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Are the Government fixing Universal Credit?

  • 11/02/2019
  • Author:Liam.Evans@turn2us.org.uk

What are the Government doing to improve the controversial benefit?

Theresa May speaking to the media

On Monday, MPs from all parties had the opportunity to ask ministers from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) their questions.

Unsurprisingly, many of the questions focused on Universal Credit.

The five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment has led to increased foodbank use, what is the Government doing to fix this?

The Government acknowledged that the roll-out of Universal Credit may be one of the causes for increased food poverty.

Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said that claimants can request an Advance Payment of Universal Credit.

The Advance Payment is a loan which you have to pay back from your Universal Credit payments a bit at a time.

If a claimant is paid twice in one ‘assessment period’ (for example, due to a bank holiday), people can lose out on their entitlement, what is being done to rectify this problem?

Universal Credit assesses a claimants income every month, this is called an 'assessment period'. However, if a claimant is paid earlier than usual, the system will calculate them as having been paid twice in one month and they would receive a vastly reduced Universal Credit payment.

Earlier in January, it was ruled by the High Court that this way of assessing income is unlawful. While the Government decides on its response to this ruling, they decided not to comment yet.

However, ministers did say that if an employee is usually paid on the same day every month and it is only being changed as a one off, the employer could record the pay date as being on the usual day.

There have been many criticisms of Work Capability Assessments outsourced to private companies. Will these by conducted by public sector employees going forward?

No, future contracts will be open to all sectors.

Many renters claiming Universal Credit are going into arrears. How is this going to change?

Ministers stated that Universal Credit payments can be made directly to landlords.

In lieu of the ‘deflection scripts’ scandal, what is the DWP doing to promote alternatives to the online system?

Earlier in February, it was reported that Universal Credit helpline handlers were given a 'deflection script' to move claimants onto the online system rather than addressing their concerns over the phone.

Ministers did not address the deflection scripts directly, however they told MPs that claimants can also complete applications to Universal Credit over the phone, in person in Jobcentres and though Universal Support.

Read our guides to Universal Credit for more information.

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