This expansion has happened while targeted spending on Sure Start has been cut by two-thirds, fuelling concerns about what this will mean for social mobility.. Add to this that the additional hour entitlement excludes jobless parents, then weigh in the abandonment of plans to boost quality in deprived areas and it seems any pro-poor focus of early years spending is being steadily eroded. Housing benefit has been repeatedly cut while the supply of new, affordable social housing has continued at anaemic levels.
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Who, then, is the post-crash welfare state really serving? The working-age poor have clearly lost most, with the young and families with children being particularly singled out.
Having borne the brunt of post-crash austerity, they are now feeling the pain of Brexit-related economic turbulence as declines in the value of the pound generate higher prices. But this is not the full story of the austerity decade. It is confounded by the pro-poor tilt in school funding and it does not really chime with experience in the NHS and these are our two biggest services. Universal benefits for the increasingly well off old have increased while universal child benefit has been means-tested and cut.
If there is a clear logic it is hard to discern. Yet even this falls short. Some 1. The abject failure of our system to cover largely uninsurable care needs — a quintessential risk that welfare states are supposed to protect us from — is a glaring failing that undermines the idea that the old always get their own way. The austerity decade has given us a welfare system destined to unite disparate groups in disappointment, even if the reality is that some groups have fared dramatically worse than others.
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The fiscal winds that once helped us now blow hard the other way. The postwar era witnessed a historic switch of resources out of defence and into social security and health that can never be repeated. On taxation, too, there were one-off dividends such as the move to a broad-based tax system: at the outset of the second world war, there were fewer income tax payers in total than there are just higher-rate tax payers today. However, against this, there are powerful currents that push the other way.
The pensioner bloc is sufficiently potent that no minister will countenance raids. On the NHS, we have already passed the point where continued spending restraint is more politically toxic to a Tory government than the prospect of raising revenue to fund it at a sustainable level though we still await specific tax proposals.
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Likewise, cuts to school funding are likely to be self-correcting as they generate a counterblast from parents and professionals that ministers, in time, will bend to. And the politically potent coalition behind more universal childcare — buoyed by rising maternal employment and the gradual erosion of gender earnings imbalances — is likely to see provision expanded.
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The number of families with children who reported that the only benefit they received was SNAP grew percent between and Between and , even as the welfare rolls were shrinking and more one-time recipients were moving to work, extreme poverty was increasing. Living in extreme poverty has very real consequences for families, Shaefer said.
Reduced TANF access in states is associated with higher food insecurity, increased child homelessness, a jump in foster-care placement, and more juvenile detention, according to soon-to-be-published research by Shaefer and colleagues. Families are often forced to sell their food stamps, their plasma , their bodies, to get access to cash to survive on, he said. Welfare reform had big goals of moving people to self-sufficiency by training them to work. But it did little to create job opportunities or the types of programs that help people stay in jobs once they get them.
States only spend about 8 percent of their TANF funds on work-related activities and supports, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Even if those programs existed, that type of job training is rarely effective, said Jacob Klerman, a senior fellow at the research firm Abt Associates. Many of the people who need training come from bad schools and lack basic reading, writing, math, or science skills. Of course, there are people for whom welfare reform did push them off the dole and into employment—or at least for whom welfare reform coincided with a growing economy that enabled them to find work.
According to Shaefer and Edin, nearly 75 percent of low-income single mothers were employed by , up from 58 percent in Working yourself out of poverty is much harder.
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Still, if the problems with welfare reform span the country, some states are nevertheless making it worse than others. In , Arizona reduced the time limit to 36 months from 60 and terminated child-only cases, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its caseload fell 66 percent between and States including Kansas, Michigan, and Indiana implemented similar changes and saw similar drops in the numbers. The differences among states have meant that the ability of the very poor to survive can depend on where they happen to live.
Bouncing back after she arrived in Arkansas in was a daunting task. With almost no money, she and her son stayed in shelter after shelter after she got on TEA and started volunteering. Her welfare counselor wanted her to find a job right away, but she pushed back and said she wanted to go to school. She eventually went back to get certified as a pharmacy technician.
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The day I met her, her son had missed the school bus in the morning and she had to take three buses just to drop him off at school. Ellis recently started a job as a pharmacy technician at Walmart. She has an apartment and has finally achieved a degree of stability.
It was disability benefits, something that few other single mothers could access. The disability payments helped her get an apartment and go back to school, she told me. Steady monthly payments are what other people, such as Raquel Williams, might have gotten, had welfare still existed.