‘Focus on support, not sanctions to get parents into work’

Parents, carers and experts have come together to call for wide-ranging benefits changes to focus on support rather than punishment to help them into work.

Child hold woman's hand at a table. She has her head in her hands and there is an open purse on the table with just a few pence spilling out of it.


Over 100 parents and carers are calling on the Government to reform the benefits system to help people get into and on in work by scrapping punitive benefits measures and focusing on breaking down employment barriers.

The Changing Realities project, funded by abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, is a collaboration of people with lived experience of the benefits system with the University of York, alongside the Institute for Public Policy Research.

A common theme among claimants was the ineffective support of work coaches, in part due to lack of consistency and lack of understanding of people’s circumstances.

Rather than the government doubling down on sanctions, conditionality and other punitive measures, the group is calling for an overhaul of the benefits system to create employment support that works. They recommend, for instance, increasing benefits, scrapping the five-week wait for Universal Credit, the two-child limit and the benefit cap. They say Universal Credit needs to be reformed through exploring flexible assessment periods, incentivising people into work by expanding work allowances and helping claimants with the costs of looking for work. Other changes they recommend include:

  • Scrapping sanctions and investing in mentorship and support
  • Providing a consistent case worker
  • Creating a statement of rights for claimants to rebalance the relationship between rights and responsibilities.
  • Improving access to skills and training.

Dr Ruth Patrick, senior lecturer at the University of York, says: “There is an urgent need to reform our failing system of employment support, moving away from conditionality and sanctions, and from an approach that prioritise transitions into any job rather than supporting individuals to find decent, long-term employment. By listening to the expertise of claimants themselves we can start to rebuild employment support, creating a system that works for everyone. These recommendations would be a very good place to start.”

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