From welfare to work

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The Independent Online
The Government quickly showed it meant business over the welfare state with a succession of measures to transform health and social security.

Lone parents were targeted with a new deal to get them back to work; all those with a school-age child were to be invited for job-search interviews and lottery money was allocated for after-school clubs. The sick and disabled also received a pounds 200m boost from the windfall fund to enhance their work prospects.

For the NHS, there was an extra pounds 1.2bn to ease pressure on resources. Public health, under Tessa Jowell, also shot up the agenda with the Government promising to ban tobacco advertising and setting new targets to reduce the health gap between rich and poor.

The "two-tier" system of fundholding brought in by the previous government was also abolished, with Health Secretary Frank Dobson saying that NHS trusts would be required to operate common waiting lists regardless of whether the patients were referred by fundholding or non-fundholding GPs. The Government also reassured the business community, giving the go-ahead for the first hospitals in the history of the NHS to be built with private money.

It was not a complete triumph for the new administration, however. The Government was criticised for going ahead with Tory plans to cut lone- parent benefits, along with other measures to restrict housing benefit, child allowances, Jobseekers' allowances and council and disability allowance. Such cuts represent a saving of pounds 1bn by the end of this Parliament.

Glenda Cooper