Universal Credit – the health impacts for people who are experiencing homelessness

Groundswell, Kings College London and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have launched their new research ‘Universal Credit – the health impacts for people who are experiencing homelessness’.

Key findings:

The research found that the challenges of engaging with the Universal Credit system impacts on the health & wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness, specifically around assumed capacity. The Universal Credit system assumes capacities of spare time, computer skills, internet access, a bank account and being able to self-advocate.Such capacities are challenging for many people, but especially those facing the multiple health and social challenges that are often linked with homelessness.

The research highlights three core areas that need attention in future reforms if Universal Credit is to support the health and welfare of people who are homeless:

  1. Assumed capacity – the UC system assumes that claimants have a range of social, cultural, and economic resources and capacities. Homelessness can be a cause or consequence of not having enough of these capacities. Furthermore, people experiencing homelessness are also more likely to have physical and mental health issues that can compound the existing challenges of making claims and engaging with the benefits system. The assumption of these capacities is contrary to many of the reasons people need to claim benefits in the first place. Therefore, the The UC system needs to be organised around assuming that people may have a range of vulnerabilities.
  2. Payments, sanctions and delays – the current system can be uncertain and unclear, generating stress, anxiety and challenges in securing shelter and other essentials for life.
  3. Demonstrating ill-health – the processes to demonstrate ill-health, and so access to UC, are described as burdensome, arbitrary and unfair. In consequence, people struggle to access appropriate support for their health conditions. We found that little allowance is made within the system for physical and mental health issues, especially long-term ones.


The researchers have come together to explore how the lessons learnt from the research and the COVID-19 pandemic can be used to create a fairer society. Read their blog to find out more.

We would really appreciate your support in amplifying the findings in this research and sharing it with your networks. If you have any questions please email becky.evans@groundswell.org.uk who will put you in touch with the researchers.