Universal credit (UC) is now the main working-age benefit in the UK. Since its inception, UC has been plagued with administrative issues and budget cuts and, as a result, its early promise to reduce poverty has yet to be realised. When the pandemic hit, swift changes were needed to make UC fit for purpose including an increase in the amount of financial support provided and a relaxation of some of its most punitive rules. However, the vast majority of these positive changes have already been reversed, or are due to be reversed in the coming months.
Rather than turn back the clock, now is the time to improve UC further to make it fit for families and reduce child poverty.
This briefing gives an overview of UC’s main problems, and provides recommendations for change in five areas:
1. Improving adequacy
2. Filling the gaps
3. Supporting people into work and in work
4. Starting a claim
5. Managing a claim
This is not an exhaustive list of all the problems that might arise in UC, but covers what we think are the most important changes needed. Our recommendations address the aspects of UC that deepen poverty, and make it harder for families to lift themselves out of poverty and increase their earnings.