Written evidence from Commission on Social Security (HAB0106)


This submission is on behalf of The Commission on Social Security. The Commission is made up of Experts by Experience, which means everyone who controls the direction and decisions of the work has direct experience of the Social Security system. It is funded by Trust for London and has spent the past 2 and a half years developing proposals for an improved Social Security system, including new approaches to disability benefits.

This has included two wide ranging public consultations. The first, titled a Call for Solutions, was in 2019 and included multiple ways for people to be involved and respond. These included an online survey, which had 906 responses and more than 100 additional responses via paper/email submissions. To increase accessibility and involvement there was also a legislative theatre initiative and a poetry forum, to allow people to respond in the best way for them. In addition, support from the Social Policy Association enabled 17 workshops to be held across the UK attended by almost 300 people.

Following this the Commission further developed some key policy proposals and put these to a public consultation in 2020. The consultation was launched in August 2020 and ran through to the autumn with activity supported by the London School of Economics Knowledge Exchange and Impact fund and the University of Warwick Impact Accelerator Account.

In addition to the launch event 18 other sessions were held attended by over 300 people. The sessions were: 3 open workshops including one British Sign Language session for Deaf people; 11 workshops kindly hosted by Chronic Illness Inclusion Project, Disabled People Against Cuts, Greater Manchester Poverty Alliance, Law Centre Northern Ireland, MIND, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers, Participation and the Practice of Rights – Northern Ireland, People First (Self Advocacy), Poverty Alliance (Scotland), Unite Community North East, Yorkshire & the Humber, Unite Community & Unemployed Workers Centres, Womens Budget Group; 4 invitation only sessions hosted by other organisations at which the Commission was asked to present its proposals.

Covid-19 meant that in-person sessions were not possible so funding was provided to a small number of groups for targeted work to engage their communities as appropriate to local circumstances. This included targeted work in an area of multiple deprivation by Thrive Teesside and with the Bangladeshi community in East London by Toynbee Hall. Just short of a thousand submissions were received via an online consultation form.

In addition to this there was a sub group of Commissioners who did further research around disability related benefits and assessments and held two expert panels with academic and policy makers.

These extensive public consultations showed widespread support for the Commissions proposals.

From their experience as claimants Commissioners decided that policy proposals needed to be underpinned by a set of guiding principles. These are:

  1. Make sure everyone has enough money to live - and support extra costs, e.g. - to do with disability and children.
  2. Treat everyone with dignity, respect and trust, and the belief that people should be able to choose for themselves.
  3. Be a public service with rights and entitlements.
  4. 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.
  5. Include access to free advice and support. Make sure people can access support to speak up, be heard or make a complaint.

Following these two public consultations the Commission on Social Security has developed a range of proposals for a better social security system and plan to have a launch event for these in January.

Below are some of these proposals which relate directly to the questions and ideas raised in the Select Committee’s call for evidence:


  1. The future of Employment Support

An entirely new system of community based employment support is needed. Employment support should be seen as a labour market issue not a benefits one.

  1. Advocacy

There should free advocacy provided by user led services and a fast, accessible, transparent appeals process

  1. Income replacement benefits

Income replacement benefits, such as Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance, need to meet the minimum income standard and recognise that disabled people who cannot work require additional income due to the long term impact of being out of work.

  1. The future of disability assessments and additional costs disability benefit

An additional costs disability benefit must never be means tested.

All assessments must be designed in full co-production with Deaf and disabled people (who are properly paid for their time) 

There must be annual uprating.

No one should be left financially worse off by any replacements to the current disability benefits. 

There must be as little burden on claimants as possible for assessment and review.

Payments must be awarded based on need, not top down targets.

There must be no risk that anyone will be left with nothing at any point.

When considering a replacement assessment process for an additional cost disability benefits the Commission on Social Security believe the following:

         There should be no separate care and mobility components and assessments to look at support needs across the following areas:

         Individualised assessments based on claimant’s self-identified support need and testimony

         The must take account of a person’s full circumstances such as the need for a buddy when travelling or the multiple access barriers Deaf people face.

         A collaborative approach to decision making

         Assessors/decision makers to have in depth training and understanding of the social model of disability and impairment and illness awareness

         More paper based decisions 

         if decision cannot be made just on paper evidence then assessment venue and type to be of claimant’s choosing

         life time awards available

         all forms and communication to be available in accessible formats 

         Payments at three rates:

         Lifetime awards to be available and longer gaps between reviews


December 2021