A summer of opinions

Friday, 7 August 2015 - 10:38am

Ten opportunities to share your experience and views with central government over the next couple of months.

Photograph: UK Parliament (Flickr)
Photograph: UK Parliament (Flickr)

The economist Adam Smith coined the phrase the “Law of Unintended Consequences” to describe how unexpected things sometimes follow from seemingly unrelated actions. In 2010 the Fixed-Term Parliament Act became law and suggested Adam Smith might know what he was talking about.

As that fixed-term election date drew closer, an unintended consequence was that the regular supply of Government consultations, enquiries, studies, discussion papers and calls for evidence virtually slowed to a trickle.

However, now the election is a few months behind us, we are in the first summer recess of a majority Conservative Government, and the opportunities to input into Government’s decision-making have increased from a trickle to a flood. Over the summer we have perhaps a record number of calls for the views of stakeholders. Many of these have implications for homeless and vulnerable people.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

The social security budget was a key issue during the election campaign and now there are various discussions about how the benefits bill can be reduced. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill is currently before the House of Commons.

The House of Commons Public Bill Committee is interested in hearing from those with relevant expertise and experience or a special interest related to this Bill.

I should clarify that this particular invitation to input is primarily focused on whether the Bill can be amended to make it function better. This is not really a consultation on the policy intents behind it. Many of the pledges made during the recent Emergency Budget are contained within the Bill.

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“Delivery within the benefits system”

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, who provide Parliamentary oversight of the work of the Department for Work and Pensions, is running an inquiry into “delivery within the benefits system”. They are especially interested in hearing from you on the impacts of underpayment and delays.

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Work Programme and Work Choice

The Work and Pensions Select Committee are also running an inquiry into the learning from the Work Programme and Work Choice initiatives which have been trying to help the unemployed find work. This is in advance of a further round of commissioning of Welfare to Work schemes next year. The Committee particularly want to look at how the current programmes have struggled to help those furthest from the labour market and how they can be done better in the future.

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Supporting people with drug, alcohol and obesity problems into work

Keeping with the theme of employment, the Department for Work and Pensions have commissioned an independent review by Dame Carol Black to look at the best way of supporting this group of people into work. It does contain a question about mandatory treatment for benefit claimants but it is a much more balanced document than suggested by the negative media headlines which have accompanied it.

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“A country that lives within its means”

Last month’s budget will be followed by a Spending Review later this year. Public spending for future years will be allocated as part of this process. For “non-protected” departments (including local authorities) a tough settlement is expected.  Agencies are encouraged to submit representations. A particular focus of the Government at the moment is “public service transformation” to ensure services deliver more effectively.

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Reductions to the public health grant

The issue of public sector savings is also covered in a current Department of Health inquiry. The public health grant to local authorities will be reduced by £200 million this year and the consultation asks how that should be distributed amongst local authorities. For example should the reductions be uniform across all councils or should they try to reflect levels of need?

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Tackling rogue landlords and improving the private rental sector

There has been much talk of “rogue landlords” in the news recently in the context of migration and the DCLG have launched a technical discussion paper. Again this is another consultation which seems to go much further than the headlines would suggest. It covers a number of key issues such as fit and proper tests for landlords and easing the laws on abandonment.

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Reforming support for migrants

The migration theme is also evident in a Home Office consultation on “proposals to reform the support provided to failed asylum seekers and other illegal migrants” to “remove incentives” for them to remain in the UK.

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The future of Local Welfare Assistance

There is also some important activity taking place outside Government departmental consultations.

The National Audit Office which scrutinises public spending for Parliament is undertaking a review of Local Welfare Assistance. This covers the local schemes which replaced Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans in 2013 and the funding for them has been in doubt over the last year or so.

We have been asked to submit evidence, and we would welcome any views you have via this short online survey by 12th August 2015

London Housing Commission call for evidence

The Institute of Public Policy Research is also running a call for evidence into how to improve the housing market in the capital.

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How and when to share your views

The evidence our members provide to us is invaluable. If you have any information or evidence that you think would be useful for us to include in our submissions then we would love to hear from you. However, to give us time see how your views might fit with the rest of our response we need information at least a week before the closing dates (see below).

The exception is the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on which we have already submitted.

The closing dates for submissions are:

  1. Bill Committee Welfare Reform and Work Bill – No fixed date (but sooner the better) 
  2. W&P Select Committee  Benefit Delivery – 4th September
  3. W&P Select Committee Welfare-to-Work – 28th August
  4. DWP Support For Clients With Drug, Alcohol or Obesity Issues -   11th September
  5. HMT Spending Review – 4th September
  6. DH Reductions in Public Health Grant – 28th August
  7. DCLG Rogue Landlords – 20th August (written submissions) or 27th August (on-line survey)
  8. Home Office Support for Migrants – 9th September
  9. Future of Local Welfare Assistance (Homeless Link survey) – 12th August
  10. 10. IPPR Improving London’s Housing market – 12th October

If you would like to contribute to any of these consultations. please send your response to Paul Anderson