Bloomberg Businessweek

Britain’s Botched Welfare Overhaul

Universal Credit was a good idea that became bad policy, helping crystallize support for Brexit

The agonizing effort to leave the European Union is taking up every breath of U.K. politics, so most people haven’t taken note of the 10th anniversary of one of the root causes of the country’s discontent.

Back in September 2009, a group of researchers, academics, and management consultants hired by a think tank led by a Conservative Party grandee published its recommendations for simplifying Britain’s complex social-security system. It laid the groundwork for a big idea: Six types of benefits—including tax credits for parents, unemployment payments, and contributions toward housing—should be bundled into a single payment known as Universal Credit. Within a year, the Conservatives had won power and

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