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Improving relationships with the DWP: Aurora's experience

17 June 2022
I have found this whole cost of living subject a difficult one for us in particular. It is topical at the moment and is a constant weight on my mind. There's no escape, everywhere I turn, it’s all around me. The TV, the news and social media. I’m tired of it and the continuous daily struggle. I feel we’ve been experiencing and have been living this for some time.

Does it meet the need? A response to the chancellor’s statement

26 May 2022
‘This government will not sit idly by whilst there is a risk that some in our country might be set so far back they might never recover’, said chancellor Rishi Sunak in the opening remarks to his statement this afternoon. But does this ring true? Did his announcements offer a sign of hope for families?

How do we end the need for food banks?

31 March 2022
In his spring statement, the chancellor added £500 million to the household support fund, which started out as a pot of money given to councils to support families during the pandemic. This was a miserly response to the challenges families are facing, given prices are rising at pace and benefits will not increase at the same rate. But what is the role of this type of support? And how should it be delivered? That was what our Ending the need for food banks project set out to answer.

'You must fit the box': Universal credit and mental health

24 February 2022
Our social security system should be a source of support for everyone who needs it – including those experiencing mental health problems. Several years into the roll-out of the universal credit system, we wanted to find out whether the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) responds to the needs of people with mental health problems to ensure they can access universal credit (UC) fully. We spoke to almost 30 universal credit claimants with mental health problems, and the picture they painted was a worrying one.

It won’t work: why the ‘way to work’ scheme undermines efforts to help people get a decent job

27 January 2022
Jobseekers receiving universal credit (UC) woke to the news today that the time they are allowed to limit their work search to their preferred field will drastically reduce. Rather than having three months, they’ll have a meagre four weeks. After those four weeks, changes brought in under the ‘Way to Work’ campaign mean that UC jobseekers need to apply for and accept any job they can. Anyone deemed non-compliant will face sanctions and reduced income. The legal basis for this is not clear at this stage.

Making a difference together: five key lessons from Covid Realities

24 January 2022
The cost of living crunch is rightly attracting lots of attention, with millions fearful of how they’ll get by as costs rise yet further. There is an urgent need to provide families with more support through our social security system: a system that has become unfit for purpose following cut after cut, with successive governments seemingly unwilling to recognise that social security is an investment in us all.

Documenting life on a low income this winter

10 December 2021
Between July 2020 and July 2021, we worked together to document life on a low income during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the Covid Realities research programme, over 100 parents and carers kept online diaries about what everyday life was like, and took part in online discussion groups to explore what needs to change and why. As a participant (Kim) and a researcher (Ruth) working together on this project, we wanted so share our reflections.

Poverty and mental health: causes and effects 

10 October 2021
Universal credit has been high in the headlines this week as the government cut it by £20 a week. We joined many others in strongly condemning this cut, knowing just how much pressure it will place on already-struggling families. Some have argued that the cut might harm the mental health of those affected, and parents have expressed this fear to us. The social security system should be a source of support for those experiencing mental health problems, rather than a cause of those problems. This World Mental Health Day, we are reflecting on how well the system provides that support.

Changing social security for the better

12 August 2021
In March 2021, parents and carers living on a low income met with parliamentarians over Zoom to mark a year of lockdown. At the meeting, facilitated as part of the Covid Realities research programme, parents set out what they believe needs to change if the future is to be a better one for all of us. 

A UC sink hole – the minimum income floor returns

30 July 2021
Last October, Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis tweeted a warning about the ‘huge sink hole awaiting many self-employed’ people when the suspension of universal credit’s minimum income floor ended. While the government extended the suspension, it now ends this week. Self-employed workers up and down the country will start to be affected (with some possible concessions) after 31 July, and may face huge financial difficulties as a result.