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

Online Conference

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

This conference will consider the future for social security and welfare reform in England.

Areas for discussion include:

  • the impact of COVID-19 on the social security system, particularly:
    • how Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay, are coping with an increase in claimants
    • how the benefit system has adapted during the pandemic
    • what issues or gaps have emerged, how they are being addressed, and what can be learned for the future
    • effectiveness during the pandemic of different benefit systems (including passported benefits such as Free School Meals), looking at:
      • the impact on key stakeholder groups including carers, parents, the long-term sick and people with disabilities
      • options for reform, including ways in which systems should support the self-employed
  • devolution of power to decide 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
  • the rolling out of Universal Credit:
    • what lessons can be learnt so far
    • how the migration from legacy benefits is working
    • challenges for implementing a system that works for and supports both those in receipt of benefit and those who are charged with its distribution
    • how Universal Credit is working for housing associations and the impact of direct payments.

The context for discussion:

Delegates will consider the issues against the backdrop of a range of developments and issues affecting social security, including:

Further discussion in detail:

The impact of COVID-19

  • implications for the future of the welfare system in the context of the experience of the pandemic, and looking ahead to its impact on the UK economy
  • the increase in claimants as a result of the pandemic - how the social security system is responding, particularly with regard to Universal Credit and Statutory Sick Pay
  • how effective the system has been in supporting:
    • people to quarantine during the pandemic
    • the self-employed, carers, parents, the long-term sick and people with disabilities
  • how the system has worked alongside wider support packages announced during the pandemic such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - and the impact of changes in these packages on the benefit system
  • the position of those with no recourse to public funds during the pandemic

Rolling out Universal Credit

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

  • what lessons can be learnt from implementation and experience of councils and recipients to inform the next stage of rollout
  • with ‘natural migration’ slowing, what further steps are needed to deliver full implementation on time and how is the migration from legacy benefits being managed
  • 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

The agenda:

  • Key and emerging issues for social security and welfare in England
  • Case study: the experience of claiming Universal Credit as a disabled person - what works and what doesn’t
  • 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 self-employed, carers, the long-term sick and people with disabilities
    • Supporting those with no recourse to public funds during the pandemic
    • Devolution and social security and the impact of different approaches to reducing hardship
  • Ensuring for money from Universal Credit
  • Rolling out universal credit - lessons from pilot programmes, implementation issues, migration from the legacy benefits, and supporting councils and recipients
  • Adapting the social security system to meet future challenges

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from local authorities, housing associations and supported housing providers; landlords and their associations; banks, credit unions and other lenders; income protection insurance providers; debt collection and recovery companies; charities and rights groups; financial advice providers; religious groups; job search and recruitment agencies; childcare providers and associations; Clinical Commissioning Groups, Mental Health Trusts and health sector professional bodies; business associations; colleges and other training providers; trade unions and groups representing the self-employed; as well as think tanks, lawyers, consultants and academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

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 Speakers

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

Dr Kate Summers

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

Joanne Roney

Chief Executive, Manchester City Council


Peter Aldous MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Universal Credit

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