Programme Overview

'Social Policy in a Cold Climate' is a large programme of independent research designed to document the combined impact of economic and political changes on poverty, inequality and income distribution in the UK between 2007 and 2014, covering the periods of both Labour and Coalition governments. It is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Nuffield Foundation and Trust for London and carried out by a team of researchers based mainly at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at LSE.

Since the global financial crisis of 2007-8, social policy in the UK has been operating in an increasingly 'cold climate': a deep recession followed by low forecast economic growth, demographic pressures and a large public sector debt and current budget deficit. From 2007 to 2010, Labour continued with a policy programme and spending plans designed before the crash. The election of the Coalition in May 2010 heralded widespread austerity measures and also substantial policy reform. It is the effects of this combination of the economic situation, policy and spending programmes, both under Labour and the Coalition, that 'Social Policy in a Cold Climate' aims to investigate.

The first phase of the work, reporting in July 2013, has three elements:

  • An update of the comprehensive evaluation of the social policy record of the last Labour government already produced for its first two terms. This has been produced by many of the same research team who authored A More Equal Society? New Labour, Poverty Inequality and Exclusion (Hills and Stewart 2005) and Towards a More Equal Society? Poverty, Inequality and Policy Since 1997 (Hills, Sefton and Stewart 2009). Added to this, the new evaluation covers the whole period 1997-2010 and assesses Labour's record on health, early years policy, education, neighbourhood renewal as well as cash transfers, poverty and inequality. It looks at policy, spending and outcomes before, through and after the financial crisis.
  • A review of the differential outcomes of the recession on different groups, including comparisons to An Anatomy of Economic Equality in the UK (Hills et al. 2009, the report of the National Equality Panel). It looks at how the distribution of economic outcomes (education and qualifications, employment wages, earnings, incomes and wealth) changed between 2006/8 (just before the recession) and 2010, when the Coalition entered office.
  • A report on the changing distribution of economic outcomes in London over the same period, and on the changing geographical concentrations of poverty in the capital.

These reports provide the first full overview of what had happened up to 2010. They also provide an essential baseline for the continuing work to provide a similarly objective assessment of the Coalition's social policies. Where was the Coalition starting from? What did it inherit from Labour both in terms of the state of the country and the capacity of the welfare state? Were social and economic outcomes improving and were inequalities widening or narrowing? What did the previous set of policies - promoting a larger and more centralised welfare state - achieve?

The second phase of the programme, which will report in January 2015, will comprise:

  • An assessment of the Coalition's social policy record, covering the same policy areas and using exactly the same framework for analysis as was used for the Labour period. Social care, housing and employment will also be included, incorporating comparison between policy, spending and outcomes under Labour and the Coalition.
  • A further update of the ways in which the distribution of economic outcomes changed during the first two years of Coalition government and as the country came out of recession.
  • A further report focusing on the position in London including local case studies.
  • Additional work on geographical concentrations of poverty over the period 2007 to 2014 and on the latest trends in social mobility.

All of the research will provide a robust set of figures and analysis to inform policy formation and debate. It aims to provide an accurate record of what was actually intended, done and spent by the Labour and Coalition governments: a substantive and detailed account to aid interpretation of the claims and counter-claims made by politicians and commentators on all sides. It also provides an overall picture of the distribution of economic outcomes in UK society and how they have changed in these extraordinary times.

Papers from the project are available as follows:

Analysis of the Coalition government 2010-2015
RR04: The Coalition's Social Policy Record 2010-2015, Ruth Lupton, with Tania Burchardt, Amanda Fitzgerald, John Hills, Abigail McKnight, Polina Obolenskaya, Kitty Stewart, Stephanie Thomson, Rebecca Tunstall and Polly Vizard
RR05: Falling Behind, Getting Ahead: The Changing Structure of Inequality in the UK, 2007-2013, John Hills, Jack Cunliffe, Polina Obolenskaya and Eleni Karagiannaki
RR06: The Changing Anatomy of Economic Inequality in London (2007-13), Polly Vizard
WP11: The Coalition's Record on Cash Transfers, Poverty and Inequality 2010-2015, John Hills
WP12: The Coalition's Record on the Under Fives: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Kitty Stewart
WP13: The Coalition's Record on Schools: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Ruth Lupton and Stephanie Thomson
WP14: The Coalition's Record on Further Education, Skills and Access to Higher Education: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Ruth Lupton, Stephanie Thomson and Lorna Unwin
WP15: The Coalition's Record on Employment: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Abigail McKnight
WP16: The Coalition's Record on Health: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Polly Vizard and Polina Obolenskaya
WP17: The Coalition's Record on Adult Social Care: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Tania Burchardt, Polina Obolenskaya and Polly Vizard
WP18: The Coalition's Record on Housing: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Rebecca Tunstall
WP19: The Coalition's Record on Area Regeneration and Neighbourhood Renewal: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 2010-2015, Ruth Lupton and Amanda Fitzgerald

Analysis of the Labour government 1997-2010
RR01: Labour's Social Policy Record: Policy, Spending and Outcomes 1997-2010 Ruth Lupton, with John Hills, Kitty Stewart and Polly Vizard
RR02: Winners and Losers in the Crisis: The Changing Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK 2007-2010, John Hills, Jack Cunliffe, Ludovica Gambaro and Polina Obolenskaya
RR03: Prosperity, Poverty and Inequality in London 2000/01-2010/11, Ruth Lupton, Polly Vizard, Amanda Fitzgerald, Alex Fenton, Ludovica Gambaro and Jack Cunliffe
WP01: Small Area Measures of Income Poverty, Alex Fenton
WP02: Labour's Record on Health, Polly Vizard and Polina Obolenskaya
WP03: Labour's Record on Education, Ruth Lupton
WP04: Labour's Record on the Under 5's, Kitty Stewart
WP05: Labour's Record on Poverty, Inequality and Cash Transfer's 1997-2010, John Hills
WP06: Labour's Record on Neighbourhood Renewal in England, Ruth Lupton
WP07: Hard Times, New Directions? The Impact of Local Government Spending Cuts in London (Interim Report)
WP08: Education and Intergenerational Mobility: Help or Hindrance? Jo Blanden and Lindsey Macmillan

Further working papers and supporting research notes can be found at CASE project page and reports page.

Social Policy in a Cold Climate is a research programme funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation, and Trust for London. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funders.