Worse off: The impact of universal credit on families in Tower Hamlets

Post date: 
16 October 2019

Tower Hamlets has the highest rate of child poverty in the UK: 57 per cent, after housing costs are taken into account. In 2017, Tower Hamlets became one of the first boroughs in London to become a universal credit ‘full service’ area, meaning that anyone living in the borough making a new claim for income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit or working tax credit must claim universal credit instead, and make and manage their claim online. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets commissioned CPAG to research the experiences of families with children in receipt of universal credit. A qualitative research study started in October 2018 and ended in July 2019. You can read the report here

The aims of the study were to:

  • Gain an in-depth understanding of the experiences of families with children on universal credit in Tower Hamlets.
  • Gain an understanding of the wider impact of universal credit on the principal interactors with claimants with children (‘stakeholders’) in the borough.
  • Share learning and recommendations from the study with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and other local authorities, in order to improve the wider roll-out of universal credit.

As part of the study, CPAG carried out 16 face-to-face interviews with 11 claimants and 20 interviews with stakeholders. We then carried out a thematic analysis of the interviews, to draw out the key issues affecting claimants and stakeholders.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Greater London Authority (GLA) also commissioned AudienceNet to carry out a quantitative survey with universal credit claimants in the borough. The survey ran from October 2018 until January 2019.

This report explores the findings of the qualitative research study, incorporating the findings of the quantitative survey and analysis of data on 20 clients with children who were in receipt of universal credit at First Love Foundation (a food bank in Tower Hamlets) and whom CPAG advised over the course of a year.