1 October 2018- 28 February 2023
This project aims to explore the impact of Universal Credit on claimants and service providers in South Tyneside, a borough in the north east of England.
Universal Credit is a government benefit for working age adults implemented as part of a programme of significant UK welfare reforms. It has been gradually rolled out since 2013 with limited research into its implications to date. It is crucial to understand how Universal Credit impacts different people over time, particularly in light of the recent increase in claimants caused by job losses and reduction of working hours due to COVID-19.
The study is focused on how Universal Credit affects health and wellbeing of participants and their families using qualitative longitudinal methods. Claimants who are both in and out of work have been invited to participate in interviews to relay their experiences, with the option of follow up interviews to discuss the impact of Universal Credit over time. Support staff working for organisations involved in Universal Credit delivery have also been invited to participate in interviews to discuss the impact of Universal Credit on their organisation. Interviews enable participants to tell detailed stories about their experiences, and those who opt to participate in follow up interviews improve understanding of how Universal Credit impacts people over time.
I attended monthly Universal Credit and Welfare Reform Strategy Group meetings in South Tyneside since February 2019 to both learn from and update members regarding the research. This includes representatives from South Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Homes, Department for Work and Pensions, Citizens Advice and Age Concern Tyneside South.
Research findings will be disseminated to all participants via email or post. Findings will also be shared with South Tyneside Universal Credit and Welfare Reform Strategy Group and other relevant local, regional and national organisations with an interest in public health, welfare policy and health inequalities.
Insight into the experience of people in receipt of Universal Credit is useful to consider support that may be needed by individuals during their time on Universal Credit, assisting with targeting of resources and influencing service delivery.
While South Tyneside residents and stakeholders are the focus of the study, it is hoped that wider learning could also be applied in other locations. Current and future claimants of Universal Credit could benefit from the research as any local best practice that is identified can be shared with other relevant organisations so they can adjust their ways of working accordingly. Those involved with or impacted by the implementation of Universal Credit such as local authorities, social and private landlords, voluntary and community sector organisations and health services could potentially use the findings to inform their services to benefit claimants and staff supporting Universal Credit claimants. For example, this could make the application process and experience of claiming smoother, which in turn could reduce the negative impacts on health, wellbeing and financial circumstances of claimants that have been reported to date.