Ann Marie Gray and Goretti Horgan “outline issues relating to the implementation and impact of the most recent Welfare to Work policy in Northern Ireland.” in Welfare to Work published by ARK, ACCESS RESEARCH KNOWLEDGE, Northern Ireland.
“The focus on work as the route out of poverty is reflected in the policies and measures introduced since 1997.” they write. “The Welfare to Work Act introduced in Britain in November 2009 is the most recent of these. As a result of this Act, most lone parents with a youngest child aged 12 or over, and from Oct 2010, with a youngest child aged 7 or over, are no longer eligible for Income Support and have to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA); this means that they are required to be available for and actively seeking work. New claimants are no longer able to claim Incapacity Benefit (IB); they, and those already on IB, are being moved to Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
“The basis of justification for much of the welfare to work policy has been that work promotes well-being and that more people should be able to benefit from the rewards of work.
“While in many respects the challenges facing people trying to enter or return to the labour market are similar across the UK, there are important differences with regard to local labour markets and to support infrastructure. While Northern Ireland experienced growth in employment between 1998 and 2008, the biggest increase in jobs was in the service sector and many of them were low value, low wage and part-time jobs. This sector has also been severely affected by the economic recession, as have the construction and manufacturing sectors. The higher number of people employed in the public sector in Northern Ireland means that public expenditure cuts will have a significant impact on the local economy. Infrastructure support, particularly transport and childcare provision is weak. Northern Ireland also has higher levels of disability and mental ill health.
“… Positive impacts of employment depended on secure jobs, improved financial circumstances and employment conditions and support services which enabled people to reconcile employment with other caring responsibilities. People with specific health needs also have to be able to access appropriate support. …In the absence of these factors the research has shown that work can have a negative impact on well-being.
In conclusion, the authors identify Key points and challenges: