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The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the shortcomings of the UK’s social security system. As we move out of the pandemic, there is a need to grasp this opportunity to debate and start planning for a new and better social security settlement. In this briefing note, aimed at campaigners, policy makers, and those engaged in anti-poverty work, we argue that this must be an expansive debate that has the expertise of people with experience of poverty and social security at its centre. We reflect on the participatory work of Covid Realities, and on the ambitious and radical proposals for reform developed by its participants. We contrast these with the more modest proposals that typically emanate from think tanks and policy-makers, and argue that excessive deference to ‘social attitudes’ unhelpfully inhibits the policy imagination. More work needs to be done leveraging specific issues – such as the impending £20 cut to Universal Credit – into a broader anti-poverty narrative, and as the basis for more systemic reform. People with expertise by experience have an essential role to play in this process, as do those engaged in policy and research by creating more inclusive and participatory platforms and spaces.

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