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Universal credit ‘a mental health risk’

THE introduction of universal credit saw mental health problems rise among recipients, a study finds.

Cases of psychological distress increased by 6.6 per cent — with rises among the unemployed in all social groups — according to researchers from the University of Liverpool.

Almost 64,000 unemployed people suffered clinically ‘significant’ levels of psychological distress between April 2013 and December 2018.

More than a third may have become clinically depressed. Universal credit was launched in April 2013 as a way of simplifying the welfare system and getting people into work.

But poorer claimants say they have been at greater risk of hunger, debt, ill-health and homelessness.

Dr Sophie Wickham said the study ‘supports growing calls for universal credit to be fundamentally modified’, with 5.5million claimants of existing benefits set to be moved across.

Co-author Prof Dame Margaret Whitehead warned that, with nearly two-thirds of households in the UK receiving some kind of welfare benefit, even small changes to the system ‘could have major implications for the nation’s health’.

The study, published in The Lancet, analysed data from interviews with 52,187 people of working age.