Our social security system is there to support everyone, especially those who need it most - a principle we can all get behind. But over the last decade, child poverty has been rising, and it’s projected to rise even further in the coming years. We need a social security system that’s fit for the 21st century.
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?
What are the principles of a good social security system?
- To prevent and reduce poverty.
- To provide income security by insuring against risks across the life cycle and providing contingencies for certain circumstances.
- To promote social solidarity; it is for all of us, not some of us.
Preventing and reducing poverty
- Our 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.
- Our 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, our 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.
- Our social security system should act as an automatic stabiliser in times of economic uncertainty, such as a recession.
Providing income security
- Our 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.
- Our 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.
- Our 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.
- Our 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
- Our social security system should promote social integration, be inclusive and not be divisive or stigmatising. It should avoid ‘othering’ people.
- Our 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.
- Our 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.
- Our 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 our social security system work?
Our social security system should:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.