#Buildbackbetter for personal financial wellbeing - insights into policy development priorities for a post Covid-19 environment

The Covid-19 pandemic has created significant challenges for individuals, households and the economy in the UK and internationally - challenges that are largely unprecedented in modern history. We have seen policy changes and operational responses that most would have thought impossible for us to achieve, or to ask people to support, just a few months ago.

How we deal with these challenges as they occur has, rightly, absorbed most of the policy development capacity of governments for many months. While this pandemic is likely to have long-lasting economic impacts on our society, and on us as individuals and households, it does provide an opportunity for us to consider the shape of the economy we wish to rebuild and how we 'build back better'.

This CHASM research briefing series has an open invitation for academic colleagues to contribute short pieces that offer policy suggestions for Government on what they should be considering as the shape of the economy coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic. How can we make the most of this opportunity to re-assess how our economy supports the most financially vulnerable and adequately rewards those whose contributions to society we most value? 

#Buildbackbetter briefing series introduction - Prof. Andy Lymer CHASM Director

Brief 15 - COVID Realities: Experiences of social security for families on a low income during the Pandemic  

Dr Maddy Power, Dr Geoff Page, Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite & Dr Ruth Patrick

The COVID Realities project is working in partnership with parents and carers on low incomes to put their recent lived experiences at the centre of policy discussions. This brief sets out the findings from the first three months of the project. It offers several key recommendations for change; recommendations which are both grounded in the lived experiences documented, and drawn from discussions with participants themselves.

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Brief 14 - Pandemics and Sovereign Wealth Funds 

Professor Dalton Conley, Department of Sociology, Princeton University

It has been argued that throughout history pandemics have been one of the only forces that slow—or even reverse—a steady march towards more inequality. Is this pandemic going to provide the same opportunity as previous ones have to think radically on addressing inequality? In particular this brief explores the potential for a national Sovereign Wealth Fund to be used as a way of developing a truly collective asset to the benefit of all.  

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Brief 13 - Justifying Existence or Making a Difference? Assessing the broader impact of debt advice services

Maria McCaul, Ulster University and Stuart Stamp, Maynooth University

This briefing focuses on publicly funded debt advice services and how their broader impact(s) can be most appropriately measured.  To date, however, there has been little policy interest in terms of identifying how service interaction has impacted on these clients or on society at large, nor has there been much emphasis on factoring in context or evaluating the service delivery process itself. In this briefing paper, we suggest that a multiple criteria (logic) model offers a useful framework in the context of publicly funded debt advice. Such a model will matter even more as we slowly come out of Covid-19, as understanding the role for, and impact of, debt advice becomes ever more important. 

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Brief 12 - Credit, Risk, and the Pandemic

Damon Gibbons, Executive Director Centre for Responsible Credit Ltd

In the context of a pandemic which has delivered a severe income shock for millions of households, questions arise as to how credit extensions to households should be assessed moving forwards. Should we maintain the system of social discrimination of the past, which now seems likely to constrain credit extension on affordable terms to those groups which need it most, or refresh our approach to incorporate considerations of social justice and fairness? 

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Brief 11 - New ways to understand the effects of COVID-19: introducing ‘financial diaries’ methodology?

Dr Neil McHugh, Dr Olga Biosca, Enrico Bellazzecca, Dr Gregory White, Marta Mojarrieta, Dr Ahalya Bala, Professor Rachel Baker and Professor Cam Donaldson

Given evidence that the effect of COVID-19 follows a socioeconomic gradient, how are the financial lives and coping strategies of financially-excluded individuals being impacted?  To answer these and other questions, we believe that innovative methodologies are required to complement more typical survey and interview based approaches. One such methodology is ‘financial diaries’. In this briefing paper we introduce the financial diaries methodology. 

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Brief 10 - Is it time for a UK wealth tax?

Dr Andy Summers, London School of Economics (LSE)

Although reforms in existing wealth taxes, such as Inheritance Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax on investment income, have been widely discussed there is a distinctive gap in our understanding of the role that a new wealth tax might play in a post-COVID-19 UK. This briefing paper explores existing wealth taxes and outlines a project investigating whether the UK should have a new wealth tax, including options of how the tax might be designed.

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Brief 9 - Robbing Peter to pay Paul? The Australian federal government’s covid-19 superannuation early release scheme

Dr Julia Cook, University of Newcastle, Australia 

This briefing gives a fascinating insight into the potential impacts of the superannuation early release scheme introduced by the Australian federal government to support people during the coronavirus pandemic.  Julia explores implications for women, the future of the pension scheme and super funds, and young adults, including three case studies of how individual young people have responded to the scheme.

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Brief 8 - Inequality and Council Tax: A Perfect Storm

Dr Jodi Gardner, University Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
Dr Mia Gray, Senior Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge

This briefing paper investigates the unequal financial implications of Covid-19 for households across the UK, looking, in particular, at the implications on council tax debt.  Recommendations are made for central government and local councils to move towards a more equal distribution of the costs of the pandemic.

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Brief 7 - An opportunity to rethink how we ‘do tax’ and improve social inequality

Dr Sara Closs-Davies, Bangor University Business School

COVID-19 raises important questions surrounding tax systems, not only in the UK but worldwide. This briefing explores the opportunity to embark on a system-wide review of the UK tax system and tax administration.

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Brief 6 - Coping with Contactless: Covid-19 and cash

Dr Rajiv Prabhakar, Senior Lecturer in Personal Finance, The Open University

This briefing paper explores how Covid-19 poses urgent challenges for digital and financial exclusion. Money is crucial for everyday life but social distancing measures promise to make life more difficult for those who rely on cash to pay for goods and services as opposed card payments. Dr Prabhakar argues that future Government regulation should also be complemented by measures to protect those who use cash to stop digital exclusion leading to further financial exclusion.

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Brief 5 - What are the likely effects of the crisis on charitable donations?

Kimberly Scharf, Professor of Economics, University of Birmingham
Susan Pinkney, Head of Research, Charities Aid Foundation

Uncertainty about future health and economic outcomes as a result of Covid-19 and the government policy response is likely to change people’s decisions about their charitable donations – how much to give, which causes to give to, when to give and how to give. This briefing uses results from peer-reviewed studies to explore how charitable donations might be affected by the crisis. The piece also provides insights about short-term changes in donations using data from the monthly UK Giving survey (current to the end of April 2020) conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation.

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Brief 4 - After the Coronavirus Pandemic: the home as a workplace and the new housing market

John Doling, Emeritus Professor, University of Birmingham
Rowan Arundel, Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

The lockdown-induced increase in working from home has already given rise to speculation about what it will mean for the post-pandemic world, the ‘new normal’. This briefing considers the grounds for expecting that there will be a long-term upward shift in working from home, what that might in turn mean for the decisions households make about their homes, and how, collectively, those decision might impact on housing market outcomes. The ownership of housing generally constitutes the largest asset in household portfolios, so that these consequences have considerable significance.

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Brief 3 - Extended Briefing Paper: Enhancing Working Age People’s Financial Resilience: Reforming Statutory Sick Pay

Dr Margaret May, CHASM Honorary Research Fellow, University of Birmingham

One of the many issues relating to working-age people’s financial resilience that has gained a new significance in the light of the Covid-19 crisis is the overhaul of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).  In this briefing Dr May considers the main pressures for change, and proposals for reframing SSP, concluding with a review of the government’s approach and the restructuring needed to ensure it is fit for a post-Covid-19 world.

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Brief 2 - Ethical Approaches to Using Behavioural Insights in Government

Dr Jessica Pykett, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Birmingham

There has never been a more important time to ask the question of how governments can change behaviour for the public good. Dr Pykett considers whether changing people’s behaviour is always the right approach and how public servants should address the ethical dilemmas of applying behavioural insights.

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Brief 1 - Poverty, Household Debt and COVID-19

Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy, University of Birmingham

Despite unprecedented Government action, the COVID-19 crisis looks likely to result in a significant rise in poverty and household debt in the UK in coming months. In this piece, Professor Rowlingson puts forward a number of recommendations including increasing child benefit payments and longer-term fundamental changes, such as a universal basic income, to build a more financially resilient system of social security for the future.

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