Founder of Help Me Investigate. I'm a visiting professor at City University London's School of Journalism, and run an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I publish the Online Journalism Blog, and am the co-author of the Online Journalism Handbook and Magazine Editing (3rd edition). I have a particular interest in Freedom of Information and data journalism.
Step 1: Use a ‘personalisable homepage’ news reader like Netvibes or Feedly
There are a number of services that allow you to follow multiple sources of news at the same time – often called ‘news readers’ or ‘RSS readers’. I used Netvibes for compile this list, because you can share those lists with other people, but you may have another preference (Feedly and Flipboard are also nice, but currently don’t have the same option). The video below is just one of many providing an introduction to Netvibes:
Follow the instructions above on creating an account with Netvibes and adding feeds.
The Guardian is the UK newspaper that invests the most in covering welfare issues.
Their website allows you to follow specific topics such as ‘benefits‘ (within the Society section), as well as individual journalists, such as Patrick Butler. But we’ve picked the general ‘politics – welfare’ topic first because it sometimes includes stories written by other journalists that aren’t classified under either of the other.
The stories include some important context for the figures and anyone looking to report on them, including new guidelines, which according to The Telegraph:
“[Mean] suspects can be charged under the Fraud Act, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and the abolition of the financial threshold which prevented benefit fraud cases of less than £20,000 from being sent to crown court.”
The spare bedroom tax: a mess of contradiction and impossibility | John Harris – And what of the chronic shortage of smaller properties in such places as Hartlepool? In response to this question, I get a remarkable reply: despite the fact that the same statement bemoans people living "in homes that are too large for their needs", it also acknowledges that "most people will not move" and claims that "there are other options available such as taking up employment, increasing hours worked or taking in a lodger".
The Guardian’s Randeep Ramesh reports today on the use of bed and breakfasts to house families beyond the legal time limit of six weeks.
The national picture is that half of the 242 authorities who responded had placed homeless families in private accommodation for more than 6 weeks since April 2010. But what’s your local picture?
A good first stop is your local authority’s expenditure above £500. To find this, try a search like ‘expenditure 500 site:bolton.gov.uk‘ – but replace the last bit with your own local authority’s website (excluding the www.).
These are the welfare-related links we’ve been looking at between December 21st and January 25th:
Management in Practice – GPs could help save £190m in sick pay – Launching in 2014, the advisory service will allow GPs to identify employees who need support as well as issuing 'fit notes'. Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform said: "Long-term sickness absence is a burden to business, to the taxpayer and to the thousands of people who get trapped on benefits when they could actually work.
The cost of government: what does the new transactions data really tell us? | News | guardian.co.uk – And the worst offender? The massive Department for Work and Pensions, which is Britain's biggest spending government department and administers benefits. So, for instance we have no idea how much it costs to process each of the 40m Jobseeker's allowance signing ons or to administer the benefit's 3.4m claims. The Department is responsible for 48,704,000 transactions in the high volume list alone – and we don't know the cost of any of them.
All assistance for unemployed people to find work provided by private/charitable providers
Time-limiting unemployment benefits
Cutting regional pay to fund infrastructure spending – thereby penalising those who are already disadvantaged in order to fund growth-measures, rather than taxing the wealthiest
Selling public housing in expensive areas to private owners, forcing social tenants out of ‘desirable’ areas
Claiming benefits leads to criminality
Re-distributing income to low-paid people is a bad idea, because it ‘does nothing to encourage progression and self-sufficiency‘.
What is George Osborne doing to benefits? | Society | guardian.co.uk – Let's imagine someone receives £100 a month, all of which is spent on goods and services (domestic heating, food, bills, etc). The current inflation rate is 2.7%, which means in a year's time buying the exact same things would cost £102.70. Under the previous system, this is what benefits would've risen to. But with the changes, they would now only rise to £101 – leaving the recipient £1.70 worse off. Given the changes will last for at least three years, this represents a cut in income of between 3% to 6%, depending what happens with inflation. In reality, the impact could be even worse, as research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests low-income households experience a higher inflation rate than richer ones.
Helping connect those investigating the welfare system