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3 August, 2020 Open access

Failings of the UK’s social security system have been exposed by the COVID-19 crisis, says TUC

Workers whose incomes have been hit have sought to rely on the safety net, but in many cases have promptly fallen through its holes

The failings of the UK’s social security system have been exposed by the COVID-19 crisis, the TUC has said, as workers whose incomes have been hit have sought to rely on the safety net, but in many cases have promptly fallen through its holes.

Highlighting a series of changes to the benefit system over a decade of austerity that have pushed working families into debt and poverty - including benefit caps and freezes, a punitive sanctions regime and the introduction of the five-week wait in universal credit - the TUC says that claimants seeking financial support since the start of the coronavirus pandemic are now experiencing the inadequacy of benefit rates, and that the inability of the welfare system to cushion the financial fall for new claimants can be seen in the soaring demand on food banks.

Calling therefore for a 'radical transformation' of the system, the TUC says that the cost of adequately funding the social security budget is small compared to the cost of not acting, which includes both the deep social costs of inequality, and the impact of millions of families with less spending power.

As a result, the TUC urges the government to take a series of immediate steps to provide financial support and security to those who need it most, including -

In addition, the TUC calls for a wider package of financial support for households that would include the permanent removal of the 'no recourse to public funds' restriction, and the introduction of a permanent source of grants to support those facing hardship.

Calling for action to 'transform and revitalise our safety net', the TUC says -

'Many people need to rely on the social security system at some point in their lives. Illness and unemployment can strike anyone at any time, as the pandemic has shown. And when this happens we should be able to turn to social security to help us. We urgently need a political commitment to protect the vulnerable ...'

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