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Mile End Institute

A Future Well and Fair: A Post-Covid Vision of the Welfare State

This project, funded by Research England and led by Dr Paul Copeland (QMUL) in collaboration with Professor Mary Daly (Oxford) and Alistair Leitch (Oxford) provides a Post-Covid vision of the UK welfare state.

The report is the outcome of four roundtables with experts conducted during February 2021. It draws on the experience and knowledge of 33 participants from academic and policy-making circles who are at the forefront of current thinking on the respective policy fields.

A Future Well and Fair - Report [PDF 1,551KB]

Discussions in each of the roundtables centred on three themes:

  • The strengths and weaknesses of the policy field;
  • The impact of Covid-19 on the field;
  • The most urgent areas of reform and feasible policy solutions.

The report presents, in turn, a summarised outline of the main points of discussion and suggested reforms in the four fields. For each, a list of key resources for further reading is also provided in the appendices.

The conclusion argues that the UK’s welfare state is currently caught in a downward spiral of low pay, insecure employment, rising poverty, increasing long-term illness and poor mental health, inadequate social care provision, poverty-level benefits and limited social security entitlement.

If the UK is to become a prosperous, healthy, fair and more equitable society, it needs to acknowledge that the current system of welfare is effectively broken. Reforming existing policy areas in isolation of each other will do little to move the welfare state beyond its current model. A post-Covid-19 reform vision needs to join up the dots to create a Future Well and Fair based on five principles:

  • Repositioning the reform effort to focus less on the individual policy areas and more on key themes that cut across the various constituent elements;
  • Reforming targeted thematic areas to create positive ripple effects across the welfare state;
  • Reimagining that government can raise taxation and, where possible, reintroduce universalism of social security;
  • Regulating to effect policy change;
  • Revitalising political leadership to ensure politicians make informed decisions above and beyond a reliance on the market or party doctrine as a basis for decision-making.