Assessing the impact of Universal Credit on mental health and wellbeing
Academics from Fuse are part of UK-wide team that will be the first to comprehensively evaluate the impacts and costs of Universal Credit on mental health and health inequalities.
It builds on earlier research in North East England commissioned by Gateshead Council in partnership with Fuse, which was published in BMJ Open.
The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is led by Fuse Senior Investigator Professor Clare Bambra from Newcastle University, and Professor Peter Craig at University of Glasgow.
The North East based research team also includes Fuse Associates Dr Mandy Cheetham, Northumbria University, and Dr Suzanne Moffat and Dr Heather Brown - co-lead of the Fuse Health Inequalities Research Programme - from Newcastle University, alongside researchers from the Universities of Essex, Liverpool, Manchester.
The work will include interviewing claimants and Job Centre staff in North East England to explore the ways in which the experience of claiming Universal Credit (UC) affects the mental health and wellbeing of claimants, recipients and staff.
Universal Credit combines six existing benefits and tax credits (known as legacy benefits) for working age people and their children into a single monthly payment. UC is designed to improve work incentives for people on low incomes but has been criticised for causing hardship due to conditions related to eligibility and the way that claims are managed and payments made.
By the time rollout is complete in 2024, over 8 million households are expected to be receiving UC payments – a number that may now rise significantly as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
The project will run until September 2025 and will involve:
- Using large scale survey data to compare the mental health and wellbeing of adults and children in households receiving UC and those in households receiving the so-called 'legacy benefits' such as Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.
- Analyses of surveys carried out by Citizen's Advice to identify features of the UC claim and payments process that cause difficulties for claimants.
- Interviewing claimants and Job Centre staff in North East England and the West of Scotland to explore the ways in which the experience of claiming UC affects the mental health and wellbeing of claimants, recipients and staff.
- Developing a new simulation model that can predict impacts on income, employment and health of different ways of providing UC.
- Examining the costs and consequences of introducing UC and whether they represent value for money.
Throughout the study, the team will work with UC recipients and organisations that help people with their claims to find out the best ways of involving people with the study, sharing information with them, and explaining what the findings mean.
Last modified: Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:48:13 BST