The COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living has put significant strain on the finances of low-income households, exposing flaws with the UK’s social security system. This report by Bright Blue examines the adequacy, accessibility and fairness of the UK’s social security system for working-age adults in low-income households before and during the pandemic, before proposing three major policies to strengthen social security.
Many social security claimants of working age struggle financially, because the support they receive is inadequate. This is seen both from rates of both poverty and destitution before the pandemic, and with how some UC claimants were struggling financially during the pandemic. The public, across the political divide, believes that financial support through the social security system should be high enough to enable working age people to meet basic needs.
It is also necessary improve accessibility of the social security system for working age adults, as a significant minority of those who need help struggle to access it, particularly for non-UC benefits and grants.
But it is also essential to make the UK’s social security system more fair. The public is supportive of the contributory principle, but the current system does little to reward contribution, especially when compared to the rest of the developed world.
The report recommends three new policies to make the social security system more adequate, more accessible and more fair:
- Establish a new ‘minimum living’ income, which will be proposed by a reformed and expanded Social Security Advisory Committee, which will also recommend the levels and uprating of different social security payments to help low-income households meet the ‘minimum living’ income.
- Create a centralised 'Social Security Digital Platform' for all UC claimants
- Create a new, higher level and time-limited Contribution Element in Universal Credit