Work and Pensions Select Committee escapes Westminster bubble and heads to Birmingham

Steve McCabe MP, a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, was joined by a cross party group of MPs at the University of Birmingham to hear evidence from Birmingham academics and other witnesses on welfare reform and citizens income. It is part of a programme to get the committee 'on the road' and out of the closed confines of Westminster.

They heard from a panel of expert witnesses including the Adam Smith Institute, Unison, the Fabian Society and University of Birmingham academics Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, Peter Alcock and Professor Karen Rowlingson, who are also both Selly Oak constituents!

The panel presented supporting and opposing views on citizens income. Those backing the idea included Louise Haagh (University of York), Annie Miller (Citizen’s Income Trust), Ben Southwood (Adam Smith Institute) and Becca Kirkpatrick (Unison). They advocated for the idea of a basic secure income for everyone, Ben Southwood is also a keen advocate of reducing the role of the state.

On the other side, Peter Alcock (University of Birmingham), Declan Gaffney (Independent Policy Consultant) and Andrew Harrop (Fabian Society) argued that the introduction of citizens income would be cost prohibitive and wouldn’t get rid of the current system of means testing.

The idea of citizens income is to provide a social security system whereby everybody legally resident in the UK would receive a basic income regardless of gender, employment status, family structure or contribution to society. Whilst the experts presented different arguments for and against citizens income, they agreed across the board that the attitude towards work in the UK needs to change and much more needs to be done to promote jobs in essential sectors.

On financial exclusion, concerns were raised about low wages and the inability to fill the demand for certain jobs particularly in the care sector. Professor Karen Rowlingson also raised concerns about the lack of financial inclusion for the elderly and vulnerable and the UK’s faceless welfare system which she argued is likely to lead to a growing underclass.

The Committee’s next steps involve looking at how successful the Universal Credit system will be in terms of making work pay and protecting the vulnerable. The Committee will also be looking at whether there is an alternative to the current tax system which favours the better off in work.

Steve McCabe MP said:

“We had a very interesting Works and Pensions Select Committee session at the University of Birmingham I think it is really important that the Works and Pensions Select Committee gets out of the Westminster bubble regularly and visits different parts of the country. I hope we will be back in Birmingham very soon!”

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