Wherever universal credit is rolled-out crime rates increase, according to an academic article in the latest edition the British Journal of Criminology.  In fact, the authors predict that crime rates will double once UC has been fully rolled-out.

According to the University College London authors, the introduction of UC coincides with a rise in total crime rates, including rises in property crime and rises in violent crime.

The report suggests that the roll-out of UC provides a unique chance to study the effect of the introduction of a new benefit type on crime rates. 

This is partly because of the way it was introduced at a local level at different times and also because it was such a far-reaching change which introduced a benefit cap and sought to shift responsibility from the state to the individual.

The authors found that crime had fallen from 2010 until 2014 and then slowly risen.  But there are great variations across the country with some areas experiencing crime rates several orders of magnitude larger than others.

The roll-out of UC began to increase from the middle of 2014, with over 800,000 claimants by the middle of 2018.

The study found that increases in UC claim rates were clearly linked with a rise in crime in any given area.

And this was not a short-term blip.  The introduction of UC is linked to a significant upwards shift in the long-term trend in crime rates.  This is true even when factors such as unemployment, police officer numbers and local government spending are factored in.

In other words, the introduction of UC reverses a trend of falling crime rates and changes it to rising rates not just for a few months but year after year with no sign of an end in sight.

Shockingly the authors conclude that “the full implementation of UC would nearly double the total crime rate in a given area”. 

UC has not been fully rolled-out anywhere yet, with millions of legacy benefits claimants still to be forcibly migrated.  But in a few years’ time the process will be complete and so, it seems, will a drastic change in crime rates across the UK.

The authors clearly say that they cannot prove that UC causes an increase in crime, only that there is good evidence to link UC to an increase in crime.

Furthermore , there is no way that the report could establish whether it was UC claimants themselves committing crimes or whether it was the effects of UC on wider social networks.

At Benefits and Work we are reluctant to publish anything that seeks to suggest a link between claiming benefits and crime.

But this appears to be a serious piece of research which raises important issues about the effect of UC on communities.

When you consider that UC means long waits for a first payment, almost certain benefits deductions and debt problems, a rapidly rising level of sanctions and claimant commitments that may be impossible to keep, it’s hardly surprising that this has an effect on households and the wider community.

More research is clearly needed.  But we can be sure it will not be undertaken by the DWP.

You can read the full article here.


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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Wo · 1 years ago
    Your never more than a a day ahead of the devil on universal credit.
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    Diane · 1 years ago
    I wonder just how much the rise in crime has to do with the higher prices of almost everything?  It has been reported that shoplifting has risen sharply ; I suspect it is because desperate people are simply trying to feed their families after paying their bills.  This could be anyone on a low income, irrespective of whether or not they are in receipt of benefits.  In the meantime, certain cost of living grants are being paid to everyone no matter what their income - disgraceful. 
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    Deborah, London · 1 years ago
    Hi having gone through the UC process recently, I can well belive it esculates crime, I myself have a small pension £560 per month plus I receive the lost rate on PIP, all I was allocated per month from them was £172, my rent is £500 per month and even with PIP I cannot survive I am on less than the working wage......yes I had to give up work to become a full time carer for my husband who has now past, all his benefits stopped as they should have and he had a small insurance which paid out and I was told by them not to apply for UC until all the money was gone......it looks like I might be following my husband sooner rather than later as with all the price increases Food is on the bottom of the list, as if rent is not paid I loose my home also, I just feel cheated I always worked from when I left school as did my husband we paid our dues were good people and now, well life is over.So yes UC is not a good system and having it all on line is not good either for a lot of people.

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    Helen · 1 years ago
    Apologies, I have just seen a comment below:

    Mental illness/disabled people - you can contact your nearest DAB (Disability Advice Bureau) who will help you fill in details on your behalf, over the phone or in person.  Alternatively, Citizen's Advice Bureau. 
    I too have a severe mental illness disability - and the DAB were brilliant, absolutely brilliant!  So please don't worry, give them a call.
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    Julie · 1 years ago
    Having to go online for UC benefits is a total no no for  a lot of people , my daughter has a mental illness as well as physical disability, she cannot use the internet to save her life so what do these people do ? There will be slow people and those who can’t read or write too , is there provision for these people ? 
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