The impact of Universal Credit in Southwark | A report conducted with the Smith Institute for Southwark and Croydon Councils

October 23, 2017

The London boroughs of Southwark and Croydon were among the first areas in the country to see the early rollout of full service Universal Credit. In October 2016, we were commissioned by the Smith Institute, on behalf of the two boroughs and Peabody, to examine the impact of the Universal Credit rollout on social housing tenants in Southwark. 

This report summarises the findings from two pieces of research. The first, undertaken by the Smith Institute, was an analysis of 775 tenants’ rent accounts to give a quantitative understanding of the impact of Universal Credit on rent payment behaviour.

The second piece of research was a qualitative study conducted by BritainThinks, comprising in-depth telephone interviews and focus groups with Southwark and Peabody tenants. The main objectives were to understand their journey once they found out they were on Universal Credit; document and evaluate their understanding of the new system; and examine what worked and what could be done better. 

This is the first in-depth, independent analysis of the rollout of Universal Credit, which examines the experience and rent payment behaviours among social housing tenants before, during and after their claim for Universal Credit. It confirms that more tenants are falling into significant rent arrears, or deeper into rent arrears, under Universal Credit than under the previous housing benefit system. Delays in payments, in particular, are leading to a build-up of rent arrears which people often struggle to pay back. 

The research shows clearly the impact Universal Credit is having on individuals, with delayed payments putting people into debt, causing considerable stress. Many people transitioning onto Universal Credit are already facing difficult circumstances due to unemployment, disability or low income. 

Safe As Houses Universal Credit Oct 2017 Final Report PDF