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Welfare reforms have driven up demand for many small and local charities. We’re pushing for changes to improve our welfare system

How we're Influencing Policy and Practice

Each month, charities tell us how demand for their services is rising in both numbers and complexity. They also tell us this is often a consequence of welfare reforms.


While we’re helping charities to respond to these demands through our core funding and development support, we need to influence the system if we’re going to stem demand. To do that we are looking at how we can influence improvements in the welfare system.


Core areas of interest for our welfare work are:

  1. Ensuring people of working age can access the benefit support they need
  2. Ensuring these benefits aren’t taken away unfairly, to prevent people from needing crisis support
  3. Ensuring people of working age who do fall through the gaps can access crisis support
  4. Being able to respond to opportunities to improve access to, and the help available from, welfare support and challenge unfair practices


Universal Credit

Universal Credit has presented a number of challenges to charities we fund and their clients. From difficulties with the digital process to the five-week wait for first payments, charities are providing more and more support as people struggle to access the benefits they need.


We draw on the insight we’ve gained from working with charities on welfare issues to respond to consultations on issues such as the five-week-wait for the first payment of Universal Credit: Work and Pensions Select Committee – Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment.


To look at the challenges around Universal Credit in more depth, we co-funded Bright Blue’s Helping Hand report focused on improving Universal Credit. Charities we fund fed evidence into this report, with a focus group also providing further context and challenge. We and Bright Blue have shared this with the government and are pushing for more changes to address the challenges in the system.



The charities we support have also raised concerns over welfare deductions and their impact on people facing complex social issues. These deductions are impoverishing individuals and families against a backdrop of low incomes, rising living costs and widening inequalities during Covid. In May 2022, we published a report to bring together a range of evidence and research to highlight the issue and present a case for reform. 


Funding: influencing change in the welfare system

Please note: this funding programme has now closed to applications.


A list of the charities awarded this funding can be found here.


We’ve been hearing for a long time from charities about challenges with the welfare system, but during the coronavirus pandemic, these issues have intensified. Many people have experienced a drop in their income in recent months and have needed to access welfare support. Record numbers of people are claiming Universal Credit and food banks have seen a rise in the number of people needing emergency support.


While the Government introduced temporary measures to ease the impact of some of these challenges, the consequences of the pandemic are going to be with us for much longer. As we recover from the initial impact of the pandemic, there may also be opportunities to influence change for the better, as we look at how we can rebuild from the crisis and what can be learned.


Rather than delivering services, we aim to allow charities a chance to think differently and focus on influencing change in the welfare system, through policy, research and campaigning.


We wanted this funding programme to benefit working-age adults who face the greatest challenges, such as those who are affected by the complex social issues that the Foundation focuses on – for example, people who are affected by domestic abuse, have experienced homelessness, are dealing with mental ill-health or are moving on from time in prison. More generally, it may mean people who are unable to access online support or processes, who are disproportionately affected by structural inequalities, those with no recourse to public funds or those who need support from others to navigate the benefits system and advocate for what they are entitled to.


This funding was targeted at work seeking to influence:

  • Sanctions and conditionality
  • The level and rate of deductions
  • The level of Local Housing Allowance / Housing Benefit for working age adults without children
  • The process of claiming benefits, including greater options for those who struggle to get online
  • The support offered to claimants, including by Work Coaches or by others
  • Improving support for those with no recourse to public funds
  • The prison discharge grant
  • Improving the operation of the social security system for those experience domestic abuse


Applications for this fund closed on 30 September 2020 and we are no longer accepting proposals. You can read more about the fund, who is eligible in the guidance.