Interest in the prospect of radical benefit reform is high. Ministers have been talking about it, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has discussed it, and a Government-commissioned report on welfare reform has devoted an important chapter to it.
The seeds of this emerging interest in radical change were probably sown in a short chapter on long-term benefit reform in the Government Green Paper A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work published in early 2006. Having set out its proposals to reform Incapacity Benefit, the Green Paper delivers a stark judgment on the structure of the social security system in this country.
In this chapter the authors examine the case for a single working-age benefit. They conclude that this offers perhaps the best prospect of achieving a benefit system that actively supports welfare-to-work policy (in a way that neither the current system nor the imminent changes to Incapacity Benefit does), is greatly more responsive to individuals' needs than the current system, and matches a rights and responsibilities agenda.
A single working-age benefit seems not only desirable, but also feasible, not necessarily as a short term reform, but certainly within a 10-year time frame.
A background paper, by Howard Reed, setting out the costings process behind these recommendations, is available here.
Note: this is the third chapter of an ippr report 'It's all about you: citizen-centred welfare', edited by Jim Bennett and Graeme Cooke, to be published in September 2007.
Snakes and ladders: Tackling precarity in social security and employment supportAcross the country, people are trying to make ends meet, build financial security and pursue their aspirations. But, in a vicious cycle of snakes and ladders, many are being pulled down into poverty.
Making markets: The City's role in industrial strategyTo tackle climate change, we need a significant increase in public and private capital investment.
Broken hearted: A spotlight paper on cardiovascular diseaseProgress on cardiovascular disease was a significant driver of better health and prosperity in the latter half of the 20th century, however progress has recently stalled – with indications it may be in reverse.