We will ensure fair access in order to advantage the disadvantaged and improve their outcomes.”

-          Open Public Services White Paper

Why Fairness?

The Government believes that in addition to decentralising power in public services, the state must provide extra help to the disadvantaged and target resources towards them in an effort to address inequalities.

Fairness, though, is in the eye of the beholder. Whilst some view austerity and cutting public services as unfair, others view the current level of state spending in the same light.  As a result there is considerable debate as to whether the coalition’s proposal could be considered ‘fair’. For instance, this is apparent in the Welfare Reform Act 2012’s size criteria for social housing. Whilst the Government believed that it was unfair for tenants with a spare bedroom to receive an equal amount of housing benefit as those with smaller accommodation, others viewed the ‘bedroom tax’ as unfairly penalising people on housing benefit, asking them to pay more or lose their homes.

Where has this been delivered?

Education services

  • The Academies Act 2010 states that academy arrangements must ensure no charge is made for admission or for education provided.
  • The Education Act 2011 provides for the introduction of targeted free early years care for children under compulsory school age.
  • The Education Act also expands the academies programme to alternative provision academies, which cater to children who would not receive suitable education unless alternative provision was made for them.
  • The Education Act provides for a progressive rate of interest to be charged on student loans.
  • It also allows fees for part-time undergraduate courses to be capped.
  • It requires Ofqual to ensure that the standards of English qualifications are comparable with qualifications awarded outside the UK.
  • The Education Act places restrictions on the public reporting of allegations made against teachers.

Welfare services

  • The Welfare Reform Act 2012 replaces seven different types of benefit schemes with a new Universal Credit, paid to people both in and out of work.
  • The Welfare Reform Act also introduces a size criteria in social rented housing, with reductions in benefit if a dwelling is deemed larger than necessary.
  • It replaces Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment, a benefit based on how a person’s condition affects them rather than the condition they have.
  • The Welfare Reform Act introduces a benefits cap to prevent households on working age benefits from receiving more than the average wage for working families.
  • The Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013 prevents claimants from challenging a sanction for a failure to comply with the Employment, Skills and Enterprise (ESE) Scheme Regulations on the grounds that the ESE Regulations were invalid or the notices given under them were inadequate. This is to ensure that jobseekers previously sanctioned for non-compliance under ESE Regulations cannot receive an unfair advantage over compliant claimants.
  • The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 creates two new criminal offenses for tenants ‘knowingly’ and ‘dishonestly’ subletting social housing.
  • The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act also gives the court a duty to consider making an unlawful profit order instead of or in addition to other penalties.
  • It enables social landlords to recover the total illegal profit made minus the rent paid by the tenant during the relevant period.
  • The Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act prevents assured tenants who sublet or part with the whole of the property from regaining their tenancy by moving back in.

Law and Order services

  • The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 gives greater flexibility to the scrutiny and utility of temporary event notices.
  • The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act allows greater flexibility in the membership of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.