Poverty charity says reducing wait for Universal Credit will have a significant impact



Poverty charity Turn2us has welcomed the passing of the motion to reduce the wait for the first Universal Credit payment from six weeks to one month at today’s House of Commons debate on its roll-out. The backbench business debate focused on the recommendations of the recent Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry report on Universal Credit.

Turn2us submitted evidence to the inquiry, which included that it saw many problems with the delays claimants are facing for their first payment. Many of those seeking help from the charity reported that the six week delay was pushing them into debt and rent arrears. Some people had lost their home because landlords will not wait for rent payments, and others are depending on food banks, emergency support, friends and family for help, as a result of the six week wait.

Explaining why Turn2us believes that the six week wait needs to be reduced, Pritie Billimoria, Head of Communications at Turn2us, said: “Those seeking our help are often in very difficult situations but we have been shocked at the desperation of those waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.

“People apply for Universal Credit because they need help with paying for the basics that they need to live. It therefore doesn’t make sense to make someone in such a situation wait for six weeks for that help. Most just aren’t in a position to wait that long and it is causing unnecessary suffering.”

As well as reducing the wait for the first Universal Credit payment, Turn2us is recommending a number of administrative changes that it believes will have a significant impact:

  • Raising awareness – As Universal Credit is a complex system and often difficult to understand with many confused about when and how they should move onto the new system, there should be a nationwide, concerted and integrated public information campaign, not just improved guidance to frontline staff.
  • Monthly payment in arrears – There should be flexibility is built into how payments are made, with an option to be paid fortnightly in arrears. This will help smooth the transition from legacy benefits.
  • Administrative standards – Efforts should be made to raise administrative standards, with a greater emphasis on staff training, to avoid the problems caused by conflicting information and payment errors. Preparations should also be made to increase administrative capacity as a successful awareness-raising campaign will by definition invite greater usage.
  • Severe Disability Premium – The Severe Disability Premium should be reintroduced and fairly reintegrated into the Universal Credit system.