Security not sanctions: Making Universal Credit work for seriously ill and disabled people  

Z2K’s new co-produced report offers a new proposal for making Universal Credit work better for seriously ill and disabled people.

Economic inactivity and disability benefits are high on the political agenda. The Government has made several proposals to reform the disability benefits system and increase economic activity in recent months, including proposals to tighten the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and later abolish it. 

But these proposals miss the point. They don’t address the key drivers of economic inactivity within the benefit system itself – inadequacy and risk – and, in some ways, exacerbate them. Instead, we need a solution that would truly tackle economic inactivity, and would also work for disabled people and people with long-term conditions that prevent them from working. 

At Z2K, we set out to identify how we could make Universal Credit work better for seriously ill and disabled people. But it quickly became clear that it’s not possible to achieve this by only looking at how the disability-related elements of Universal Credit work. Looking narrowly at this part of the system just keeps in place the risk of a poor WCA and the drop in income to a level that just isn’t enough. 

Through analysing the current system and government’s proposals and holding a series of focus groups with people with lived experience of this system, we have developed a proposal that both removes the key drivers of economic inactivity within Universal Credit and guarantees security, not sanctions, for disabled people and people too unwell to work.   

Our proposal has three core elements, which are designed to be taken together. Combined, these take the risk out of the system, provide genuine security for everyone receiving Universal Credit, and enable people to move towards work without fear of a sudden income drop. 

  •      Increase the Standard Allowance so that over time it reaches the level of the Standard Allowance plus the Limited Capability for      Work and Work-Related Activity Element of Universal Credit 
  •      Overhaul the Work Capability Assessment, and eventually have it only determine the conditionality group you are in 
  •      Introduce a floor into Universal Credit, below which someone’s Standard Allowance cannot fall 

This is a big change from how Universal Credit currently operates – but this just shows how far from an effective system we currently have. I would urge anyone interested in our social security system and how it can be improved to read our proposal. 

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