The UK’s Inadequate and Unfair Safety Net

The UK has, in theory, an income safety net to ensure that nobody has too little income to subsist.
Universal Credit (UC) is supposed to provides a minimum monthly income for all working age adults and
their children, provided that those able to work take steps to find employment. Pension Credit provides a minimum income guarantee for those above state pension age. The purpose of these benefits is to ensure that nobody has to be left without financial means; on this basis, some people are excluded because they have savings that they could draw on. But for this to be called a safety net, it needs to be set at a level sufficient to meet people’s basic needs. No government has ever tested benefit levels against this criterion.

The Welfare Cap

The welfare cap is a limit on the amount that government can spend on certain social security benefits and tax credits. The cap aims to better control spending in an area that can be difficult for government to control. Around half of total welfare spending is included in the cap. It excludes pensions and those payments most sensitive to the economic cycle. The cap was first introduced in Budget 2014 and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) – the UK’s fiscal watchdog – first reported on whether the cap had been met or exceeded alongside Autumn Statement 2014. The operation of welfare cap is laid out in the Charter for Budget Responsibility – the document that sets government policy and targets for the public finances.

We have to take it one day at a time

Over the past three years, Age UK has conducted six waves of research into older people’s health
and care. Initially, this was focused on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we heard about
how much older people were struggling with accessing healthcare, managing their own physical
and mental health, taking part in community life and caring for others. This had a huge impact on
both physical and mental health, as older people were unable to get the care and support that they needed.