A report just slammed the Universal Credit £20 uplift as ‘inadequate’

A storm and the DWP logo
Support us and go ad-free

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit is under the microscope again. This time, a survey of claimants found the benefit left them in chaos. It called the £20 uplift “inadequate”. But the problem is that this isn’t exactly news to the countless people who’ve been struggling on it for years.

The DWP: here we go again

The Canary has been covering Universal Credit during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. A lot of debate has been about the £20 a week uplift. In April 2020, the DWP increased the rate of Universal Credit by this amount. But ever since, uncertainty has existed over what will happen this April. If the Tories end the increase, people will see the DWP cut £20 per week from their money. So far, the Tories have not budged on the issue.

But now, a survey of claimants has found many have been struggling. Most notably, it showed that the £20 a week increase hasn’t made much difference.

Welfare at a (Social) Distance is a research project that’s looked into social security during the pandemic. The Guardian reported the project:

surveyed 6,431 new and existing benefit claimants between May and June, and carried out 74 in-depth interviews between June and September.

The survey’s results were unsurprising.

No surprises here

It found the problems with Universal Credit for new claimants were numerous. The research noted that when they applied for it:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
  • 37% had problems with the website.
  • 28% had problems with the phone process:

UC survey one

Then, while people waited for their first payment, many didn’t apply for the built in advance:

  • 28% said it was because they didn’t want to get into debt.
  • 9.3% said it was because they hadn’t heard of it:

UC Survey Two

If people did apply for an advance, the DWP still didn’t leave them with enough money:

  • 28% had to borrow from a bank, credit card or other financial institution.
  • 28% borrowed money friends:

UC Survey Three

Also for people who didn’t claim an advance, 42% of them said they either:

  • Skipped meals.
  • Fell behind on housing costs.
  • Didn’t keep up with bills/other debt:

UC Survey Four

Overall, the DWP hit 41% of new claimants with a deduction, cap, or charge related to their claim:

UC Survey Five

Where’s the £20 a week gone?

When people did start getting Universal Credit payments, over 50% of new claimants said their income had fallen by more than 25%:

UC Survey Six

This is while over 50% said their outgoings either stayed the same or increased:

UC Survey Seven

UC Survey Eight

When people were properly on Universal Credit, they said the DWP still didn’t give them enough to live on. For example, almost 5% had to use a foodbank:

UC Survey Nine

Around 62% of people couldn’t even save £10 a month. And roughly the same number wouldn’t have been able to buy something like a fridge if theirs broke:

UC Survey Ten

But these were the “less severe” impacts of the DWP’s level of payments. Over 50% of new claimants said they either:

  • Struggled with affording food.
  • Couldn’t afford fresh fruit and veg.
  • Fell behind on their housing costs.
  • Couldn’t keep up with bills/debts:

UC Survey Twelve

The hardest hit group? Disabled people:

UC Survey Fourteen

Dr Kate Summers led the report. She said:

We should think more ambitiously about what ‘success’ means within our social security benefits system. Yes, the benefits system held up through the first wave of the pandemic, but fundamental issues remain in terms of the adequacy of payment levels, and people’s ability to access and understand the system.

Indeed. Because the report paints a damning snapshot of the current situation. But the problems with Universal Credit have been there since the start.

Systemic issues

Survey after survey has found Universal Credit doesn’t work. Nearly four years ago, the DWP did its own survey. The Canary reported the findings. For example, they showed that:

  • 25% of people couldn’t complete their claim online.
  • 72% of claimants either financially struggled from “time to time” or constantly, fell behind, or were having “real financial difficulties”.
  • Around 35% of claimants were in arrears with housing costs.
  • About 22% of claimants were struggling with both bills/financial commitments and housing costs.

So, it seems little has changed since then. All the Welfare at a (Social) Distance project’s findings for new claimants include the £20 a week uplift. It’s report said that:

our evidence suggests that even with the £20 uplift, benefit levels are inadequate for many claimants

Campaigning to keep the £20 extra isn’t sufficient. Because it’s barely helping many people at the minute anyway. But moreover, it’s because the UK’s social security system is broken beyond repair. We need a fresh start for the welfare state. £20 a week empty gestures are simply not good enough.

Featured image via EliasSch2 – pixabay and Wikimedia 

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Pity people aren’t banks or close personal friends with a tory minister…

      Not what you know (tories lie) it’s who you know (Jennifer Arcuri & Dildo Harding) and the other BS mantra; Too big to fail (even criminals)..

    2. This is rather strange. None of the legacy benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance were increased, so anyone on those is still living on rather less money than are UC claimants. I’ve been on JSA since 2017. How do we manage to stay alive, I wonder? That extra £20 would have been nice and I might have had the heating on a few more times over the winter. But I’m not in serious trouble. Am I an unusual case?

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.