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University of Bath

Couples balancing work, money and care: exploring the shifting landscape under Universal Credit

This ESRC project examines the ways couples with children make decisions about work, care & household finances in relation to changes under Universal Credit.

Couples balancing work, money and care
Couples balancing work, money and care

Update: June 2020

The report from the first phase of this project, 'Uncharted Territory: Universal Credit, Couples and Money', is now available:

About the project

Universal Credit is a new, working age benefit which replaces six existing means-tested benefits and tax credits with a single monthly payment per individual claimant or couple. Under Universal Credit, the distinction between being in work and out of work has been removed and most claimants, including many partners in couples with dependent children, will have work conditionality requirements.

The aim of this ESRC-funded research is to examine the ways in which couples with children make decisions about work and care and manage their household finances in the context of this new policy landscape. The project will:

  • Collect new, qualitative longitudinal data on work/care decisions; intra-household financial management and distribution; and gender roles and relations in couple families with dependent children.
  • Contribute to the literature on employment and care decision-making processes, gender, and strategies for paid and unpaid work and budgeting in low-income households.
  • Explore the policy implications of the findings in relation to Universal Credit, working-age benefits and work-family reconciliation policies more widely, providing insight into the ways in which policies support or undermine choice and gender equality in work, care and couple relationships.

This is a three- year longitudinal, qualitative research study based on a sample of couples and former couples claiming Universal Credit. The first phase (June 2018 to January 2019) included 123 interviews with 90 participants in 53 households, in four areas in England and Scotland. The participants will be interviewed again in September 2020.

See full project outline

Video introducing the research project

Research team


ESRC (ES/R004811/1)