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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published new analysis, entitled Under stress? The experiences of benefit claimants during the pandemic. The analysis reveals the distinct financial and relational experiences of those in receipt of benefits during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic compared to the rest of the public.

Bright Blue’s main findings from this analysis are:

  • 12% of benefits claimants report that they have experienced domestic abuse since March 2020 and a further 6% report that they are concerned that they may. This compares to 1% of the rest of the public who report that they have experienced domestic abuse since March 2020 and a further 3% who are concerned that they may. This means there is a 14-percentage point difference between benefit claimants and the rest of the public in having experienced or been at serious risk of domestic abuse during the first year of the pandemic.
  • A majority (52%) of benefit claimants report having to dip into their savings to cover daily expenses over the first year of the pandemic. This compares to only a minority (29%) of the rest of the public who report the same.
  • More than 1 in 4 (28%) benefit claimants report having to borrow more money to cover daily expenses over the first year of the pandemic. This compares to only 7% of the rest of the public who report the same.

In our recent analysis, Benefit to all? Financial experience of Universal Credit claimants during the pandemic, Bright Blue found:

  • A significant minority of households already on Universal Credit in February 2020 (‘existing UC’) and those who began to claim Universal Credit in March 2020 or later (‘new UC’) reported not being up to date with household bill payments throughout the pandemic. Among existing UC claimants, this rose from 25% in 2018-19 to up to 38% in March 2021, peaking at 46% in November 2020. Similarly, 32% of new UC claimants reported not being up to date with at least some household bills near the start of the pandemic in May 2020, before declining to a low of 17% in March 2021.
  • A significant minority of both existing UC and new UC households also reported not being up to date on housing payments, such as rent or mortgage payments, during the pandemic. For existing UC claimants, 26% reported facing this financial challenge in November 2020, before falling to 18% in March 2021. Similarly, 16% of new UC claimants in May 2020 and 23% in July 2020 report not being up to date with housing payments, falling to 11% in March 2021.
  • A significant minority of UC claimants reported finding it ‘quite’ or ‘very’ difficult to manage financially during the pandemic. 34% of existing UC claimants reported this in 2018-19 which declined to 22% in July 2020, before rising back to 34% in November 2020, and falling down to 19% in March 2021. Similarly, 35% of new UC claimants reported this in May 2020, but this fell to 18% in July 2020, 19% in November 2020 and 15% in March 2021.
  • Reported life satisfaction of non-UC respondents has remained significantly above that of existing UC claimants throughout the pandemic. By the later stage of the pandemic in March 2021, 46% of existing and 48% of new UC claimants reported being satisfied with their life, compared to 67% of the rest of the population.

Phoebe Arslanagić-Wakefield, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue and analysis author, commented:

“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.”

To arrange an interview with a Bright Blue spokesperson or for further media enquiries, please contact Joseph Silke at joseph@brightblue.org.uk or on 07948 420 584.

[Image: Engin Akyurt]