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Policy Watch

An eye on policy changes in Ireland, the UK and beyond

Covid-19 and Youth Employment | Covid-19 and Insecure Work | Examining the Harmful Impacts of Welfare Reform

Right to an Income  |  Tue Apr 20 2021

Covid-19 and Youth Employment

The Prince’s Trust and the Learning and Work Institute published findings that in 2022 youth unemployment will cost the government £2.9bn, due to both lower tax revenue and higher spending required on benefits. The report recommended the government make a “Youth Guarantee” of support in finding a job, apprenticeship, academic place or training opportunity.  Here, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey announced measures  including a £20m JobStart employer incentive scheme meant to support to support 16-24 year olds into work.

Covid-19 and Insecure Work

The Trade Unions Congress revealed polling results showing that people in insecure work were nearly 10 times more likely to say they receive no sick pay compared to secure workers -- 67% of those in insecure work as against 7% of those in secure work. The TUC report pointed out that this is a clear barrier to self-isolating amongst many of the key workers at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. TUC analysis indicated that Covid-19 mortality rates amongst people in insecure occupations were double those of workers in secure ones, reinforcing Office of National Statistics findings that insecure work is a contributory factor to higher Covid-19 infection levels. The TUC report included evidence showing that government programming to support workers are failing those who are not in secure posts.

Examining the Harmful Impacts of Welfare Reform

New academic research into implementation of 2010-2015 benefits reforms in the UK found 'institutionally violent' processes, policy tools and managerial methods that "encouraged front-line staff to deliver services in ways that led to a range of harmful outcomes for benefit claimants". These were rolled out in the wake of several years of "pejorative, stigmatising portrayals of out-of-work populations" in political and wider public discourse.

Meanwhile Universal Credit payments in NI were cut by almost £2m in January 2021 alone, with payment deductions -- at times due to benefit debt or overpayments -- taken from more than a quarter of all NI recipients. More than 33,000 claimants were affected, each losing on average around £60. Elected officials questioned the fitness for purpose of a system that penalised so many of its beneficiaries in one month alone.

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