The government needs to develop a clearly articulated long-term vision for the role of contributions for people of working age who are not in work. This is the main recommendation of new report prepared and published today (October 24, 2022) by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) as part of its statutory competence to provide independent advice.

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance and New Style Employment and Support Allowance – two additional payments that people who are out of work can receive, regardless of their financial assets or their partners’ incomes – have been a neglected policy area for the past decade, as the Department for Work and Pensions in the focus was on the nationwide rollout of Universal Credit. This continues a decades-long trend in which successive governments have allowed the value of working-age contributions to decline as the role of other working-age benefits increases, such as increased support for families with children, renters and other benefits on verification of material values. – work support.

Research has shown that many aspects of these benefits work well. But it also identified a number of areas where too often the system fails, resulting in poor service for those eligible to pay contributions. This stems from a lack of focus and lack of investment in these benefits. As Universal Credit now operates across the country, the Committee urges the Government to develop a long-term vision for these benefits.

Dr. Steven Brien, SSAC Chairman:

While the decision on the role of the contributory principle rests with the government, it is appropriate that ministers clearly articulate the role they want this historically important component of working-age social security to play in the 21st century. Such reforms may take time and may not be the most immediate development priorities. However, we would welcome a commitment to make early discrete operational changes with a clear statement of long-term intent to give applicants and wider stakeholders a clear direction.

The committee identifies a number of options to achieve greater coherence, from a change to the operational layer that would provide access to Universal Credit-style technology and the pooling of work coaches for those with dual claims, to the provision on a single IT platform and full integration of workers’ compensation benefits by age.

While the full integration of working-age benefits with Universal Credit contributions would not be achievable in the short term, if it is to be a long-term goal to determine the exact direction of travel. Having a section of Universal Credit available to those who are deemed to have paid into the system without means tests, for example on their financial assets or partners’ incomes, would have a number of advantages. This would increase traction and eliminate many of the problems identified in our research that arise from different systems struggling to work well with each other. Reforms and operational changes can be made incrementally over time to improve how the system works for applicants and how it is managed, bringing us closer to the ultimate goal of integration.

To read SSAC Occasional paper 26: The future of working-age contributions for those out of work.

Notes for editors

1. SSAC is an independent advisory body to the Department for Work and Pensions. Its statutory task:

  • to provide advice and assistance to the Secretary of State in response to a specific request or on his own initiative
  • scrutinize secondary legislation relating to social security for the benefit of the Secretaries of State for Work and Pensions or the Department of Social Development for Northern Ireland and Parliament

2. The Committee consists of: Dr. Steven Brien (Chair), Bruce Calderwood, Carl Emerson, Kayleigh Hignel, Philip Jones, Grainne McKeever, Seyi Abakin, Charlotte Pickles and Liz Sayce.

3. Further inquiries should be directed to Denise Whitehead, Committee Secretary, Tel: 0300 046 0323.