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Disabled people asked to help to design a social security system of dignity, respect and trust

20 June 2019

Disabled people and others with personal experience of claiming benefits are leading a ground-breaking project to devise a new social security system, in which claimants would be treated with dignity, trust and respect.

The Commission on Social Security, led by Experts by Experience, will seek ideas from other claimants, organisations and academics, before drawing up their own white paper and putting it out for consultation.

They will then launch a campaign to seek public and political approval for their final ideas.

Every one of the commissioners who will produce the white paper has been or is on benefits, and all of them represent grassroots, user-led organisations that fight for the rights of benefit claimants and disabled people.

They hope that other benefit claimants, thinktanks, academics and civil society organisations will now share their own ideas for how to reform the system after the commission launched a call for evidence, with a deadline of 31 July.

The commissioners have drawn up a list of five key principles on which they believe any new social security system should be based.

They say:

  • all claimants should have enough money to live on;
  • should be treated with dignity, respect and trust;
  • should have rights and entitlements; and
  • should have access to free advice and support.

They also say that the system should be clear, simple, user-friendly and accessible, with people with lived experience involved in creating and running it.

Ellen Clifford a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and one of the commission’s two co-chairs, told its 29 May launch event that its grassroots, user-led approach could avoid the “mistakes, the harm and the waste that top-down policy-making has led to in recent history” that had failed benefit claimants and disproportionately impacted on disabled people.

She said:

“The pace of changes to social security that have been brought in, each with their own specific calamitous consequences, has left claimants, disabled people, and the organisations that represent us, fighting a largely rear-guard action as we attempt to mitigate the worst impacts and try what we can to ward off further avoidable harm.

As a consequence, we can easily come across as anti-everything and as having lost the forward vision that used to characterise the disabled people’s movement.”

She added that the combination of complex policy changes and user-led groups losing funding and capacity had led the movement to focus on “what is, rather than what could be”.

The other co-chair of the commission is Nick Phillips from London Unemployed Strategies who said:

“The commission is a great breakthrough for claimants’ rights to have a say in the shaping of a benefits system that affects their lives profoundly.

We would like as many of those affected as possible to contribute to our call for solutions. This is their opportunity to have a voice and make a difference.”

The original idea for a grassroots, user-led project on the future of social security was first suggested by Dr Michael Orton, from the University of Warwick’s Warwick Institute for Employment Research. The commissioners will be supported by Dr. Orton and three other academics and researchers.

The commission is funded by Trust for London, which provides about £8 million in grants every year for work that aims to reduce poverty and inequality.

DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser Ken Butler said:

“The Commission is a fantastic initiative and opportunity. Undoubtedly like Disability Rights UK, all Disabled People’s Organisations will welcome it and want to help and promote the largest possible response from disabled people to its call for evidence. And then seek to push for informed welfare reforms that disabled people actually want and need”.

You can respond to the Commission’s call for evidence here by 31 July.

Source and for more information see Call for help to design a social security system of dignity, respect and trust @ www.disabilitynewsservice.com