New rules for welfare

May 2010

CarpenterA review of the welfare system to consider ways of enhancing employment, by Professor Paul Gregg from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, informed the Department for Work and Pensions' white paper on welfare reform.

Conditionality – a requirement on individuals to fulfil conditions such as attending interviews in return for receiving full benefits - has become a significant element of welfare systems in the UK and elsewhere. Elements of conditionality exist in the UK welfare system for jobseekers, but it has been far less developed for lone parents and people claiming benefits due to health or disability.

In July 2008, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions assigned Paul Gregg, Professor of Economics in the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at the University of Bristol, to conduct an independent review of conditionality and consider how a more personalised regime might be achieved.

Professor Gregg's report Realising Potential – widely known as the Gregg Review – was delivered to the government at the end of 2008, by which time the global economic downturn was leading to a rise in unemployment. It argued that it was essential not to repeat the mistakes of the two last recessions and allow a large proportion of the workforce to become disconnected from the labour market. The review proposed moving forward towards a single personalised conditionality and support regime, embracing almost all unemployed who claim benefits.

Soon after the report was published, the government responded in its welfare reform white paper (Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future, December, 2008) in terms which widely endorsed Professor Gregg's vision of a welfare state based on personalised support, accompanied by widespread obligations to take it up.

Impact

  • Preparations are now in progress in the Department for Work and Pensions for prototypes in pilot areas to test the moves towards the more personalised and supportive approach to conditionality advanced by Professor Gregg. Large-scale testing, embracing both the government’s Jobcentre Plus service and private contractors, is due to start in October 2010.
  • The Welfare Reform Bill which became law in November 2009 abolished Income Support and placed all benefit claimants on Jobseeker's Allowance if they are well, and Employment and Support Allowance if they are sick.
  • Professor Gregg and other academic researchers have also contributed to government plans on the Young Person's Guarantee which was announced in the 2009 Budget.

Further information