Social protection and inclusion policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis - United Kingdom

The UK has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. There have been large losses in household income, especially at the bottom end; an increase in poverty and deprivation; and a huge decline in national wellbeing. However, some measures introduced to mitigate the impact of the pandemic have proven to be successes – for example: the furlough scheme; the uplift in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit; the ‘Everyone in’ policy for rough sleepers; the scientific contribution; and the vaccination roll-out is delivering well. In this sense, the UK government’s response to the crisis could be described as an attempt to shield the population from the weaknesses of the pre-existing social protection scheme and from the effects of the governance and political culture of the UK over the last decade. However, the pandemic response has revealed how much the UK’s social protection system needs reform; a positive change in public attitudes towards those on benefits; a realisation of the value of the work of low-paid ‘key workers’; and a pulling together of communities in the face of illness and inequality. The Government should ‘build back better’ on this foundation. This report focuses on UK-wide measures in particular. Lockdowns have been organised at England and devolved nations level. In some cases, especially in Scotland, devolution has resulted in different measures being taken, or in previous policies as a different baseline.