Westminster Social Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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The future for social security in England - Universal Credit, supporting vulnerable groups and the impact of COVID-19

Morning, Tuesday, 13th October 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will consider the future for social security and welfare reform in England - focusing on the rolling out of Universal Credit and the impact of COVID-19 on the social security system.

The agenda:

  • Key and emerging issues for social security in England
  • Rolling out universal credit - lessons from pilot programmes, implementation issues, migration from the legacy benefits, and supporting councils and recipients
  • Ensuring value for money from Universal Credit
  • The experience of claiming Universal Credit as a disabled person - what works and what doesn’t: a case study
  • Adapting the social security system to meet future challenges
  • Assessing the response to COVID-19 and what it means for the future of the social security system:
    • The impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy and the demand for social security
    • Delivering a wider social security system that works for the most vulnerable
    • Supporting those with no recourse to public funds during the pandemic
    • Devolution and social security, and the impact of different approaches to reducing hardship

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Universal Credit - full rollout of being delayed till 2024 and the concept of natural migration to the new system
  • COVID-19 - government’s response to the pandemic and Social Security Advisory Committee concerns that the benefit cap can block the full value of the additional support in some cases with the Work and Pensions Secretary’s statement that there are no plans to change the benefit cap or suspend the shared accommodation rate
  • eligibility criteria - DWP’s newly presented information for individuals whether they are able to claim universal credit and access specific support schemes and benefits
  • Universal Credit advances fraud - NAO’s report including on how it has been tackled by government and options for future mitigation
  • The economics of Universal Credit - House of Lords inquiry looking at the benefit’s design and how well it reflects the realities of low-pay employment as well its impacts on personal income insurance, housing, childcare, training and levels of employment, job search activity, and poverty levels
  • Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak - government extending the voucher scheme for free school meals following the campaign led by Marcus Rashford
  • the Plan for Jobs - setting out a series of phased measures designed to support the retention and creation of jobs - including a new £2bn Kickstart Scheme aimed at creating thousands of subsidised jobs for those aged 16-24 who are currently claiming universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment

The discussion in detail:

The impact of COVID-19

  • implications - the impact on the UK economy and means what it for the future of the welfare system
  • the social security system response - particularly with regard to Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay, with an increase in claimants as a result of the pandemic 
  • supporting affected groups - effectiveness for people having to quarantine during the pandemic and the self-employed, carers, parents, the long-term sick and people with disabilities
  • what has been learned? - issues and gaps that have emerged, how they are being addressed, and what examples of best practice can be taken forward for the future
  • no recourse to public funds - the position of affected individuals during the pandemic
  • policy coordination - how the system has worked alongside wider support packages announced during the pandemic such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Plan for Jobs scheme, and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - and the impact of changes in these packages on the benefit system

Devolved council powers

  • Decisions on levels and scope of Council Tax reduction schemes (Local Council Tax Support) and the design of local hardship programmes following the abolition of the national Social Fund:
    • how local authorities have responded
    • the impact of the different approaches

Rolling out Universal Credit

With the planned date for full implementation of Universal Credit delayed further to 2024:

  • what has been learned - from implementation, and experience of councils and recipients, to inform the next stage of rollout
  • delivering full implementation - with ‘natural migration’ slowing, what further steps are needed for rollout to be on time and how well is the migration from legacy benefits being managed
  • we also expect discussion of further issues, including:
    • the impact on stakeholders such as housing associations and on those who are in receipt of benefit of Universal Credit and moves to direct payments
    • what more needs to be done to ensure the system delivers value for money and to reduce fraud in advances as outlined by the NAO
    • challenges for implementing a system that works for and supports both those in receipt of benefit and those who are charged with its distribution

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons Library and the House of Commons, and officials from the DWP; MHCLG; DHSC; HM Revenue & Customs; and the Office for Budget Responsibility. Also due to attend are representatives from the Camberley Alzheimer Cafe CIO; Church Of England; Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke on Trent; Disabled People Against Cuts; KCIL; National Education Union; National Federation of ALMOs; National Ugly Mugs; The Community Housing Group; University of Bristol and University of Oxford.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP

Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Keynote Speakers

Edward Davies

Head of Policy, The Centre for Social Justice

Joshua Reddaway

Director, DWP Value for Money, National Audit Office

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP

Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

Catherine Houlcroft

Principal Project Officer, No Recourse to Public Funds Network, Islington Council

Alex Tiffin

Freelance Author and Claimant, Universal Credit

Dr Kate Summers

Fellow, Qualitative Methodology, London School of Economics and Political Science

Joanne Roney

Chief Executive, Manchester City Council


Baroness Lister of Burtersett

Vice chair, All Party Parliamentary Group for Poverty

Anne McLaughlin MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Universal Credit


Tessa Gregory

Partner, Leigh Day

Brendan Sarsfield

Chief Executive, Peabody

Iain Porter

Policy and Partnerships Manager, Social Security, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Ryan Shorthouse

Director, Bright Blue