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Social (in)security: we know the problems - here's a plan

Author: Michael Orton, Commission on Social Security

River Thames motif

The Commission on Social Security is a Trust for London funded initiative calling for changes to the social security system. Here, the Commission's Michael Orton outlines the need for a blueprint towards a fairer, decent benefits system.

Event on 10 October - find out more.

The Chancellor’s mini-budget has generated considerable criticism from charities, summed up as “a complete failure for the millions of households facing a catastrophic cost of living crisis” by Z2K’s Anela Anwar.

The impact of rising energy costs has been dominating headlines and debate around the cost-of-living-crisis.

But more broadly than this, the crisis has brought a whole range of existing, long-standing problems into the spotlight. Low wages, inadequate benefit rates, high rents and the poverty premium – the extra costs faced by those on low-incomes – are all making the impact of rising food and energy costs much worse.

Failings in the UK’s social security system are central to the issue.

Rising levels of homelessness and numbers of people relying on foodbanks are daily visible reminders. Behind closed doors staggering numbers of people are having to choose between heating their homes and eating.

Campaigns for changes to the benefits system, like retaining the £20 uplift put in place during the pandemic, would provide welcome relief. But to really tackle these underlying, longstanding issues, we need a blueprint for a new social security system.

Unfortunately, there is no immediately available progressive blueprint for a fit-for-purpose social security system. The current government continues with its Universal Credit approach, despite well-publicised shortcomings and ongoing failings. The Labour Party’s position is unclear. Think tanks and policy experts propose diverse and competing ideas that garner little broader support.

The good news is a comprehensive and cogent set of ideas has now been produced by the Commission on Social Security, a project funded by Trust for London with support from City Bridge Trust. The Commission puts people with lived experience of benefits at the forefront of identifying solutions to current problems.

Together, the members of the Commission have produced The Plan for a decent social security system, our blueprint for a new social security system. The Plan is based on a completely new ethos in which social security provides dignity, respect and, vitally, adequate money for people to live on.

  1. A Guaranteed Decent Income, tied to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standards, to ensure that everyone has enough money to live on
  2. An increase in Child Benefit
  3. The introduction of a new disability benefit to replace the current Personal Independence Payment, or ‘PIP’. Importantly, this would be co-designed by Deaf and Disabled people, to ensure the payments and assessment processes are fair and accessible

The Commission is hosting an event on 10 October 2022 to formally launch The Plan and open up discussion about how we can build support for a new approach to social security.

The event will be livestreamed and a small number of in person places are also available. Register here or for more information contact Michael.Orton@warwick.ac.uk.

26 September 2022