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A study of Universal Credit has found that it increases mental illness in claimants while failing to get them into new employment.

The finding should cause huge concern among the two million people who are said to have signed up for the benefit after the Conservative government imposed its coronavirus-prompted lockdown, forcing them to sign onto the benefit when their incomes disappeared.

The study of able-bodied people (those with disabilities have already been shown to suffer adverse effects due to changes in their benefits) found a 6.57 per cent increase in psychological distress.

This led the study’s authors to estimate that an extra 63,674 people suffered psychological distress between 2013 and 2018, as a result of being put on Universal Credit.

They estimated that 21,760 might reach the diagnostic threshold for depression.

They believe that, although the effect sizes identified are moderate, the potential for psychological impact is substantial owing to the widespread national policy implementation.

Levels of distress remained constant for people who were not put on the new benefit.

The study revealed that there was no increase in the transition into employment amongst those on Universal Credit, compared with those who were not – despite this being the key rationale given for its introduction.

The Tory government has commissioned its own evaluation of Universal Credit – but this will focus on labour market outcomes and not assess the effect on health and wellbeing.

Won’t it be interesting to see whether this study finds an improvement in employment?

Source: Universal Credit mental health problems, but not employment

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