Seven days wait for family and housing benefits for unemployed claimants
Full information on what the new ‘seven day waiting period’ for unemployed claimants will mean is not yet available. But from what’s available so far it doesn’t look good for people who lose their jobs, or their familes. The CSR policy costings document specifies that the policy will:
Introduce seven waiting days in Universal Credit for new claimants that have not had a Universal Credit claim in the past six months, where at least one person in the household is subject to conditionality. This costing assumes a 2015-16 start date for the measure.
The measure is forecast to save around £250 million a year, and is calculated on the basis that:
that from April 2015 new awards of Universal Credit in each month for claimants who would be subject to conditionality are reduced by the average amount of Universal Credit claimed per claimant per week.
UC claimants ‘who will be subject to conditionality’ includes a very large group of claimants currently on Jobseeker’s Allowance and could even be taken to mean that those on Income Support (a benefit claimed primarily by lone parents with very young children), or those subject to the benefit cap, are included. Today’s announcement that lone parents will have to start preparing for work once their children are three underlines this point. People in these groups face conditions, just not to actively apply for jobs. More details on which conditionality regime this new policy will apply to is needed before we can rule certain groups out of this new process. We do know that at least those claiming Employment and Support Allowance and contributory JSA will not be affected.
It is also not just unemployed claimants who are affected, those ‘not earning as much as the government expects them to’ will also see their income fall. This means people earning less than the NMW at 35 hours a week (or whatever their specific rule is – requirements will be less for those who are only required to seek part-time work). Households who are working, but see their income fall, will now have to wait a week to claim UC even if they remain in work with reduced hours during this period.
But the most worrying point is that Universal Credit will bring together all cash benefits into a single payment – so a delay in UC can also mean a delay in benefits currently classified as child and working tax credits, housing benefit, council tax benefits and many more. This policy sounds as if it will do far more than simply affect access to £71.70 of JSA for unemployed claimants (hard as that would be by itself) – it looks as if it is also their rent, their bills and their children’s food costs which won’t be met.
Update Friday 28th June: As some have pointed out there is already a three day ‘waiting period’ for JSA, which means that your entitlement to benefit only starts three days after your claim is registered. But crucially at the moment this doesn’t prohibit entitlements to linked benefits starting on the first day of a JSA claim. If, as still seems likely, the new seven day period applies to the entire UC award this would be a significant shift from the current position.