Secure Futures for children and families

Secure Futures for children and families


We know that the social security system, which is one of the ways that we as a society protect children from poverty, is not working. Over the last decade, child poverty has been rising, and it’s projected to rise even further in coming years.

We believe that a social security system that does not protect children from poverty is not fit for purpose. This is why we are launching a new project, Secure Futures for Children and Families, that will ask the question: What does a social security system that provides a secure future for children and families look like?

Read the introductory paper Where we are now and what needs to change

We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we do have a clear idea of the principles that should underpin such a system. Secure Futures will review key aspects of the social security system against these principles, to identify where the current system is falling down, and what might be needed to create a social security system that can deliver on these principles.

The aim of Secure Futures is to think afresh and come up with a proposal, or a set of proposals, for what a truly effective social security system might look like. Contributors have been considering the pros and cons of different social security models when compared against our principles. For example, means-tested benefits can be useful at targeting support at the very poorest, but is this the most effective way to reduce poverty? Universal benefits help to build social solidarity as everyone gets ‘something’ from the system, but how can they be delivered in a way that ensures that those on the lowest incomes get enough? These are the types of questions the contributors to the Secure Futures project have been grappling with, and members of the public have been invited to explore in citizens’ juries.

Read the paper Social security – where have we been and where are we going?

Read the interim report Transforming social security: How do we provide secure futures for children and families?


The latest from the project

Transforming social security: How do we provide secure futures for children and families?

Our Secure Futures for Children and Families project asks the question: What does a social security system that provides a secure future for children and families look like? Through a programme of roundtable events with different audiences, four citizens’ juries, and a series of written contributions, we have explored this question in detail. This report brings together what we learned from these activities.

A minimum income guarantee in Scotland

What is a minimum income guarantee? There are numerous models that have been proposed, but the general idea is that everyone should be entitled to a minimum level of income. In Scotland, it has been suggested that this level should be set with reference to a minimum income standard. However, it is often assumed that this guarantee can only be delivered by some kind of means-tested payment to lift incomes up to the threshold, but as we shall see this minimum can actually be achieved in a number of ways.

Post-pandemic futures: Social security reimagined

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the shortcomings of the UK’s social security system. As we move out of the pandemic, there is a need to grasp this opportunity to debate and start planning for a new and better social security settlement. In this briefing note, aimed at campaigners, policy makers, and those engaged in anti-poverty work, we argue that this must be an expansive debate that has the expertise of people with experience of poverty and social security at its centre. We reflect on the participatory work of Covid Realities, and on the ambitious and radical proposals for reform developed by its participants.

What are the principles of a good social security system?


A social security system should prevent and reduce poverty.


A social security system should provide income security by insuring against risks across the life cycle and providing contingencies for certain circumstances.


A social security system should promote social solidarity; it is for all of us, not some of us.

Secure Futures for children and families

Preventing and reducing poverty:


  • A social security system should help with additional lifetime costs, including the additional costs of raising children, the costs associated with disability, housing costs, and childcare costs.
  • A social security system should support people to be able to work in a way that suits their circumstances, as well as recognising the value of unpaid care work.  
  • At a minimum a social security system should provide adequate resources to protect people from poverty and eliminate destitution. It should support people to achieve a decent level of income based on individual needs.
  • A social security system should act as an automatic stabiliser in times of economic uncertainty, such as a recession.


Providing income security:    


  • A social security system should help families meet the cost of life events and maintain their income security, including having a child, becoming unwell, and moving in and out of work. 

  • A social security system should provide a minimum level of income security at all times: no one should be left without support as a result of crisis, sanctions or delays. 

  • A social security system should protect people in vulnerable circumstances, providing adequate resources to people who need long term support, for example severely disabled people and their carers. 
  • A social security system should redistribute income across the life cycle and between individuals and households in a way that reduces inequalities of income and power. This redistribution should be both vertical and horizontal.




  • A social security system should promote social integration, be inclusive and not be divisive or stigmatising. It should avoid ‘othering’ people.
  • A social security system should promote individual autonomy, operating as far as possible on an individual, not household, basis with payments for joint expenses going to the person who will use them for the intended purpose.
  • A social security system should reduce inequalities between different groups of people who experience structural disadvantage, for example women and disabled people. It should not discriminate.
  • A social security system should have the trust and support of the public and should be a system that people feel that they have a stake in.


How should the social security system work?

How should the social security system work?


A social security system should:

  1. Be simple, flexible and timely: simple to use and flexible enough to respond to individual needs and circumstances. It should be efficient and timely and able to reflect and respond to the different contexts across the four nations.
  2. Promote individual autonomy: empowering people to make choices that fit with their circumstances rather than prescribing certain behaviour, life choices or family type. It should give people control over their own income.
  3. Treat people with dignity and respect: administered in a way that respects the human rights of those that use the system and treats them with dignity and respect.
  4. Give people a voice: with mechanisms in place to ensure that the voices of those who use the system and those who work in the system are heard. This includes a meaningful right to independent advice, advocacy and representation.
  5. Maximise claimant incomes: with a take-up obligation on the state. Appropriate support should be provided to people in vulnerable circumstances who may find it hard to access their entitlement.
  6. Be rights-based: claimant entitlements should be based on the law, with a clear right to appeal and a limit on discretion. This includes ensuring the system is transparent and accountable, and upholds the UK’s obligations under human rights law, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.