MPs at Westminster have argued that people applying for Universal Credit (UC) should not be forced to wait five weeks before receiving their first payments.
The issue of the five-week wait for UC has long been highlighted as a major source of financial hardship and problems with debt among households across the UK.
Now, with a growing number of people applying for UC payments because of the pandemic, politicians have taken a closer look at the problems that the five-week wait is seen as being at least partly responsible for.
Indeed, the Work and Pensions Committee in Westminster, made up of MPs from different political parties, has published a report on the subject that argues for “starter payments” to be introduced to give new UC applicants some money upfront so they can afford to cover their most essential costs.
The committee has said: “A starter payment should be made to people claiming UC for the first time to ensure that everyone has enough money for basics such as food and heating during the wait for their initial monthly payment.”
Introducing a starter payment worth the equivalent of three weeks of standard UC allowance would “be a simple way of ensuring that new claimants had the money they needed for basic living essentials,” the committee’s report concludes.
It is also made clear in the committee’s report that for a lot of people, the five-week wait for an initial UC payment means an extended period of time without any income at all and therefore a heightened risk of serious financial hardship and a reliance on debt.
The debt help charity StepChange has echoed the calls from MPs for an end to the five-week wait for UC payments and noted that 92 per cent of the people it works with who’ve been affected by the issue have experience financial hardship or difficulty as a result of it.
“The five-week wait is simply untenable,” said Peter Tutton, head of policy at StepChange.
“It remains essential the government undertakes fundamental reform of the Universal Credit system if we are to avoid more and more people being swept into hardship.”
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The emergency £20 increase to Universal Credit payments introduced in response to the Covid pandemic could be taken away from prospective recipients from April next year.
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