Non-take-up of benefits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

Baumberg Geiger, B, Scullion, LC ORCID:, Summers, K, Martin, PB ORCID:, Lawler, C ORCID:, Edmiston, D, Gibbons, AR ORCID:, Ingold, J, Robertshaw, D and de Vries, R 2021, Non-take-up of benefits at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic , Project Report, University of Salford.

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The benefits system – particularly Universal Credit (UC) – has played a major role in Britain’s COVID-19 response, and it is no surprise that there has been an emphasis on how well it has responded. Most experts so far have suggested that UC has performed well, even if historic weaknesses remain. Yet the situation of those who did not claim UC has been given little attention – particularly those who were eligible for UC but did not claim it. In this report, we present the findings of exploratory research into this group, funded by the Health Foundation. We estimate there are around half a million people – our best estimate is 430,000–560,000 people – who were eligible for UC during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but did not claim it. This includes a quarter of a million (220,000) people who thought they were eligible for UC (mostly correctly) but didn’t want to claim it. One-third of those who didn’t want to claim said that this was because they did not need benefits. But more commonly, people hadn’t applied for UC because of the perceived hassle of applying (59%), including the challenge of figuring out if they were eligible, the claims process itself, or the threat of sanctions. (Indeed, an outright majority said that conditionality would put them off applying in future). A further sizeable minority (27%) didn’t claim UC because of benefits stigma. We have also estimated survey respondents’ eligibility for UC — something that has never previously been done. Estimating eligibility for UC is complex and there are a number of caveats to the figure. Bearing this in mind, we estimate that 280,000–390,000 people wrongly thought they were ineligible for UC. Some people had actively considered applying for benefits and decided they weren’t eligible, but mostly people just had a ‘sense’ that they were not eligible for anything. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, income had fallen amongst a majority of both of these groups of people not taking-up UC. To make ends meet, people relied on savings, friends/family (for more than a quarter) or borrowed from banks. Relatively small numbers had used emergency help like food banks. However, these strategies were often still not sufficient for those not taking-up UC to avoid financial strain.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Publisher: University of Salford
Series Name: Welfare at a (Social) Distance
ISBN: 9781912337439
Related URLs:
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Depositing User: USIR Admin
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2021 12:59
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2022 17:32

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