Hilary Benn - Member of Parliament for Leeds Central
I have been contacted by a number of constituents about the initial five-week wait for Universal Credit (UC) payments.
UC is a single payment which will replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working age individuals and families. It’s the Government’s flagship welfare reform and it has been plagued by problems in its design and delivery. I share your concern about the inbuilt five-week wait for the first UC payment. I believe the excessive waiting period is a key defect of UC and the Government should cut the five-week delay.
In November 2018, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty in the UK warned that the five-week wait pushes many people who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears, and serious hardship. In addition, a report by the Trussell Trust found that, on average, 12 months after the rollout of UC, foodbanks saw a 52% increase in demand, compared to 13% in areas with UC for three months or less.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions recently accepted that there is a link between the initial rollout of UC and difficulty accessing money, and the increased use of foodbanks.
The five-week wait for the first UC payment is unprecedented in social security and it is unrealistic and senseless to leave people without a payment during this time. Offering claimants a loan to cover this period does not solve the problem.
UC is clearly not working, as it is pushing many families into poverty, rent arrears and to foodbanks. The Government must stop the rollout of UC as a matter of urgency and deliver a social security system that supports people.