Fabian Society

Social security: understanding public attitudes






November 2019 – January 2021

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Examine and better understand the public’s views towards changes to social security through a citizen’s jury, public polling and policy modelling.


A decisive shift in social security is needed to significantly reduce poverty and raise living standards during the 2020s. However, a number of alternatives to current policies are either too cautious or unrealistic. The project seeks to develop and secure support for proposals that fall between these two poles - and in particular for policies that: go with the grain of public opinion; are affordable in the context of other spending priorities; and combine means-tested and non-means-tested solutions.

Project overview

The team will develop and gain greater insights into public attitudes for transformative but practical social security reforms that could significantly reduce poverty and raise living standards by 2030. It will examine viable, costed plans for working-age benefits covering:

  • A major increase in benefit levels over 5-10 years, with far more adequate incomes for key client groups (disabled people, parents with very young children etc);
  • A significant but affordable expansion in contribution-based and universal social security, to supplement household means-testing via a reformed universal credit;
  • Potentially freezing the cash value of personal tax allowances to partly pay for these reforms.

They will achieve this through four work streams which will culminate in a final report:

  • A citizens’ jury to co-design reform options;
  • Quantitative survey to seek the views of a representative sample of GB adults (1,800). The poll will be designed following the citizens’ jury to include questions that replicate the trade-offs and choices they debated; and to test the jury’s conclusions with a statistically robust sample of adults;
  • Micro-simulation modelling of reforms. To develop and test policy reform packages. Initial modelling results will be presented as evidence to the citizens’ jury; further modelling will then take place during and after the jury in response to participants’ questions and ideas;
  • Stakeholder and political dialogue.