Universal Credit is designed to reduce poverty by making work pay. It is a new, simpler, single monthly benefit payment for people in or out of work. It replaces:
- income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
Universal Credit has been introduced gradually to ensure Jobcentre Plus offices have been able to safely test the new system as it continues to roll out. Jobcentre Plus offices began to accept Universal Credit claims in April 2013. By July 2013, 4 pathfinder offices were accepting claims and by April 2014, 6 more had been added. A further expansion in the north-west of England began in June 2014 so that by the end of January 2015 around 100 Jobcentre Plus offices were accepting claims.
During 2014, Universal Credit has been made available to newly unemployed claimant groups including couples and families in the north-west and to people with housing costs or who had made a recent claim to another benefit.
The evaluation of Universal Credit is a core part of the testing and comprises a range of research with staff, claimants and external delivery partners.
As part of the claimant research, a large-scale telephone survey of new Universal Credit single claimants living in Expanded Gateway areas was conducted in November and December 2014. The aim of this longitudinal survey is to gain evidence on a broad range of factors, including the experience of claiming Universal Credit, attitudes and behaviours and outcomes. As part of this research, a comparable group of single Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants (living in similar local labour markets) were also surveyed so that reliable comparisons could be made.
Findings from the survey will be used to further refine Universal Credit as part of the ‘Test and Learn’ process which has been established to ensure the continued improvement of this major policy.
Authors: Universal Credit Evaluation Team, DWP