Published by Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 16 November 2016
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- The Reformer Blog
In November 2016, Reform held a welfare conference with a keynote speech by Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. There were also three panels on key topics of: ‘Social security in a changing labour market: big challenges, big opportunities’; ‘Digital welfare: transformation through technology’ and ‘Sustainable, rewarding employment for all’.
This conference brochure contains articles covering themes from across the conference from leading figures in the field including:
The new Prime Minister entered Downing Street promising to “make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.” To spread opportunity and fight injustice.
The policy choices made in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be key to achieving this vision. It means ensuring a fair, affordable welfare system in which, wherever possible, people are not parked on welfare, but are able to experience the well-evidenced benefits of work.
The successful delivery of existing programmes is at the heart of this. Universal Credit (UC) is designed to make work less risky and more rewarding, and the benefit system easier to navigate. The Work and Health Programme is aiming to help people with a health condition or disability, or experiencing long-term unemployment, into sustainable work. But these programmes alone will not be sufficient. In fact, their effectiveness has already been constrained by decisions taken by the previous Government.
New ministers must reflect on whether, in their current forms, either is fit for the new Prime Minister’s purpose. They must also consider whether current policies are sufficient to help those families described by the Prime Minister as “just managing” – trapped in low-income, or insecure, jobs – to progress.
And they will be forming their policies against an uncertain economic backdrop and changing labour market.
The implications of Brexit remain unknown, but an economic downturn, with an increase in unemployment, would have serious implications for the DWP. Jobcentres are already being asked to deliver more with the roll out of UC and a significantly expanded role in supporting people on incapacity-related benefits to move into work. It is not clear they have the capacity to deliver their current workload, never mind an increased one.
At the same time the labour market is evolving: traditional jobs are increasingly being replaced, self-employment is growing and the skills gap expanding. An economy that works for all must by definition be one in which everyone can participate.
The first panel will explore the challenges and opportunities of a transitioning economy, and what this means for the DWP’s contribution to the new Government’s vision.
A deterioration in the public finances as the result of a downturn may also mean pressure to lower costs – more efficient delivery mechanisms will be needed. UC is a digital platform, but there remains considerable scope for better deploying technology and data to deliver a smarter welfare state, more intelligently driving the behaviours it seeks. The second panel will consider how this can be achieved.
The Government’s continued commitment to halving the disability-employment gap, coupled with the threat of increased unemployment in the wake of the EU referendum vote, makes the pressure to deliver high-quality, value-for-money services even greater. The final panel will explore how best to support people into, and then to progress in, work.
Reform is delighted to welcome speakers and attendees to this major conference. As the parliament progresses, the Government’s priorities and the economic context in which they will be delivered will become clearer. Reform will continue to champion reform that delivers a welfare state that works for all.