poor or bad along with 18% of care homes. 78% of care homes, however, received excellent ratings.

This Information Bulletin is produced on a weekly basis as an update for staff at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (JRHT) for the purposes of their work – it is not intended to be comprehensive but represents a selection of news and reports appearing in the last week. The items contained in this Bulletin are for information only and do not necessarily reflect the views of the JRF and JRHT.