This time is different – Universal Credit’s first recession

Assessing the welfare system and its effect on living standards during the coronavirus epidemic

Universal Credit (UC) has been thrust into the frontline as the crucial safety-net benefit for those who have lost their jobs or businesses, alongside the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. UC is also helping top-up incomes for families on low earnings, and others with additional needs, such as those with children, problems with ill-health or disability, or high rental costs.

But this is UC’s first experience of an economic crisis. Given its new-found importance in the Government’s strategy to protect family incomes – and given the millions of families now dependent on it – this report presents new evidence, drawing from survey results and in-depth interviews, on how well UC is coping with the onslaught of new claims, how families are coping on UC, and how to make sure the benefits system prevents the coronavirus crisis becoming a living standards crisis.