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Comment on today’s welfare reform announcements

Stephen Overell

17 February 2011

For immediate release: 17 February 2011

Commenting on today’s welfare reform announcements, Stephen Overell, associate director – policy at The Work Foundation, said:

“The success of these reforms will be wholly determined by whether the economy generates enough jobs at the right skill levels in the right places. In some parts of the country with high concentrations of worklessness and the prospect of a shrinking public sector, the outlook for employment looks especially bleak.

“With the labour market in such a fragile state, any predictions about the numbers of people able to move into work as a result of benefit changes must be open to question. The benefits trap exists because of poor jobs paying poverty wages as much as benefit levels and conditions.

“The rationalisation of benefits payments under Universal Credit is a helpful reform. But the system will remain an inevitably complex one even after its introduction (after 2013) with many different types of payment falling within Universal Credit and some (eg. maternity pay and sick pay) being made outside it.

“We broadly support greater efforts to encourage people to find sustainable employment under the Work Programme. However, we fear providers may be tempted to cherry pick the easier-to-help groups and neglect the longer term workless. The challenge of decent quality work for people with lower skill levels may make the targets over-ambitious.

“The recognition within today’s announcement of the high cost of workforce ill-health is also welcome. Too many people move from temporarily unwell into the ranks of the long term sick – mostly due to mental health and musculoskeletal conditions. Examining whether the system can enable more people to keep in touch with the labour market is sensible.”


Notes to editors
  1. Stephen Overell is available for interviews and briefings.
  2. The Work Foundation is the leading independent authority on work and its future. It aims to improve the quality of working life and the effectiveness of organisations by equipping leaders, policymakers and opinion-formers with evidence, advice, new thinking and networks. In October 2010, Lancaster University acquired The Work Foundation, forming a new alliance that will enable both organisations to further enhance their impact
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