Adequate benefits needed for ‘active inclusion’

Independent experts have sounded a series of warnings over the UK's progress on the active inclusion of people most excluded from the labour market. Adequate benefits, they say, are crucial to any active inclusion strategy.

The experts reviewed the coalition government's actions in 2012 on commitments given to the European Commission: their findings were initially summarised in a 'synthesis' report in January 2013, and have now been released in full.

Key points

  • Benefit levels have increased faster than wages recently: but benefits are low, and people on low incomes have experienced higher inflation due to price rises for basic goods.
  • There is an 'urgent need' to reassert adequate social security provision as a necessary component of active inclusion strategies – in part to promote its social inclusion function and stem the trend to increasingly negative public attitudes to claimants.
  • Universal credit, to be introduced from 2013, will take many out of poverty. But there are concerns over bringing together most means-tested benefits into a single payment, and over administrative risks. The 65 per cent marginal deduction rate under the new credit should be reviewed and reduced as soon as possible.
  • Poverty for working-age adults has been neglected in recent years and will rise in future.
  • The conditionality attached to the Work Programme constitutes the toughest regime thus far, and demands 'careful monitoring' in view of the potential hardship it might create.
  • The coalition's focus on paid employment as a route out of poverty will be 'counterproductive' unless more attention is paid to the quality/sustainability of employment, along with decent pay levels.

Source: Jonathan Bradshaw, Fran Bennett and Roy Sainsbury, Assessment of the Implementation of the European Commission Recommendation on Active Inclusion: A Study of National Policies – Country Report – United Kingdom, EU Network of Independent Experts on Social Inclusion (European Commission)
Link: Report
See also: Hugh Frazer and Eric Marlier, Assessment of the Implementation of the European Commission Recommendation on Active Inclusion: A Study of National Policies – Synthesis Report, Network of Independent Experts on Social Inclusion (European Commission)

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