Universal Credit: A 2017 briefing from the UK Women’s Budget Group

Date Posted: Sunday 22nd October 2017

Universal Credit


View and download a PDF of the briefing here.


The Chancellor has announced that the waiting time for Universal Credit payments will be cut from six weeks. This is welcome news, but fails to address the many other significant problems that exist with Universal Credit.

This briefing is an overview of the gender impact of the Universal Credit system. UC was introduced in 2013 and is being rolled out across the country in stages until full implementation in 2022. It replaces six means-tested benefits and tax credits with one single monthly means-tested payment.

The main goals in introducing UC were to simplify the benefits system and ‘to make work pay’.[1] It is hard to find anyone who disagrees with such broad objectives – although there are in our view better ways of trying to achieve them than redesigning means-tested benefits in this way.

However, in addition, a series of problems in the design of UC from the beginning, made worse by subsequent cuts, seriously undermine these objectives.

As a result of the cuts to spending on Universal Credit:

  • Employed claimants will be £1200 worse off per year by April 2021 compared with the original design of UC; unemployed claimants will be £500 worse off;
  • Women will lose more than men on average;
  • Families with three children with one earner will be £3891 worse off, while families of this size with two earners will be £3287 worse off.