Social policy expert: ‘Double Child Benefit and bring in Universal Income Benefit now’

Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, social policy expert at Kent, provides comment on the impact of COVID-19 on welfare state and the further actions he believes the UK Government need to take. He said:

‘COVID-19 will have immediate and also longer-term impacts. In the short term businesses are closing, people are losing their jobs, there are more evictions and there has been an explosion of demand at Food Banks as many people face poverty. The Government has addressed some of these issues. Real problems remain. Demand for Universal Credit is soaring. There are numerous reports of people being unable to make claims because the website lacks the capacity to handle them and repeatedly crashes.

‘In my view, the Government should:

  • Double child benefit. It would be possible to do this overnight and it goes to all families on low and middle incomes – those who face the greatest pressures. It would cost £12bn, but save on the wages subsidy and on other benefits and it’s the kind of money that Government spends on keeping business going.
  • Bring in Universal Income Benefits – this could roll together Universal Credit, Sick Benefit and any other payments to employers for wages and support for people losing jobs. It would go to everyone who needed it and solve the problem of finding ways to get money to those who are hardest hit.

‘Long-term we will face recession and the Government will be massively in debt. We must handle this better than we handled the Great Recession in 2008/9. We cut the state to achieve short-term savings. The result was that the economy contracted and then stagnated, and wages still haven’t got back to 2007 levels. We must make sure that we support investment right across the economy, both state and private sectors. We must also open up to trade especially with the EU which accounts for more than half of our exports.

‘The good news is the outpouring of generosity we have all seen. When it matters, people value the NHS and they value each other. The Government must guarantee respect for all citizens. The Universal Income Benefit is one very concrete way of doing that in very concrete terms.’

Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Founding Academician at the Academy of Social Sciences and, previously, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Sociology and Social Policy Section. Between 2009 and 2010, Professor Taylor-Gooby participated in the Prime Minister’s No 10 ‘progressive consensus’ Round Table and advised the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Professor Taylor-Gooby was awarded the OBE for services to social science in 2012. 

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