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March 9, 2011

8th principle of welfare reform

The Coalition Government plans to bring about fundamental changes to the welfare system and in particular how unemployed people are supported back into work.  In the past, we have highlighted the proposal of the Create Consortium to have a Community Allowance introduced – recognising the key contribution of local communities to welfare reform. The Govt. has set out seven guiding principles for its welfare reform programme. Create propose there should be one more

The 8th Principle, published by the CREATE Consortium recognises the “community dimension” in tackling worklessness. Without this principle DWP risk not only missing out on an important part of the problem and the solution but David Cameron’s vision of all government departments supporting the development of the Big Society.

Louise Winterburn, Director of the CREATE Consortium said: “The 8th principle addresses David Cameron’s challenge to all Government departments to support communities to develop local solutions. With £1.5 billion already guaranteed to be spent by the Government on welfare to work next year, it is vital that a “Big Society” principle is included in Welfare Reform to ensure that deprived communities will benefit from this money for the long term.”

Recognising the relationship between individuals on benefits and the communities in which they live, would also give a major boost to Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to get long-term unemployed people back into work. The Create Consortium are proposing a “Community Allowance” which offers a practical and affordable way to create new jobs in the most deprived communities. This could create the paid “stepping stone” jobs envisaged in the 21stCentury consultation document, while enabling communities to ensure vital community work is done – showing how Big Society and Welfare Reform could work together.

The CREATE Consortium draws on the direct experience of community-led organisations working with individuals in some of the most deprived communities across the UK. St Peter’s Partnerships, in Ashton-under-Lyne (described in August by David Cameron as “inspirational”) is one such organisation that has been supporting local people to get back into employment. St Peter’s Partnerships want to be able to offer the Community Allowance – developing new part-time jobs in the community with wraparound training and support for long-term unemployed people. Their work with Micky, a local resident in the area shows why a Community Allowance could help those who want to get back into work and out of the ‘benefit trap’.

Micky’s attempts to move off incapacity benefit and into work have proved confusing, time consuming and unproductive. Despite this, he is still desperate to get back into work in a fulfilling, high value job that supports his community. He is determined that he will get a job. Unlike the majority of people on incapacity benefit who are more likely to die or retire than find a job after being on incapacity benefit for more than two years.

In his own words;

Community Allowance is for people like me who want to get out, want to work, want to get on. Real people, who aren’t doing anything wrong, who are getting kicked from pillar to post. It’s that step up – the pride that you need back, the commitment, everything really… All I want to do is to get on the ladder but it’s impossible at the moment – you need that step up first.”

With over 100 organisations, from large international NGOs to small local tenants groups, supporting the creation of a Community Allowance, CREATE’s ‘8th Principle’ is one that the Government cannot afford to ignore.

To read a full version of the 8th principle click here