Author Lauren Howells
An “urgent” report by the Work and Pensions Committee has concluded that the government should aim to cut the current six-week wait for the first payment of Universal Credit, to just one month.
Universal Credit has been brought about to replace six benefits: income support, income-related employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.
“Major obstacle blocking the potential success of the policy”
Described as a “major obstacle blocking the potential success of the policy”, the six-week wait for Universal Credit has been widely criticised. Only last week, the Archbishop of York told The Sunday Times that the current system seemed to assume that everyone had a nest egg to tide them over while they waited for their payout. He said this was “grotesquely ignorant”, as millions of people were already in debt and had “nothing to fall back on”.
Universal Credit linked to an increase in acute financial difficulty
An article on the Work and Pensions Committee section of the Parliament website said that where Universal Credit had been rolled out in full, it had been linked to widespread reports of overwhelmed food banks, an increase in acute financial difficulty, steeply rising rent arrears and homelessness and problem debt.
The Committee went on to say that although the availability of Advance Payment loans had increased, they were “no solution to a fundamental flaw in the current design”.
No-one in work waits six weeks for their pay
It pointed out that although Universal Credit sought to mirror the world of work, no-one in employment had to wait six weeks to receive their first paycheque and that the 7 waiting days at the very beginning were “purely a money-saving measure”.
With many households simply did not having the resources to wait for six weeks “without resorting to desperate measures”, the Committee said that the arguments for reducing the waiting time to one month were compelling.
“Six-week wait is cruel”
Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Frank Field MP, said: “The baked in six-week wait is cruel. No one can give us any real justification for it. Such a long wait bears no relation to anyone’s working life and the terrible hardship it has been proven to cause actually makes it more difficult for people to find work.
“It is not too late for the Government to avert a Christmas disaster. They must act now.”
Must work with claimants to find work, not against them
Member of the Committee, Heidi Allen MP, said: “”Despite the clear support for Universal Credit, there is cross-party recognition that the 6-week wait does not honour the original intentions of the system.
“To truly represent the world of work, the payment cycle must mirror how the majority of people are paid i.e. monthly. Universal credit will only be the success it deserves to be if it works with claimants to find work, and not against them.”