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“I am constantly penny pinching.”: Citizens Advice Scotland Research into Living on Universal Credit during the Pandemic

This report, the second in a three-part series on UC during the pandemic, covers our clients’ experiences living on UC during the pandemic. Our research found that rising costs during the pandemic have pushed an already-too-low social security system to breaking point:

  • 67% of people surveyed said the UC payment they received was inadequate for their needs, with more than half of these people (55%) describing UC as ‘very inadequate’.
  • Over seven out of ten (71%) said the amount of UC they received was lower than they are used to living on.
  • More than a third (38%) said their outgoings had increased in the period before they had to claim for UC and now, with a majority (56%) reporting that their spending had gone up on necessities like heating and electricity (50%), food (40%), and housing costs aside from rent (27%).
  • Almost two in three (64%) had to cut down on at least one basic necessity during their UC claim, with one in five (20%) cutting down on food.
  • Over one in four (27%) had to borrow money in order to pay for essentials.

With this in mind, the UK Government’s decision to cut UC by £20 a week in September is a step in the wrong direction. Our research found that:

  • Most said they would be unable to cope if their UC income dropped, with 61% unable to cope if it dropped by £10 per week, 74% unable to cope if it dropped by £20 per week, and 78% unable to cope if it dropped by £30 per week.
  • If these cuts went ahead, 26% said they would be unable to pay for essentials and 14% said they would be unable to buy food.

The UK Government must urgently review and uprate the level of support UC offers to ensure no-one is left without essentials. Increasing UC is the right thing to do, both to protect individuals from hardship and to support our post-pandemic economic recovery.

David Scott
Publication date
September 2021
Publication type