In a powerful display of unity, more than 100 parents and carers have joined forces to demand significant changes to the government’s benefits system, urging the scrapping of punitive measures and a stronger focus on breaking down barriers to employment.

Under the banner of the “Changing Realities” project, this initiative is funded by the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust.

It brings together individuals who have lived experience with the benefits system, collaborating with the University of York and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to highlight system flaws and propose viable solutions.

Voices from the affected community have expressed their frustration with the current state of affairs. One single parent, Herbie, dismissed the notion that Universal Credit effectively assists people into better employment, calling it “nonsense.”

Another parent, Precious D, shared her personal struggles, stating that she did not receive any meaningful employment support.

The lack of effective support is a common concern

A common concern voiced by claimants was the lack of effective support from Work Coaches. Dotty G, a single parent, revealed her frustration with the inconsistency of assistance, saying, “I don’t believe that Work Coaches understand our individual circumstances, because it seems as if I see a different Work Coach whenever I have an appointment.”

This criticism comes despite the government’s initial promise that Universal Credit would pave the way for more individuals to find and progress in suitable employment.

Rather than doubling down on punitive measures within the existing system, the group is advocating for a comprehensive overhaul of the benefits framework that offers genuine support to those seeking employment.

Their proposed recommendations include:

  1. Improving the adequacy of the social security system by increasing all benefits, eliminating the five-week wait for Universal Credit, and abolishing the two-child limit and the benefit cap.
  2. Transforming Universal Credit to make it more adaptable by exploring flexible assessment periods, incentivizing work by expanding work allowances, and providing financial assistance to claimants in their job search.
  3. Shifting the focus from sanctions to substantial support and mentorship, removing the fear of punitive measures.
  4. Establishing consistent case workers to provide regular, reliable points of contact and personalized assistance.
  5. Creating a statement of rights for claimants to balance the relationship between rights and responsibilities.
  6. Enhancing access to skills training while taking individual skills and career aspirations into consideration.

Melanie Wilkes, associate director at IPPR, emphasized that while not everyone can work, there are millions of people let down by the current benefits system who genuinely want to find employment or work more hours. She urged the government to reevaluate its approach to employment support if it aims to genuinely help people advance their careers.

Dr. Ruth Patrick, a senior lecturer at the University of York, stressed the urgent need to reform the failing employment support system, moving away from conditionality and sanctions. She highlighted the importance of prioritizing long-term, meaningful employment for individuals based on their unique circumstances and expertise, arguing that the recommendations put forth by claimants themselves could serve as a promising starting point in rebuilding an inclusive and effective employment support system for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.