A welfare system that works for all

16 November 2016

The welfare system has been a long time in the making. In the story of welfare, it is wrong to see there being a single moment when it burst into creation and that there will be a point in the future when no further reform will be necessary.

Rather, the welfare system has undergone – and requires – a continual process of evolution – of learning and improving, of responding to the way the world is, the way the labour market works, as well as to new ways of thinking and new knowledge we have acquired.

Over the past few years, we have made huge progress in creating a welfare system that responds to the changes in the way people work today. Universal Credit is supporting people in what is a much more fluid, flexible and dynamic labour market, staying with them as people move in or out of work – and helping the large increases we have seen in self-employed people, a reflection of the booming gig economy.

But the speed with which we are seeing change happen requires us not to stand still. One revolution should follow hard upon the heels of another.

That’s why we are ambitious for the welfare system to work better with the health sector, employers and other groups to ensure we build on the successes of our labour market and to make sure it’s inclusive, fair and productive. Groups previously overlooked as contributors to our labour market hold the key to unlocking that potential and building on that success.

Disabled people and those with health conditions, ex-offenders, older people and care leavers are some of those groups that make up nearly nine million inactive working-age people. In the context of the record-breaking employment figures we have seen in recent times, that figure should worry us.

We will look at ways to break down the barriers these groups face. They deserve the same opportunity of a good job and to play a full part in society. Our Green Paper for example is challenging old but enduring attitudes around health and work and the support people need to stay connected to the world of work.

We are bold in our ambition and so we must also be bold in action for those forgotten groups. We must highlight, confront and challenge the attitudes, prejudices and misunderstandings that, after many years, have become engrained in many of the policies and minds of employers, within the welfare state, across the health service and in wider society.

Change will come, not by tinkering at the margins, but through radical, innovative action.

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

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