The foundations of the UK’s modern social security system were established in 1942, with the aim of alleviating the great social challenges faced by communities, families and individuals whose lives and experiences were very different to their modern-day contemporaries. 80 years on, far too many people do not receive the basic support they need from the welfare system. Long term issues have gone unresolved, and the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted major areas of weakness in our social infrastructure more clearly than at any time in recent decades. We have seen a surge in demand for government to provide enhanced short-term income, the increasing need for universal credit and the dire state of child hunger and poverty in the UK.
But why is the existing welfare state failing those who need it? Does Covid19 present an opportunity and a responsibility to fundamentally rethink what it is for? And if so, what does a welfare system fit for the 21st century look like? In the second in a series of seminars tackling the longstanding challenges our communities face, Camden and Leeds councils are bringing together a diverse mix of people with a fresh take – those pushing for change to improve the lives of citizens – to discuss how we can build a modern, 21st century welfare state that enables our communities to genuinely build back better in 2021 and beyond. We will explore key areas of innovation, what a new model could look like and what role local government and partners can play in helping to create an accessible welfare system that works for all our communities and families. This is one of the great challenges of our time and there will not be a one-size-fits-all solution — interventions must be locally relevant and agile to what is working (or not) on the ground.