IPPR: Ruth Patrick’s agenda for welfare reform

In a recent article, ‘Welfare Futures’ (IPPR Progressive Review, vol. 25, no. 3, Winter 2018, pp. 320-29), Ruth Patrick, begins with diagnosis:

The UK’s social security system is in a poor state of repair. The ongoing debacle over Universal Credit’s delayed rollout and the fallout from successive cuts to the social security safety net have left us with a benefits system that is failing to protect people from poverty. Instead, especially for those adversely affected by extended and intensified welfare conditionality and punitive sanctions, interactions with the benefits system can sometimes extend and entrench hardship – what has been described as ‘destitution by design’. (p. 321)

She quotes Chris Goulden: ‘There is a pressing need here to be bold and courageous in thinking through how we might build a social security system that is once again fit for purpose’ (Chris Goulden (2018) ‘Sanctions are going too far and causing destitution’, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ). Patrick characterises the situation as ‘social insecurity, which makes future planning almost impossible, and all too often has a deleterious impact on mental health’ (p. 322: Ruth Patrick’s italics): a verdict that she backs up with detail and evidence. She asks for ‘welfare reform’ that would ‘rebuild social security to make it fit for the Britain of today’ (p. 323). An agenda follows:

  • ‘First, there is a pressing need to return to first principles and rethink the purpose and beneficiaries of “welfare”. …
  • Second, in formulating social security policy … we need … a sustained listening and engagement with people with direct experiences of poverty. …
  • Third, … it is vital to embed principles of dignity and respect within a reimagined social security system. …
  • Linked to this, policymakers need to focus corrective attention on how to stigma-proof the social security system … Doing this will not be easy, but it perhaps calls for a reconsideration of the value in universal forms of social security support …
  • Fifth, and finally, it is time to reconsider the role of welfare conditionality in our social security system, and to explore whether there is a need to roll back from some of the most intensive and punitive forms of conditionality …’ (pp. 323-26)

Ruth Patrick concludes:

We can all play a role in reimagining welfare by having conversations about what a different ‘welfare future’ might look like, talking through the constitutive elements required to build a social security system fit for the challenges of contemporary Britain. … Delivering on all this would require a truly radical programme of welfare reform. But only with such bold reform, can we reclaim social security’s original purpose and properly fix our broken social security system. (p.329)

Ruth Patrick has offered us a well-evidenced diagnosis and an important agenda. A Citizen’s Basic Income would contribute significantly to fulfilling the agenda that she outlines. The Citizen’s Basic Income Trust will be pleased to play its part in the conversation required.






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