Analysis: The impact of Universal Credit in Wales
October 29, 2020
Analysis: The impact of Universal Credit in Wales by Policy in Practice

Just before the onset of COVID-19, Policy in Practice completed a major study of the impact of Universal Credit in Wales. Early in 2019, we were commissioned by the Welsh Government to look at how Universal Credit had affected the Welsh Council Tax Reduction Scheme. The Welsh Government also wanted to know if the introduction of Universal Credit had led to any changes in the level of rent and council tax arrears. 

Groundbreaking study

This study broke new ground for Policy in Practice: 

We made extensive use of administrative data from all 22 Welsh local authorities, tracking the benefit journeys of claimants in four waves over a period of 12 months, and matching with data on rent arrears and council tax arrears. It was the first time we have used data from so many authorities and housing associations in one national project. The matching and analysis were complex and very challenging, but well worth the effort.·       

We also ran two large-scale surveys to get a better understanding of the personal experiences of Universal Credit that are not evident from administrative data. We invited people to take part in the survey in several ways, one of which was via a link in our award-winning Benefit and Budgeting Calculator. Nearly 500 actual and potential benefit claimants completed the claimant survey, and nearly 500 stakeholders such as social and private landlords, local authority officials and third sector organisations completed the stakeholder survey.
Five findings from the 18 month data-led investigation into Universal Credit in Wales

There is a wealth of information in the two reports published by the Welsh Government, an interim report published in January 2020 and the final report published in July 2020. The key findings are:
1.     A generous Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme pays off
2.     Universal Credit has resulted in some council tax and rent arrears
3.     Awareness of CTR, and take-up, are still too low
4.     The impact of Universal Credit on CTR can be mitigated by changes to the scheme
5.     More help should be given to those claiming Universal Credit
Further analysis commissioned to understand the impact of COVID-19

This research was carried out before the COVID-19 pandemic and so does not take account of the increase in Universal Credit claims that have resulted. We are delighted that the Welsh Government has now asked us to analyse the impact of the pandemic on CTR caseloads. We will look at the economic impact, demographic changes, and likely impact on future CTR caseloads and council tax collection rates.

Find out more

Pooling administrative data can help other areas plan for and track recovery from COVID-19. Policy in Practice has secured funding to help with this. Find out more here or contact us to discuss.·       

Published in January 2020, the interim report focuses on the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) and possible amendments to the scheme. Download the interim report

Published in July 2020, the final report looks at the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, council tax reduction awards, council tax arrears and rent arrears. It also considers the experience of Universal Credit claimants and stakeholders. Download the final report
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