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COVID-19 and the temporary transformation of the UK social security system

shawn mach

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Article from Richard Machin, Senior Lecturer in Social Work and Health at Nottingham Trent University:

This commentary discusses the implications of the changes made to the social security system by the UK government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government did not veer from its programme of welfare reform. However, emergency legislation made significant concessions including: an increase in the value of the UK’s main means-tested benefit Universal Credit, more favourable eligibility rules for the self-employed, a reduced conditionality regime, and an increase in the level of housing support.

This paper argues that although the UK government’s COVID-19 social security response was necessary, it did not go far enough. A temporary lifting of some prejudicial elements of the social security system was welcome but this still leaves an overly complex system characterised by unacceptable delays in payment, inadequate support for many vulnerable groups, and inconsistent experiences for recipients of different benefits.


Peter Turville
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Welfare rights worker - Oxford Community Work Agency

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Not sure I would characterise the COVID amendments as a ‘temporary transformation’ - more like a series of sticking plasters.

Arguably the social security system has never been ‘transformed’ by any ‘reforms’ (what ever the government of the day may claim). More a series of relatively superficial changes dressed up to look like major changes (often by changing the name of the benefit / process / administration rather than the substance) accompanied by a lot of ‘spin’ and an over reliance on the ‘miracle’ of IT whilst ensuring the system is ever more remote from the individual claimant.

Or am I just being cynical?