University of Bath, Institute for Policy Research

Universal Credit and work






January 2022 – July 2023

Grant Awarded



Project summary

Research to explore how Universal Credit’s systems for assessing entitlement, recovering debt and calculating payment, affect income security and financial well-being among working claimants.


Knowing how much money you will earn or receive in benefits each week or month is one of the fundamental building blocks of income security and financial well-being. For people in low-paid jobs and insecure employment, in-work benefits can be a lifeline, making the difference between having enough money to live on and having to use a food bank; between entering work or remaining unemployed.

With only a week’s notice given of their award, some families can be left with insufficient income to cover basic living costs. Complex algorithms underpinning the payment calculation make it hard to tell if the amount is correct, making it difficult for claimants to challenge decisions. Most affected are families where one or both partners worked irregular hours or in precarious forms of employment.

Project overview

Research will investigate how claimants experience monthly assessment, and the effects of a monthly means test on income security and financial well-being among working people.

The results of the research will be used to recommend policy changes to increase the financial security of UC claimants.