Published by Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 16 November 2016
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Reform partnered with KPMG and Ingeus Pluss on 16 November 2016 to organise a major policy conference on delivering the Government’s ambition of a welfare state that works for all.
Will Mosseri-Marlio, Senior Researcher, Reform
The Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, set out the three principles that will underpin the future direction of policy. First, government is a necessary, but not sufficient, provider of welfare – a vibrant and effective social security system requires input from health professionals, employers and private and third sector providers as well. Second, work is the best route out of poverty, so for the majority of citizens, the principal purpose of welfare is to help people get into work, stay in work, and progress in work. And thirdly, for those that cannot work – be it due to sickness, disability or personal circumstance – the state must do its best to identify them and help them appropriately.
Panel one: “Social security in a changing labour market: big challenges, big opportunities”
This first panel addressed some of the strategic questions that will dominant the welfare policy debate over the next five years. Jeremy Moore argued that, after years of transformation, the Department was moving into a new era of consolidation, with policymakers focusing their attention on getting the most out of the new welfare state. Iain Gravestock and Will Tuckley emphasised the importance of the pushing forward the localism agenda, and the opportunities presented by joining up the sometimes disparate elements of the welfare system. Finally, Callum Williams suggested that the Government ought to rethink the balance of welfare expenditure, highlighting the freeze on working-age benefits and forthcoming cuts to Universal Credit as particularly concerning developments that should be addressed in the Autumn Statement.
Panel two: “Digital welfare: transformation through technology”
The second panel explored the practical steps that government could take to improve social security through digital technology and data. Neil Couling argued that Universal Credit claimants were increasingly shaping the services offered by the Department, changing the nature of citizen-state relationship. But policymakers must not underestimate the challenge presented by digital exclusion, with Bea Karol Burkes noting that there is an increasingly large cohort of young people who are unable to carry out the basic tasks needed to engage in today’s labour market.
The panel went on to address the opportunity to improve the Department’s operations. According to Richard Sargeant, high transaction costs, fraud and error, and services that are insufficiently tailored to people’s needs were all the consequence of the DWP’s inadequate data infrastructure. This point was underscored by Dr Tiina Likki, who argued that smarter use of data could help policymakers move onto a more experimental footing.
Panel three: “Sustainable, rewarding employment for all”
The third panel explored how the Government could deliver sustainable and rewarding work for all. Tracey Waltho opened by emphasising the importance of tackling the disability employment gap, and suggested that decoupling financial support from employment support could be a way forward. Tracey also highlighted the fragmentation that many benefit claimants experience, a point picked up by remarks made by Gemma Marsh and Laura Jackson, who argued devolution can help join up services, as well as provide a standard set of outcomes that multiple agencies can understand. Finally, panellists emphasised the importance of fostering a vibrant welfare system, with Barry Fletcher arguing that a mixed economy is the best way to stimulate innovation in the delivery of employment services.
This event was held in partnership with KPMG and Ingeus Pluss:
16 November 2016
08.50 - 14.00