Secure Futures for Children and Families | CPAG

Secure Futures for Children and Families

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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. We are inviting contributors to consider 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 will be encouraged to grapple with, and members of the public will be invited to explore them in a citizens’ jury.

Over the next few months we will be inviting people with a wide range of perspectives to contribute to the review, through research papers, blogs, interviews and films. If you are interested in making a contribution, or would like to find out more about the project, please contact Sophie Howes, Senior Policy and Research Officer, showes@cpag.org.uk.

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

The latest from the project

Why give money to people who ‘don’t need it’? The case against intensive means-testing

05 November 2019
Having a targeted safety net – or means-testing – can consistently miss the mark. While it’s supposed to target social security payments, it is not always the most effective way to reach the people we might define as ‘needing help most’. Perhaps counter-intuitively, more universal support, such as child benefit for families with children, or personal independence payment (PIP) for certain people with disabilities, may reach more of the target group, but simply and without stigma.

The problem with means-testing

As part of our Secure Futures for Children and Families project, our CEO Alison Garnham looks at the problems with means-testing in the social security system.  

Income security for families with children

01 November 2019
Low-income families are faced with ongoing challenges in budgeting and balancing the regular costs of living with meeting the need for more occasional and one-off items. But it is not just expenditure that is ‘lumpy’ in this way. Income can also come into households at different times and in different amounts. Research with families looking in depth at money management highlights something of a paradox in the juggling of low income.

What are the principles of a good social security system?

TO PREVENT AND REDUCE POVERTY

A social security system should prevent and reduce poverty.

TO PROVIDE INCOME SECURITY

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

TO PROMOTE SOCIAL SOLIDARITY

A social security system should promote social solidarity; it is for all of us, not some of us.
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.
PROMOTING SOCIAL SOLIDARITY
  • 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?

 

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.