Why should we care about Universal Credit?

“Why should Christians care about Universal Credit?

It’s simple: We are all made in the image of God.

And no person made the image of God should to be subject to the treatment they receive under Universal Credit.”

Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor, Joint Public Issues Team

Universal Credit is the government’s main flagship welfare benefit for those of working age.

Many people on low income, working and not in work are being transitioned onto Universal Credit.

Clergy and volunteers are often asked to help with forms, meetings and other benefit application admin.

It is a complex system which can be stressful to navigate, particularly for those who struggle with mental health, have English as an additional language, or who do not feel confident using a computer.

This training, recorded in November 2022 is aimed for clergy and volunteers at churches who are working in their communities with those on low income.

(Many thanks to Kings Cross Church for hosting this training.)

It comes in two parts:

Part 1 offers a basic understanding of the Universal Credit system.

Part 2 looks at the whole design of the Universal Credit system as a justice issue, and what the church can do to challenge this injustice.


Alison Tsang, Head of Compassionate Communities provides a basic introduction to Universal Credit: who is eligible, how you apply, what we can do to help & where we need to signpost to when people need help.

SLIDES from Part 1


Universal Credit and delays in the benefit system is the #1 reason for the increase in foodbank useage since 2012.

Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor at the Joint Public Issues Team looks at the design of Universal Credit as a social justice issue. He explains why Universal Credit has structural injustice at it’s heart, and why it’s a punitive and flawed system for those it is meant to serve.

He asks the question: alongside practical, merciful help, what can the church do to challenge this injustice?


Some slides from Pauls Presentation spell out what poverty in the UK looks like today:

Poverty is now mostly made up of Young people

34% of all children are now classed as being in poverty: 4.6 million of our kids. The largest group in poverty are working age adults, and this is largely younger adults.

The smallest % in poverty by age is now those of pension age.

The majority of people in poverty are working

The majority of working age adults in poverty are ALREADY in some form of work (dark blue= 2 full time incomes, mid blue= at least 1 income, light blue = less than 1 income).

Of those that are not, the vast majority are either unable to work due to sickness or disability, or have caring responsibilities.

Some bear it much more than others

Those who are from a global majority heritage, those who are disabled or sick, and children, especially when in a single parent household, are much more likely to be in poverty than other parts of the community.

Why do we say that Universal Credit has failed? Some findings from Paul’s presentation:

Over half of those on UC are skipping meals

Universal Credit should be the first line against poverty, yet at latest estimate, 53.8% of people receiving the benefit says they have needed to skip meals in the last month because they couldn’t afford it.

It’s not targetting the right people

The narrative about Universal Credit is about “making work pay” and “getting people into work”. The whole system is designed to push this.

But the majority of UC claimants are either in work already, or are unable to work due to disability, sickness or caring responsibility.

Only 1 in 10 of claimants are actually unemployed and able to get into work.

UC makes health, crime and debt levels worse

Numerous independent studies on areas where universal Credit has been rolled out show an uptake in anti-depressants, low level crime and most tragically, a higher rate of suicides.

There is also a direct link between areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out and arrears in utilities, debts and council tax.

Other Useful Links & Resources on Universal Credit

Get In Touch!

Want to know more, or think more about this issue as a church or deanery?

Get in touch with us HERE