Universal credit in Northern Ireland: some preliminary findings

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Universal Credit is the flagship social security reform of the 2010-2015 coalition government and a major innovation in the UK welfare state, as a single social assistance benefit for working age claimants in diverse circumstances (unemployed, economically inactive or in low paid work). Official narratives argue that universal credit will increase incentives to enter paid employment and simplify the benefits system. However, the reform has become increasingly controversial as implementation has proceeded. Key concerns include the impact on claimants of the waiting period for an initial payment, the difficulty of budgeting on a single monthly payment and a jump in the use of sanctions compared to the legacy benefits. Meanwhile, administration of the benefit has been beset with difficulties and the National Audit Office has suggested that some of its claimed advantages cannot currently be measured. This paper will report early findings from a participatory study of claimant experiences of UC in Northern Ireland, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. While Northern Ireland’s devolved social security system has largely embraced the reforms introduced in Great Britain since 2010, a number of ‘mitigations’ have been put in place to protect some claimants from loss of income and make UC work better. The paper will outline the distinctive features of UC and related aspects of social security in Northern Ireland. Findings from the initial phase of the empirical research – one-to-one qualitative interviews with people in receipt of UC – will then be presented as the author begins to explore whether UC is achieving its own objectives in Northern Ireland and whether it helps claimants enjoy a life in dignity as they understand it.
Period4 Apr 2019
Event titleSocio Legal Studies Association annual conference 2019
Event typeConference
LocationLeeds, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational