In this briefing paper, we set out the findings relating to experiences of social security from the first three months of the project. Drawing on 116 reflections from 32 Covid Realities participants, this paper addresses the lived experience of social security amid Covid-19 and examines the impact of recent government changes to social security on families in receipt of benefits. The key themes addressed here are: the daily work of getting by on social security amid rising family costs during Covid-19; the variable impact of the £20 weekly increase in Universal Credit; enduring problems caused by the five week wait for Universal Credit; the pause and return of conditionality; contact with advisors during Covid-19; and the continued stigmatisation of benefit receipt.
We close by setting out key recommendations for change – recommendations which are both grounded in the lived experiences documented here and drawn from discussions with participants themselves.
As part of our Covid Realities research project, fifteen parents and carers living on a low income shared their everyday experiences with us in June 2020. Their narratives emphasised that the coronavirus pandemic has introduced new, additional and often extreme levels of hardship and difficulty to their lives.
Lockdown brought new expenses to finding and securing daily essentials, testing already-stretched budgetary practices and placing additional burdens on people’s mental health. In this briefing note, we provide an overview of the main findings from this exploratory study and draw directly upon the testimonies of participants to set out key recommendations for change.