Scrapping the £20 Universal Credit uplift will have a significant effect on claimants, according to a new report – which also says the benefit can be “complex and confusing”.
The temporary increase was brought in last year to help during the pandemic but was controversially stopped in October.
Manchester United and England striker and campaigner Marcus Rashford was among those who criticised the move.
The report accuses the government of poor communication and says some claimants were not told about the increase, or the fact it was temporary, until it was ending.
Many people, especially those in work, also told researchers they did not get the full £20 uplift.
This is partly because Universal Credit is means tested every month against earnings. It means payments can often vary, making it hard for those with jobs to know how much they will receive.
Nearly half of claimants also have deductions at source for overpayments, arrears and advance loans.
The study – by academics at Bath and Oxford universities – found this also created problems.
When the standard allowance increased so did these deductions, meaning many didn’t get the full benefit of the uplift.
Others lost out because their Universal Credit was restricted by the benefit cap, according to the research.
And for couples receiving the benefit – the focus of the study – the increase was also worth proportionately less than for sole claimants because it was flat rate.
Researchers found for some families it meant the uplift did little to help with the extra expense of having children at home during lockdown.
The £20 uplift was originally meant to last a year but the government extended it for six months, until it ended a few weeks ago.
Despite the problems, Fran Bennett, from the University of Oxford, said “claimants did benefit” and the uplift provided “essential support, especially for those relying on Universal Credit the most”.
However, she said the study raised questions about how Universal Credit operates, “specifically the complex and confusing way in which the monthly payment is calculated”.
“For many individuals and families, Universal Credit is proving not just inadequate in terms of its level but also complicated to navigate,” Ms Bennett said.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson defended the scheme and said it “delivered during the pandemic” and continues to provides “a vital safety net for six million people”.
“We were always clear that the uplift to Universal Credit was temporary,” the spokesperson said.
“It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.”
The research – Couples balancing work, money and care: exploring the shifting landscape under Universal Credit – spoke to 63 claimants. It is published as a policy brief by the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath.