Unfinished Business: It is time to put Universal Support alongside Universal Credit
by Edward Davies, CSJ Policy Director
Unfinished Business sets out the case for a £460million pot to roll out universal support across the country over five years to support the UK’s most vulnerable jobseekers from mass unemployment triggered by the Covid-19 crisis.
Universal Support is a support service, run by local authorities, that works alongside Universal Credit payments and aims to help welfare claimants tackle barriers to sustained work. It works by identifying ‘complex issues’ holding a claimant back from seeking sustained work. Our proposals include assigning a one-to-one key worker to assess the needs of individuals and guide participants to services. These key workers will be independent of Universal Credit and DWP.
When we first set out plans for Universal Credit, a system of universal support was locked in alongside the universal credit payments. Universal Support is the support service, run by local authorities, and aims to help welfare claimants tackle barriers to personal progress. Evidence from abroad and in the UK suggests that personalised support programmes are best at helping the most vulnerable in society get back in to work.
Our report finds that Universal Support has a Return on Investment of 1.5–2, let alone the human cost, borne by every other part of government where this will make the biggest difference.
Drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, homelessness and difficulties in managing a household budget are among the obstacles identified in our latest work. ‘Unfinished Business’ calls for a new approach in which local authorities work with grassroots charities in providing tailored support, advice and therapy to help troubled jobseekers overcome their personal problems and find sustained employment.
While Universal Credit will continue to deliver key financial support successfully, Universal Support will come alongside and add value by helping people who may be applying for Universal Credit but also need help in stabilising their housing situation, advice on dealing with burdensome debt, help in accessing opportunities to develop skills, or getting an appointment for a medical diagnosis.
These reforms are backed by CSJ Chairman and architect of Universal Credit, Sir Iain Duncan Smith who has submitted the proposals to the Chancellor.
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