Congress notes that UK benefits fall below the minimum living cost by £140 per month, which covers food, energy and everyday essential items. Millions of people are falling short due to the cost of living crisis and the long-term decline in benefit rates, which are at their lowest in over four decades.
Conference notes that PCS members working in the DWP have experienced chronic understaffing, low pay, unmanageable workloads and creeping privatisation for years. A truly supportive social security system requires a significant increase in staffing and resources to deliver the kind of system the public deserves.
Conference believes the Covid pandemic highlighted the vital role of the social security system with an unprecedented number of people turning to it during a time of national crisis. Conference believes the experience of claimants during the pandemic has strengthened calls for reform and we currently have the most sustained period of public support for social security since the 1980s.
During the pandemic, many elements of benefit delivery were paused, such as the sanctions and conditionality regime. These changes, alongside others, should be made permanent.
Congress agrees that a concerted attacks on our social security system by this government and some media organisations has hurt all working people. We all have to rely on the safety net during times of need.
Conference believes there is an appetite for change but the Labour Party is failing to grasp the opportunity to propose the vital reforms needed.
Congress welcomes the ‘Not Here to Help’ report, by Equity and the University of Warwick, which analyses creative and cultural workers’ experiences of social security and recommends reforms to Universal Credit (UC).
Congress notes that the application of the UC Minimum Income Floor is causing extreme hardship among self-employed and atypical workers in many industries, including the creative and cultural sectors. As the report from Equity and the University of Warwick evidences:
- Four out of five members report that UC has not helped them to work in the industry, this compares to three quarters who said that previous social security systems had helped them.
- 41 per cent of those subject to the MIF have gone without essential items such as food or utilities.
- 46 per cent of those subject to the MIF have been unable to pay household bills.
- 5 per cent were forced to leave their home as a result of the MIF. One told us that they were now living out of their car following the MIF being applied.
Congress calls on the General Council to campaign for:
1. An immediate and permanent uplift in benefit rates to match inflation and provide for restoration.
2. The scrapping of punitive measures, including the sanctions and conditionality regime.
3. More resources for the DWP.
Congress also calls on the General Council to:
(i) Review, outline and campaign for changes to disability-related benefits to ensure they meet the needs of disabled people.
(ii) Highlight the negative impact that conditionality and back-to-work narratives have on disabled people’s lives and rights.
Congress recognises the insufficiency of current provision. It endorses and will campaign to achieve the recommendations of Equity’s research including:
1. The abolition of the UC Minimum Income Floor
2. The need for a review of how our social security system treats atypical workers