OVER 100 parents and carers have come together to call on the government to reform the benefits system to help people get into and on in work, by scrapping punitive measures and focusing on breaking down employment barriers.

The Changing Realities project, a collaboration of people with lived experience of the benefits system with the University of York, alongside the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have come together to highlight issues with the system and propose solutions.

One single parent, Herbie, said: “The idea that Universal Credit gets you into work or off benefits into better employed work, is nonsense”. Another, Precious D, added: “I did not receive any help [employment support]”.

A common theme among claimants was the ineffective support of Work Coaches. Dotty G, a single parent said: “I don’t believe that Work Coaches understand our individual circumstances, because it seems as if I see a different Work Coach whenever I have an appointment”.

This comes despite the government’s promise that Universal Credit would ‘help more people to move into and progress in work’.

Rather than the government doubling down on a failing system of 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:

  • Improving the adequacy of the social security system by increasing all benefits, removing the five-week wait for Universal Credit, and abolishing the two-child limit and the benefit cap.
  • Transforming Universal Credit to make it fit for purpose by exploring flexible assessment periods, incentivising people into work by expanding work allowances, and helping claimants with the costs of looking for work.
  • Removing the threat of sanctions and instead focusing on offering substantial support and mentorship.
  • Providing a consistent case worker to establish a regular, reliable point of contact and provide personalised support with appropriate guidance and mentorship.
  • Creating a statement of rights for claimants to rebalance the relationship between rights and responsibilities.
  • Improving access to skills and training and taking individual skills and career goals into consideration.

Melanie Wilkes, associate director at IPPR, said: “While not everyone is able to work, there are millions of people being let down by the benefits system who want to get into work or work more hours, but the system is failing them. The government needs a serious rethink about employment support if they want to help people get on with their careers.”

Dr Ruth Patrick, senior lecturer at the University of York, said: “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.”

* Read the report Employment support that works: the importance of relationships, flexibility and removing barriers here.

* More information on the Changing Realities project here.

* Source: Institute of Public Policy Research