Perceptions and awareness of the Universal Credit

The DWP recently commissioned a report by Jigsaw research on the perceptions of the new universal credit due to be implemented in 2013. The research was conducted between December 2010 and January 2011 and it included individual respondents, businesses and employers, staff of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

Even though the research took place at the start of the year it is perhaps surprising that the Universal Credit was not as widely recognised by the majority of respondents  as would be hoped. The report states “However, only a small minority had heard anything about Universal Credit specifically (e.g. name, plan to combine benefits) and there was a tendency to conflate Universal Credit with other potential changes. This indicates that the broader context, both with respect to welfare reform specifically and cost-cutting more generally, is likely to affect perceptions of Universal Credit.” Should the government be doing more to raise awareness of the Universal Credit?

What’s in name? More than you may think, researchers asked respondents about the Universal Credit name and the report found that; “Prior to any explanation of the proposition, views on the name were sought. Some initially felt that the name Universal Credit had connotations of a bank or other commercial organisation. Some also mistakenly perceived it to mean that ‘everyone qualifies’ (including, in some people’s interpretation, even people outside of the UK), that ‘everyone gets the same’ or that ‘everyone is treated the same’. This indicates that the name does not in itself convey the new system, and that it has the potential to mislead if not properly explained.”

“Once the proposition was discussed further, the name tended to be better understood. Universal Credit had more neutral or positive connotations for some people than the present benefits system. For example, the term ‘credit’ was perceived to be less stigmatising by some compared to ‘benefit’. However, there were also some employed people who felt that the new name could mean that they would be ‘lumped in’ with those who are unemployed when they would prefer there to be a clear distinction.”

The full findings of the research can be found on the DWP website or alternatively you can click on the link below for the full PDF.

Perceptions of Welfare reform and the Universal Credit  

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