A new report by the Fabian Society has found that the majority of people are in favour of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift, that was introduced at the start of the pandemic, to be made permanent.
The new report forms part of their wider Social Security Solutions project which asks whether, in light of the Covid-19 crisis, a new consensus can be reached, both broadly within society and across the political spectrum for a more generous social security and a system that includes stronger contribution based universal entitlements in addition to means testing.
Why social security matters
“Good social security is essential for creating a society with broadly shared prosperity. It is needed to prevent hardship, help people meet every day needs, cushion against losses of earnings and equalise the living standards of people with the same incomes but different essential costs. Social security is necessary to prevent homelessness, hunger and problem debt, insure people against a rainy day and give families with ordinary jobs enough for a reasonable standard of living.”
Fabian Society, Going with the grain, how to increase social security with public support
The Covid-19 crisis has unfortunately meant that many people have had to call on the support of this system for the first time, showing us that a robust social security system is of benefit to us all.
Call to review the social security system
The report points to two key areas of the social security system which need to be reviewed.
Parents with childcare needs should always know they will be better off if they work more hours, whatever their circumstances. At the moment this is not true for parents who need to use full-time childcare (i.e. with young children) or with more than two children. This is because the limit for UC childcare payments is set below the cost of full-time childcare and is capped at two children.
Although the average disabled person receives more in social security than people without disabilities, the extra they receive is insufficient to cover the additional costs they face or their reduced capacity to earn. In 2018/19 38% of disabled people aged 18-65 were recorded as living in poverty, compared with 18% of those without a disability. This suggests that at least half of disabled working-age adults are likely to lack an income sufficient to meet their reasonable minimum needs.
What changes to the social security system are supported by the public?
Public opinion matters both for introducing reforms and sustaining them over time. Attitudes to social security become a bit more positive in the years leading up to the Covid-19 crisis and have improved a little further following the pandemic. Now the temporary £20 a week Universal Credit uplift has been introduced; a clear majority want to keep it. There is also consensus around:
-Increasing payments for young adults, disabled people, carers and young families- and introducing a new payment for the carers of babies and toddlers
-Reforming childcare payments to ensure that work always pays
-Ending the 2-child limit for working families