Universal Credit, deductions and ‘sexually transmitted’ debt

Rita Griffiths, Ruth Cain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Intended to simplify benefits and encourage paid employment, Universal Credit is the UK’s main working-age benefit. Assessed and paid monthly in arrears to low-income individuals and couples with and without earnings, the single monthly payment is based on entitlement, less a proportion deducted for any household earnings and/or debts. Research has highlighted the financial hardship that deductions for debts can cause for claimants. Less attention has been paid to the experiences of couples who have joint liability for repaying debts that one or both of the partners may have accrued, including those which may pre-date the start of their current partnership. Drawing on new empirical research findings, we explore the effects of deductions in the context of a joint Universal Credit claim, and on the different partners. The paper argues that greater stringency, data sharing and automation in the capture and recovery of debts, compared with the legacy system, have reduced the scope for flexibility and discretion in the way debts are collected and deductions are administered. This is creating additional financial hardship and potential relationship instability for couples for whom adverse financial and emotional effects can be multiplied. Options for reform are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-454
JournalJournal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Issue number4
Early online date31 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • Universal credit
  • deductions
  • partner inherited debt
  • personal debt
  • sexually transmitted debt
  • social security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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