Universal Credit: The health impacts for people who are experiencing homelessness

Claire Thompson, Andy Guise, Rob Edgar, Suzy Solly, Martin Burrows

Research output: Book/ReportOther report

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Abstract

People who are homeless face challenges in accessing and maintaining Universal Credit which is having a
severe impact on physical and mental wellbeing.

Groundswell, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and King’s College London conducted
research to explore experiences of Universal Credit to understand the impact welfare reform is having for
people who are homeless, and how this might affect their health.

We found an overall challenge for people who were homeless was how Universal Credit assumes capacity
that is often contradictory to the experience of homelessness. The Universal Credit system assumes
capacities of spare time, computer skills, internet access, a bank account and being able to self-advocate.
Such capacities are challenging for many people, but especially those facing the multiple health and social
challenges linked with homelessness.

The assumption of capacity leads to specific complications around payments, sanctions and delays in payments and IT access and communication. Linked to this were difficulties in demonstrating ill-health,
which could be burdensome, arbitrary, unfair, and serve to further complicate access to Universal Credit
and appropriate responses to ill-health.

Combined, these challenges generate the potential for severe health consequences, particularly relating
to stress and anxiety, but also for how Universal Credit can undermine efforts to secure adequate housing,
food and social support that are integral to good health.

We discussed our findings with a group of London based stakeholders to explore possible responses and
summarise these potential policy changes at the end of this report.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherGroundswell
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

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