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Urgent need to provide increased support for low income families during the pandemic, new report says

Posted on 22 October 2020

The benefits system is unable to meet the rising costs incurred by families as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, new research says.

The findings, from a new national project examining the impact of the pandemic on low income families, says there is an urgent need to provide increased support for families with dependent children.

The COVID Realities project – led by the University of York – is working with parents and carers living on a low income to share their experiences of life during the crisis. 

The research also found:

  • There is no ‘new’ normal and the processes of receiving social security support are still imbued with stigma and shame.
  • Structural issues with Universal Credit remain, creating destitution for new claimants.
  • The £20 Universal Credit uplift has not always, or even often, made a decisive difference to the everyday hardship experienced by families with dependent children living in poverty. More is needed to help families on a low income.

 Dr Maddy Power from the Department of Health Sciences who is working on the project said: “Listening directly to parents and carers on low incomes, it is clear that many people face serious hardship because of the holes and inadequacies in our benefits system, which have been further exposed by the pandemic.


 “More needs to be done urgently to help families with children, who have been largely neglected in the policy response. But critically, if we are truly to build back better, we need to listen to and engage with the expertise that comes from - and can only come from - lived experience. Who is included and who is excluded from policy discussions happening now will have a lasting impact on the world that emerges from the pandemic.”

 Victoria, a single parent of two children, in receipt of Universal Credit, and a participant in the project said that the £20 Universal Credit uplift had made little difference to her family.

 Victoria said: “The cost of everything has gone up - heating, electricity, food, travel and entertainment.  Keeping my children's hopes and morale up and reducing the risks of them developing mental health issues, comes with its own costs. Even with the £20 extra, we actually have less money to spend each month than we did before the pandemic.”

Sharing experiences

The 18-month project – funded by the Nuffield Foundation -  began in July and is a partnership with the Universities of York, Birmingham and Child Poverty Action Group.  Researchers are now working with around 100 parents and carers from across the UK who are sharing their experiences about living life on a low income.

Parents and carers are being invited to join a safe online space where they can share their experiences and work with the research team to develop recommendations for policy change.

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Julie Gatenby
Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322029

About this research

More information on the findings is available here.

Explore more of our research.