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Covid-19 pandemic shows our benefits system unfit for purpose, says TUC

11 August 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed our benefits system to be unfit for purpose and needs a radical transformation, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has said.

The umbrella organisation of Britain’s trade unions argues that the failings of the UK’s social security system are the result of years of deliberate attacks on the social security system, with around £34 billion of cuts made to social security since 2010.

It highlights that over a decade of austerity, including benefit caps and freezes, a punitive sanctions regime and the introduction of the five-week wait in universal credit, has pushed working families into debt and poverty.

The TUC says that:

“Making our social security system fit for purpose requires fundamental changes, including scrapping universal credit. The immediate priority, however, is for the government to devise an urgent plan to provide financial support and security to those who need it most.”

Among the Immediate steps to fix our social safety net proposed by the TUC include:

  • raising the basic level of universal credit and legacy benefits, including jobs seekers allowance and employment and support allowance, to at least 80 per cent of the national living wage (£260 per week).
  • ending the five-week wait for first payment of universal credit by converting emergency payment loans to grants.
  • ensuring no-one loses out on any increases in social security by removing the arbitrary benefit cap. In addition, no one on legacy benefits should lose the protection of the managed transition to universal credit as part of this change.
  • the suspension on conditionality requirements for universal credit needs to remain.  

In addition the TUC recommends that sick pay must cover the basic costs of living

  • statutory sick pay must be sufficient to cover basic living costs. Weekly payments must rise from £95.85 to the equivalent of a week’s pay at the Real Living Wage – around £320 a week.
  • the lower earnings limit for qualification for sick pay must be removed to ensure everyone can access it, no matter how much they earn. 

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

“DR UK supports the TUC’s call for a radical transformation of the social security system including aligning benefits more closely with earnings.”

For more information, see Our social security net is failing during the Covid-19 crisis available @ tuc.org.

See also TUC calls for basic level of Universal Credit to be raised to £260 week during coronavirus outbreak available from disabilityrightsuk.org.