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The social security system entered the pandemic ill-equipped (Garnham, 2020). Successive rounds of ‘welfare reform’ and cuts to entitlement had left it unable to provide decent support to families already in poverty and to those pushed into poverty by the pandemic itself. The £20 uplift to Universal Credit, introduced in April 2020, and extended for a further six months in March 2021, was itself a tacit acceptance that we went into the pandemic with benefit levels too low.

We all know that the pandemic has exposed and extended existing inequalities, while also showing the possibilities for the government to intervene on a massive scale, when the political will and public demand is there.

This Covid Realities webinar will explore the possibilities for an improved, perhaps radically different, social security system to emerge from the pandemic. It will consider what the alternatives are, and the prospect of seeing long-lasting change take place. We heard from:

  • Aurora and Catherine, participants in Covid Realities
  • Kimberley McIntosh, senior policy and research officer, Child Poverty Action Group
  • Kerry Hudson, award winning author of ‘Lowborn : Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns’
  • Kitty Stewart, Associate Professor of Social Policy and Associate Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), London School of Economics

The webinar was chaired by Jackie Long, social affairs editor and presenter for Channel 4 News.

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