More evidence arrives that advises the government that the ending of the universal credit top-up is a very bad idea.
It will trigger mental illness and poorer health for thousands of people and hit the sickest areas of the UK hardest, new research by the Health Foundation suggests.
The Health Foundation charity said areas such as Blackpool, Hartlepool, Wolverhampton, Peterborough and parts of east London – already suffering some of the worst health outcomes – would be most affected by the income cut.
It said the removal of such a sizeable and vital part of the income would contribute to rising mental ill health at a time when many families are already dealing with the stress of debts, and face the prospect of soaring energy and food prices.
In Blackpool for example, where average healthy life expectancy for men and women is just 55.2 years, the average UC cut per head is £283. This contrasts with the home counties authority of Wokingham in Berkshire, where average healthy life expectancy for men and women is 71.2 years, and the average loss per head as a result of the UC cut would be £76.
Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “A cut to universal credit would be a step backwards and an indication that the government has not learned from mistakes of the recovery from the financial crisis. The pandemic is not yet over and if we are to avoid long-term scars, it is vital that we maintain this support on which so many families rely.”
The link between mental ill-health and UC has been established in a number of academic studies. A Liverpool University study published in the Lancet in 2020 found that “stressors” such as the built-in five-week wait for a first payment led to an increase in “psychological stress”.
A 2018 study by researchers at Newcastle and Teesside universities found that the stress of coping with the new benefits system had so profoundly affected claimants’ mental health that some considered suicide, leading experts to suggest the benefit be regarded as a serious threat to public health.
More than 700,000 people will be pushed into poverty by the removal of the uplift, research by Fabian Society thinktank found earlier this year. The worst hit would be working families, many with children, which would account for nearly two-thirds of those falling below the breadline.