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Understanding Benefits and Mental Health

The Salvation Army's new report ‘Understanding Benefits and Mental Health - A national rethink on how government supports vulnerable people moving onto Universal Credit’ focuses on the barriers vulnerable groups experience when navigating the Universal Credit (UC) system.

The report is informed by real-time experience of the Universal Credit system through surveying 160 people who have accessed The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus (back to work) service.

The report makes particular reference to the multiple challenges faced by those experiencing mental ill health. For example, the survey found that nearly half (42%) of respondents said that mental ill health was a barrier to applying and moving onto the online system. 

The report further shows that there continues to be a problem of people with mental health support needs not being identified by Jobcentres, due largely to their high caseloads. 

Given the digital make up of UC, a finding that should be of significant concern to all of us is the discovery that 64% of people with a mental health barrier were not confident using computers, but only a third of those received any basic digital support or signposting from Jobcentres. More needs to be done to support people with the digital skills to not only make their claim, but also be able to look for and move into work.

The Salvation Army says:

Our research finds that in order to make Universal Credit work for all individuals, there needs to be:

  • a national rethink from the Department for Work and Pensions on how it supports people’s mental health, including helping those experiencing mental ill health to move on to Universal Credit;
  • a regional rethink from Jobcentres on how to consistently deliver basic support, including digital and budgeting support for new claimants;
  • a local rethink on how Work Coaches deliver support, including investment in lower caseloads, to enable staff to properly identify and support vulnerable claimants; and
  • an individual rethink on how claimants engage with Universal Credit, including a rethink of how Claimant Commitments are used to ensure that individuals are accessing the right support based on their needs.

We believe that social security only works when it works for everyone. We wonder if we could meet and discuss the crucial issues that our report it raises and the public policy solutions that are required to ensure that Universal Credit truly works in the manner it was intended to do so.

For more information and to read the report in full visit: