Leeds researchers to investigate benefits support during the COVID-19 crisis


Researchers from the University of Leeds are among a team of academics who have been awarded £618,000 to investigate how the benefits system is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The project will examine whether people receiving benefits such as Universal Credit get the income and employment support they need as the crisis unfolds.

This grant is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

The project, which will be led by the University of Salford, working in collaboration with the University of Leeds, LSE and the University of Kent, will include a survey of 8,000 new and existing benefit claimants.

In-depth interviews will be carried out with around 80 people who will share their experiences over time, as well as case studies looking at support providers in Leeds, Newham, Salford and Thanet.

Dr Daniel Edmiston, Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds, is leading a key stream of work for the project.

He said: “Social distancing has put the UK economy into free fall. In the last two months, we have witnessed the biggest increase in claims for unemployment benefits since records began.

“In the wake of COVID-19, there is an urgent need for research into how benefit claimants are navigating a radically changed social security system, particularly without the face-to-face support that many would normally have access to.”

Dr Jo Ingold, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Public Policy at Leeds University Business School said: “We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant to obtain valuable insights into issues claimants face in the COVID-19 context.

“It is vital that we better understand the challenges faced, as well as the employment support needs of people post-COVID-19. We look forward to working with our key partners both nationally and in the Leeds city region to provide rapid evidence to inform policy and practice.

The project will be working with a number of key stakeholders – including the Department for Work and Pensions, the Resolution Foundation, Citizens Advice and various local authorities - to identify how local and national stakeholders can best respond to the challenges that COVID-19 presents both for the social security system and those seeking access to benefits and employment support.

Professor Lisa Scullion, Co-Director of the Sustainable Housing & Urban Studies Unit, at the University of Salford, said: “The benefits system has been a key part of the coronavirus response, but it is under extraordinary pressure with around two million new claims since the start of the pandemic”

Researchers will seek to provide data on whether claimants are receiving the income they need, when they need it, and how support has been impacted by social distancing measures.

Further information

Image: Adobe Stock.

For media enquiries, please contact the University of Leeds press office via pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk