Welfare Reform and Universal Credit – Equality Briefing

(Click here to download the latest version of this briefing as a PDF)

The move to Universal Credit (UC) has been the most visible aspect of Welfare Reform in 2017-2018 and changed the benefits system by bringing together:

  • Housing Benefit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Income based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income-based ESA
  • Income Support

UC is an online system that give a claimant the choice between being paid either monthly or twice monthly; and have the housing costs in their award of Universal Credit paid direct to their landlord. This is selected in the Universal Credit online account, and you will be offered them following the first payment, along with further information.

Alternative Payment Arrangements, where housing costs are paid directly to the landlord can be put into place with agreement from DWP.

Note: If you have set this up, we would like to hear from your experiences on how easy this was to set up and if it had an impact on your (or your service user’s) financial security, including effect of the 6 week delay between claim and UC payment.

This briefing summarises information from a range of sources that are dedicated in welfare advice and highlights the equality issues that have been raised. Due to the constantly changing nature of the reform in benefits, it is published as a working document and will be available and updated online at:

Key points

Impact on Equality Groups

The EHRC (2017) interim report and the Scottish Government (2017) Welfare Reform Report highlight the following groups of people with protected characteristics that will significantly adversely impacted by the reforms:

  • Ethnic minority households, with average losses for Black households about 5% of net income – more than double that for White households.
  • Households with one or more disabled members, will be significantly more adversely impacted than those with no disabled members. Tax and benefit changes on families with a disabled adult will reduce their income by about £2,500 per year; if the family also includes a disabled child, the impact will be over £5,500 per year. For non disabled families, this is estimated at £1,000.
  • Disability and ESA assessment process is criticised from both claimants and advocacy organisations, and reassessments from DLA to PIP have resulted in a number of people receiving no award or a reduced award. 57% of those reassessed from DLA saw no change to their award, or had their award increased.
  • Lone parents lose around 15% of their net income on average, losses for all other family groups are much smaller, from nothing to 8%. Lone parents – who are mostly women that are reliant on many low income benefits are a big factor in this.
  • Women lose more than men from reforms at every income level, on average women lose around £940 per year on average, men lose £460
  • Men and Young People have been noted as marginally more likely to be sanctioned, e.g. by removal of default entitlement to housing element of Universal Credit.
  • The biggest average losses by age group are experienced by the 65-74 age group at around £1,450 per year, and the 35-44 age group with average losses of around £1,250 per year.

Welfare Reform Timetable: 2018 onwards

The (UK) timetable of planned Benefit changes for 2018 has been detailed by the third sector organisation Turn2Us on at: Benefits Changes 2018. Please note that both the Scottish Government and Fife Council are mitigating several of the changes happening at UK level and

Upcoming dates / planned changes:

  • January 2018: Universal Credit Advance

From January 2018, the amount a claimant could receive from an advance payment of Universal Credit will increase from up to 50% of their estimated entitlement to up to 100%. Claimants will be able to receive an advance payment within five days of applying. The period in which the advance is recovered will be increased from six months to 12 months

  • February 2018: Universal Credit

From February 2018, the government will remove the seven-day waiting period for Universal Credit, so that the claim starts from the date of application. This means that if Universal Credit is paid on time, claimants will wait five weeks for their first payment instead of six weeks.

  • April 2018: Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) payments

From 6 April 2018, Support for Mortgage Interest will no longer exist as a benefit for new or existing claimants. Claimants will instead be invited to apply for a loan if they want to continue to be supported.  Loans will be repaid upon the sale of a claimant’s house; or on a claimant’s return to work if the borrower can afford it.

Fife Resources, Help and Advice

Fife Council

Lyndsey Maricic, Policy Officer 
Tel: 03451 55 55 55 + Ext 44 61 38 Contact Lyndsey Maricic online
By Post: Fife Council Brunton House High Street Cowdenbeath Fife KY4 9QU

Mary Williamson, Customer Service Lead Advisor 
Tel: 03451 55 55 55 + Ext 57 36 23 Contact Mary Williamson online
By Post: New City House 1 Edgar Street Dunfermline Fife KY12 7EP

Third Sector

Welfare benefits phoneline: 0345 1400 092

Scottish Government

Scottish Welfare Fund

  • Crisis Grant– if you’ve been in an emergency that risks health or safety
  • Community Care Grant– to help you or someone you care for to start to live, or to carry on living, outside of care



The impact of welfare reform and welfare-to-work programmes: an evidence review



Equality Topic/Group affected: Protected Characteristics, Job seekers

Universal Credit in East Lothian – Impact on client entitlement


Source: CAB East Lothian

Equality Topic/Group affected: Disabled Peope, Lone Parents, Job seekers

Welfare Reform and Universal Credit: The impact on the private rented sector


Source: RLA

Equality Topic/Group affected: Tenants, Private Sector

Manchester City Council Report on UC Implementation


Source: Manchester Council

Equality Topic/Group affected: Poverty, Children, Young People

Social security changes – April 2017


Source: CPAG

Equality Topic/Group affected: Poverty, Children, Young People

Benefit changes ‘could push 200,000 children into poverty’


Source: BBC News

Equality Topic/Group affected: Poverty, Children, Young People

New welfare reforms put extra pressure on single parents to enter paid work


Source: The Conversation

Equality Issue/Group affected: Single parents

The Two-Child Limit Ignores Need And Drives Up Poverty


Source: Huffington Post UK

Equality Issue/Group affected: Family size, Poverty

Benefit cuts to hit housing association tenants in Scotland


Source: Poverty and Social Exclusion

Equality Issue/Group affected: Poverty, Housing

Cancer patient’s family stands to lose £50k under benefit cuts


Source: Guardian

Equality Issue/Group affected: Widowed Parent’s Allowance, Health and Social Care 

Advice: How does Welfare Reform impact on me and my family?


Source: Banbridge Leader

Equality Issue/Group affected: Welfare changes, Family

“For the UK Government, some children appear to matter more than others”— Commissioner blogs on new benefit cuts


Source: Children and Young People’s Commissioner

Equality Issue/Group affected: Young People, Children

“Philip Hammond urged to pause cut in benefits for widowed parents”


Source: Guardian

Equality Issue/Group affected: Family, Bereavement

“UK welfare reform has been a ‘car crash’, say those on the front line”


Source: Holyrood

Equality Issue/Group affected: Homelessness

“Scottish housing figures call for welfare reform re-think post election”


Source: Inside Housing

Equality Issue/Group affected: Housing

“Austerity renders the lives of disabled people invisible, unliveable, and invalid”


Source: Open Democracy

Equality Issue/Group affected: Disability, Austerity

“Social Security (Scotland) Bill”


Source: Scottish Government

Equality Issue/Group affected: Disability, Austerity


Aldridge, H. and MacInnes, T. (2014) Multiple Cuts for the Poorest Families. Oxfam Research Report. Oxford: Oxfam GB.

British Medical Association (2016) Cutting Away at our Children’s Futures: How Austerity is Affecting the Health of Children, Young People and Families. London: BMA.

Citizens Advice (2016) Welfare Reform and Working People. London: Citizens Advice.

Cribb, R., Hood, A., Joyce, R. and Norris Keiller, A. (2013) Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2017. London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Disability Rights UK, Citizens Advice and The Children’s Society (2012) Holes in the Safety Net: The Impact of Universal Credit on Disabled People and their Families. London: The Children’s Society.

Edmundson, D. (2017) ‘Welfare, austerity and social citizenship in the UK’, Social Policy and Society, 16, 2: 261-70 (forthcoming). 

Equality and Human Rights Commission (2012) Making Fair Financial Decisions: An Assessment of HM Treasury’s 2010 Spending Review Conducted under Section 31 of the 2006 Equality Act. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Hall, S-M., McIntosh, K., Neitzert, E., Pottinger, L., Sandhu, K., Stephenson, M-A. , Reed, H. and Taylor, L. (2017) Intersecting Inequalities: The Impact of Austerity on Black and Minority Ethnic Women in the UK. London: Women’s Budget Group.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2017) UK Poverty 2017: A Comprehensive Analysis of Poverty Trends and Figures. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Pemberton, S., Sutton, E., Fahmy, E. and Bell, E. (2014) Life on a Low Income in Austere Times. London: Poverty and Social Exclusion

Poinasamy, K. (2013) The True Cost of Austerity and Inequality. Oxford Case Study. Oxford: Oxfam GB.

Portes, J. and Reed, H. (2017) Distributional Results for the Impact of Tax and Welfare Reforms between 2010 and 2017, Modelled in the 2021/22 Tax Year: Interim Findings, November 2017. Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Power, A., Provan, B., Herden, E. and Serle, N. (2014) The Impact of Welfare Reform on Social Landlords and Tenants. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

JRF (2014) The impact of welfare reform on social landlords and tenants

Reed, H. (2016) The Impact of Planned Cuts to Public Spending Over the 2015-20 Parliament. London: Trades Union Congress.

Reed, H. and Portes, J. (2014) Cumulative Impact Assessment: A Research Report by Landman Economics and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Research Report No.94, Manchester: Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

Simpson, M., McKeever, G. and Gray, A.M. (2017) Social Security Systems Based on Dignity and Respect.

Social Security Advisory Committee (2014)The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: a Commentary. London: Social Security Advisory Committee.

Watts, B., Fitzpatrick, S., Bramley, G. and Watkins, D. (2014) Welfare Sanctions and Conditionality in the UK. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Women’s Budget Group (2016) A Cumulative Gender Impact assessment of Ten Years of Austerity Policies. London: Women’s Budget Group.

Women’s Budget Group/Runnymede Trust (2016) New Research Shows that Poverty, Ethnicity and Gender Magnify the Impact of Austerity on BME Women. London: Women’s Budget Group.

Zipfel, T., Tunnard, J., Feeney, J., Flannagan, A., Gaffney, L,. Postle, K., O’Grady, F., Young, S. and Bennett, F. (2015) Our Lives: Challenging Attitudes to Poverty in 2015. Sheffield: Centre for Welfare Reform.

If you would like to contribute you views, research or have any concerns about any of the issues raised, do not hesitate to contact us.