The UK’s means-tested system of unemployment benefits, which operate as a “bare minimum” safety net, has failed to provide sufficient support to hundreds of thousands of people during the pandemic.
Thousands of middle-income professionals who have lost their job during the pandemic have reported turning to food banks, going into debt and suffering from stress and anxiety after they were turned down for universal credit, research reveals. The majority were turned down because access to benefits in the UK is subject to household “wealth tests”. Some 45% were ineligible because they or their partner earned too much, and 23% because they had savings above a £16,000 threshold.
The study, by the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Benefits at a Social Distance project, found nearly three-quarters were surprised when they were refused benefits, or said it was “unfair”. Many are probably to have had little interaction with the benefit system prior to the pandemic.