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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

One For All: Active welfare and the single working-age benefit

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.

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.