Kela lecture: Universal Credit – the UK’s new working-age benefit

Time: Thursday September 27, 2018 at 15.00–17.00
Location: Auditorium, Kela Main Office Building, Nordenskiöldinkatu 12, Helsinki or online

Coffee served from 14.30 on.


Is Universal Credit working in the UK? This lecture by Professor Jane Millar tells the story so far.

Commentary remarks by Senior Researcher Signe Jauhiainen and Director of Change Management Tomi Ståhl from Kela – The Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

Universal Credit – the UK’s new working-age benefit

Universal Credit is a major change to the UK social security system for working-age people. Announced in 2010, implementation started in 2013, and about one million households are so far in the system. By 2023 it is estimated that there will be seven million households in receipt, 40 per cent of the working-age population.

The original idea was for a simpler system, replacing six existing means-tested benefits with one single benefit paid to both working and non-working people. This integrated system, it was hoped, would smooth incomes in and out of work, making it easier and more financially rewarding for people to take up work, even for just a few hours a week. Universal Credit is not unconditional. As well as being means-tested, claimants must show they are actively seeking work. If they are working part-time they must show that they are continuing to try and increase their working hours or pay.

Universal Credit was initially welcomed as a positive measure. But it is attracting more negative attention and concern as the system is being rolled out. Some of this is about the implementation, with major IT and other delivery problems. But the aims and design are also coming under increasing scrutiny and challenge.

This lecture tells the story of Universal Credit so far, starting with the aims and antecedents, and identifying key issues in the design and delivery. It will summarise the available evidence on how it is working, and the issues and challenges that have emerged in this ambitious attempt to effect radical change on such a large scale.

The lecture and following discussion will be held in English.

Jane Millar OBE, FBA, FAcSS is Professor of Social Policy in the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. Her research interests include the design, implementation and impact of social policy and comparative research on family policy, social security and employment policy, with particular reference to gender and changing family patterns. She is currently leading a research project examining the impact of Universal Credit on working patterns and money management among couples with children.

Previous Kela lectures