FactCheck readers have been asking us about this claim from the Prime Minister:
“The result of universal credit so far has been that there are 200,000 fewer people in absolute poverty now than there were in 2010.”
Universal credit is a system that brings together a number of different benefits (including child tax credit, housing benefit, and jobseeker’s allowance) into one payment.
While the idea of universal credit initially received cross-party support, the actual rollout of the scheme – which began in 2013 – has been mired in controversy.
So what about Boris Johnson’s claim that it’s lifted hundreds of thousands of Brits out of poverty?
It’s true that the number of people in absolute poverty in the UK fell by that amount between 2009-10 (the year before the Conservatives came to power) and 2018-19 (the latest year for which we have data).
That’s according to official figures on “Households Below Average Income”, which are published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
And that decline holds up whether we look at absolute poverty “before housing costs” or “after housing costs”. Though the numbers have fluctuated a bit in those intervening years.
But the key question is: was this drop caused by universal credit?
We’ve seen nothing to suggest that it was – and the Department for Work and Pensions did not provide FactCheck with any evidence when asked.
A spokesperson told us: “Since 2010 Universal Credit has been rolled out across the country and absolute poverty has reduced by 200,000”.
The Department’s comment chimes with a claim from junior government minister Will Quince, who told MPs in June: “There are now over 200,000 fewer people in absolute poverty compared with 2010, and universal credit is a fundamental part of this government’s strategy to support people”.
We think it’s significant that on that occasion, the minister did not attribute the fall directly to universal credit.
Boris Johnson claimed: “The result of universal credit so far has been that there are 200,000 fewer people in absolute poverty now than there were in 2010.”
It’s true that the number of people in absolute poverty has fallen by 200,000 since 2010. But the Department for Work and Pensions has been unable to provide us with evidence that this was caused by universal credit.