The Commission on Social Security
● The Commission on Social Security is the outcome of lots of different conversations, between lots of different people over a long period of time.
● Those conversations revolved around three recurring themes: the current social security (welfare benefits) system is failing, but there is no consensus on ways forward; ideas for a better social system need to be set out; Experts by Experience need to be central.
● Things came together in 2018 when Trust for London agreed to fund Ellen Clifford (then at Inclusion London), Michael Orton (University of Warwick) and Nick Phillips (London Unemployed Strategies) to undertake a project to produce a White Paper style document on working-age welfare benefits, to be led by Experts by Experience.
● In October 2018 a Project Inception group was formed. This comprised of Ellen Clifford and Nick Phillips, six other Experts by Experience (3 each from Ellen and Nick’s respective networks), Michael Orton as secretary and Austin Taylor-Laybourn as Trust for London observer (10 people in total).
● The Project Inception group decided: a Commission of Inquiry model would be used; all Commissioners would be Experts by Experience; professional experts would form a secretariat (support team), working under the direction of the Commissioners; a matrix was devised for ensuring Commissioners reflect experience of different elements of the benefits system and equalities dimensions.
● There are 16 Commissioners, from a variety of claimant and user-led groups and Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations.
● The Commission Co-chairs are Ellen Clifford and Nick Phillips. Other Commissioners are not publicly identified.
● The secretariat is: Dr Rosa Morris (Independent Researcher on Disability); Dr Michael Orton (University of Warwick – Commission Secretary); Dr Kate Summers (London School of Economics – Research Analyst); Austin Taylor-Laybourn (Trust for London – Observer).
● The Commissioners’ first action was to identify and agree 5 principles (see below).
● The Commissioners then produced a Call for Solutions, asking for submissions of ideas and suggestions for a better benefits system. A topic-based approach was used with questions on key issues including Universal Credit, Sickness and Disability Benefits, sanctions and so on, plus space for people to offer any further comments they wished.
● The Commission and its Call for Solutions were formally launched in May 2019.
● The Call for Solutions yielded 896 online submissions, over 100paper/email submissions and reports, feedback from 17 workshops across the UK attended by 284 people, outcomes from a legislative theatre project and a poetry workshop.
● Commissioners will now produce a Green Paper style document, on which there will be widespread consultation.
The Commission’s 5 Principles
- Make sure everyone has enough money to live – and support extra costs e.g. to do with disability and children.
- Treat everyone with dignity, respect and trust, and the belief that people should be able to choose for themselves.
- Be a public service with rights and entitlements.
- Be clear, simple, user friendly and accessible to all, involving people who have actual experience of the issues, including from all impairment groups, in creating and running the system as a whole.
- Include access to free advice and support. Make sure people can access support to speak up, be heard or make a complaint.
Email the Commission Secretary: Michael.Orton@warwick.ac.uk