Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published new analysis revealing the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people in receipt of social security benefits in the UK.
The report, entitled ‘Under stress? The experiences of benefit claimants during the pandemic‘, details how benefit claimants “have experienced serious financial stress during the Covid-19 pandemic” – as well as extra strain this may have caused on family relationships.
The report reveals that 12% of benefits claimants experienced domestic abuse since March 2020 and a further 6% said that they are concerned that they may.
This compares to just 1% of the rest of the public and a further 3% who are concerned that they may experience domestic abuse.
More than half (52%) said they had to dip into their savings to cover essential living costs, compared to 29 per cent of the rest of the public.
More than 1 in 4 (28%) benefit claimants reported having to borrow money to cover essential daily living expenses over the first year of the pandemic. This compares to only 7% of the rest of the public.
Large numbers of existing Universal Credit claimants were behind on household bills throughout the pandemic.
According to the report, this rose from 25% in 2018-19 to 38% in March 2021, peaking at 46% in November 2020.
Worryingly, a significant minority of both existing and new Universal Credit reported being behind on rent or mortgage, leaving them at increased risk of losing their homes and potentially becoming homeless.
According to the analysis, 26% of existing Universal Credit claimants were behind on housing costs in November 2020, before falling to 18% in March 2021.
Similarly, 16% of new Universal Claimants in May 2020 and 23% in July 2020 said they were not up to date with housing payments, before falling to 11% in March 2021.
A significant minority of Universal Credit claimants found it “quite” or “very” difficult to manage financially during the pandemic.
The report shows that 34% of existing Universal Claimants were in this situation in 2018-19 before falling to 22% in July 2020 and then rising back to 34% in November 2020, and falling down to 19% in March 2021.
Meanwhile, 35% of new claimants were finding it difficult to cope financially in May 2020, but this fell to 18% in July 2020, 19% in November 2020 and 15% in March 2021.
When asked if they were satisfied with their life, just 46% of existing and 48% of new claimants said they felt satisfied, compared to 67% of the rest of the population.
Commenting, Phoebe Arslanagić-Wakefield, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue and analysis author, said:“Our research shows that benefit claimants have experienced serious financial stress during the Covid-19 pandemic, being both more likely to be forced to erode their savings and to borrow more money than before the pandemic hit.
“Disturbingly, while more likely to be struggling with financial stressors during the pandemic, benefit claimants have also been at a higher risk of domestic abuse.”