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.
The project team have 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.