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A new report from the Fabian Society finds broad public support for a number of benefits changes, including those directed at working families.
A clear majority of the public wants to keep the temporary £20 a week universal credit uplift introduced during the pandemic, according to a report from the Fabian Society, which says there is also broad support for increased payment to working families among others.
The report is based on evidence generated from an online citizens’ jury, a survey of 1,647 British adults, a consultation with policy experts and microsimulation modelling of policy reforms.
It says there is scope for consensus on a variety of benefits, including the £20 per week uplift, such as:
• Increasing payments for young adults, disabled people, carers and working families – and introducing a new payment for the carers of babies and toddlers.
• Reforming childcare payments to ensure that work always pays
The report notes that differences in sentiments towards different groups of benefit recipients are much larger than changes in views over time and that people are consistently more supportive of spending on disabled people, carers and working families and more hostile to spending on unemployed people, people without children and large families.
The report says more than half the public support the two-child limit within universal credit. However, its research suggests that activists and politicians who want it abolished “will receive a decent hearing if they focus on families with a working, caring or disabled parent”, the very people who make up a large majority of those affected by the two-child policy.
The report recommends an ‘incremental’ approach which would start by retaining the improved housing support and extra £20 per week introduced in 2020 as temporary measures. It would then restore recently abolished increments for first children and moderately disabled people and levels-up payments for 18 to 24-year-olds. It would give a further £10 per week to carers and severely disabled people, and £14 per week to working lone parents and disabled people. It would also introduce a £30 per week element for parents caring for babies and toddlers. And it says to make work pay, childcare payments would be increased to cover most of the costs of full-time childcare and a new £14 per week incentive would be introduced to reward second earners in couples for working.
It also outlines a ‘start from scratch’ approach to benefits reform, but says this is less likely to be adopted due to the expense involved. Although it acknowledges that an incremental approach would also mean higher extra spending, the report says it would deliver “very large results”, decreasing the number of people in poverty by 2.6m and child poverty by at least a third.
The report also calls for other benefits reforms, such as a review of the five-week wait to receive Universal Credit.
Another study from the Institute of Public Policy Research shows the majority of people living in poverty in the UK last year were in households where at least one person was working. The report says the probability of those in working households being in poverty had steadily increased over the last 25 years, up from 13 per cent in 1996-97 to 17 per cent in 2019-20, driven in part by rising housing costs and benefits cuts. Single working parent households have seen the most dramatic increase of those living in poverty.