Exclusive: Welfare should reflect ‘what you put in’ to tackle public mistrust, says Labour’s shadow DWP secretary
Jonathan Reynolds hit out at the “Victorian” Universal Credit. (Image: UK Parliament)
Britain’s welfare system needs a stronger link between “what you put in and what you get out” to tackle cynicism among working people, Labour’s new Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has said.
Jonathan Reynolds said those who have made “greater contributions to the system” should receive more out of it.
And he told The House that a lack of “connection” between contributions and support was now a “big problem” for Britain’s social security system.
In his first national interview since being appointed to Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet, Mr Reynolds called for the Government’s “Victorian” Universal Credit welfare system to be scrapped and replaced with a simpler model that is available to all.
And he said: “One of the reasons that support for social security has diminished amongst parts of the country is the sense that people put into the system and they don’t get anything out of it.
“In a way, if you look at eligibility for Universal Credit, people are not wrong.
“You can make significant contributions to the system and find that actually, you’re not really eligible for any major support if you need it, even in a crisis like this one.
“I think you’ve got to recognise that that’s a big problem for working people in the UK.”
The Labour frontbencher added: “When you’re looking at how you design or change the system going forward, certainly I feel if you have made greater contributions to the system, there is an argument that you should receive more out of that system.
“It doesn’t mean that you will ever be leaving people without support or leaving them destitute.
“But I simply feel that that lack of a connection between what you put in and what you get out has become a major problem of social security and the political support for it.”
Mr Reynolds also called for the savings threshold in Universal Credit, which rules out support for individuals and couples with more than £16,000 in savings, to be ditched during the coronavirus crisis.
"I think the income threshold, the means-tested bit of Universal Credit should go during the crisis, because if you've been saving for a housing deposit or substantial item, you of course could end up with no eligibility at all because of that, or at least more likely have a substantially reduced entitlement,” he said.
And the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said of Universal Credit: “It is a system predicated on a very kind of Victorian attitude to poor people. The ethos of it is mean, it is something almost predicated on the idea that you've got to hit people with a stick, to get them back into work.”
The Labour welfare spokesperson meanwhile argued that the Covid-19 pandemic had “destroyed” the case for the Government’s two-child welfare limit and the benefits cap, and said the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) ban on a raft of welfare payments for thousands of migrants should not apply.
He instead wants ministers to increase Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance in line with the £20-a-week rise to Universal Credit, ditch the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, and make Statutory Sick Pay both available to all and more generous than its current £95.85 a week.
Mr Reynolds also used his interview with The House to set out what the underlying principles of a welfare system under Labour should be.
They include greater use of universal benefits; increased dignity and respect for disabled people; and a push to end child poverty.