THE ROLLOUT of Universal Credit has seen a huge spike in mental health problems, new research shows.
A five-year-long look at the changes to the benefits system has shown to be linked with a six per cent increase in the chances of psychological distress compared to those who were in a job, the Lancet Public Health journal found.
A third of those involved may have become clinically depressed, it warned.
The flagship six-in-one system, which was launched in 2013, aimed to simplify the system, but it’s been beset by problems and is years behind schedule.
Dr Sophie Wickham from the University of Liverpool, UK, who led the research, warned that this could have a huge knock on effect on the health service.
She said: Our study supports growing calls for Universal Credit to be fundamentally modified to reduce these mental health harms.
“So far, the government has only looked at the impact of Universal Credit on the labour market, and there are no plans to assess its effect on health and wellbeing.
“With a further 5.5 million recipients of existing benefits expected to claim Universal Credit over the next few years, this expanding group may exacerbate pressures on already stretched mental health and social care services.”
And Ayaz Manji, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind, said: “Its wrong that the benefits system, which should support all of us who need it, is causing psychological distress among people who need support.
“We need to see radical solutions to ensure that the benefits system plays its part in helping people stay well.”
Labour’s shadow employment minister Mike Amebury said the system was deeply flawed.
He added: “Universal Credit is not working. Our social security system should have dignity and security at its heart and be there for any one of us when we need it.”
The landmark study is the first to look at the impact of Universal Credit on mental health.
It looked at data from nearly 200,000 interviews with 52,000 people of working age.
As part of HOAR’s Make Universal Credit Work campaign we have told how single parents have been left in tears over the five week wait.
One dad who was drowning in debt even took his own life after struggling on the benefits system.
A DWP spokesperson said of the report: “This research does not prove that people are experiencing distress due to the design of Universal Credit.
“People coming to the jobcentre are often doing so at a difficult time in their lives, and there is a range of support available for those with mental health conditions.
“We know that the vast majority of people on Universal Credit are satisfied with their experience.”
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans on (free)116123