From the TUC

The Six Week Wait – Already Causing Hardship

20 Nov 2015, by in Society & Welfare

People getting the government’s new Universal Credit often have to wait six weeks for their first money and this is causing them problems with their bills, according to a new report. Some have had to turn to food banks.

Waiting for Credit is a new report written by a group of 16 Citizens’ Advice Bureaux in areas where Universal Credit is being rolled out, and it is based on a survey of 355 people who had been given advice about the new benefit. In the authors’ words, “the key issue that came out of the research was the difficulty people have managing until receiving their first Universal Credit (UC) payment, and the serious impact this has on their lives.”

 

  • Eighty one per cent of the people said they were having difficulty managing to pay essential living costs such as rent, utility bills and food whilst waiting for their first payment. Sixty two per cent said it was very difficult.

  • Of those who were paying a mortgage or rent to a private or social landlord, 63 per cent were finding it difficult to pay their rent or mortgage and 68 per cent were having difficulty with their gas and electricity bills.

  • Sixty three per cent of all respondents were having difficulty buying enough food, with “a number of respondents specifically recalling their shock at having to rely on food banks to survive”.

Regular readers will know that for over a year the TUC has been worrying that many people claiming Universal Credit will face a long wait for their first benefit payment. Universal Credit takes a month to assess and a week to deliver which always meant a wait of at least five weeks and the government’s decision to introduce seven “waiting days” on top of this extended the delay to six weeks. What is more, because UC is an integrated benefit, for the first time the elements of that are currently covered by other means-tested benefits will also be subject to waiting days. This means that thousands of claimants will have no income to cover the rent. Our report, Universal Credit: the problem of delay in benefit payments, predicted that many claimants would fall into debt and have to rely on food banks. That is why the six week wait was the first target for our Saving Our Safety Net campaign.

One point I don’t think we emphasised enough that’s highlighted by this report is the fact that Universal Credit is a “passport” to eligibility for other important benefits, and some parents had found the wait for free school meals especially hard for their children. But one thing we got absolutely right was the fact that the availability of “advance payments” of Universal Credit is not an answer to the Six Week Wait. I’m sorry to say that we are not in the least surprised that 58 per cent of the survey respondents said they had not been told about advance payments – despite the government’s promise to the Social Security Advisory Committee that it would do more to publicise them. Again, as we expected, many claimants who did get advance payments had difficulty paying them back, often on top of paying back other debts and arrears.

When we first raised the Six Week Wait as an issue the government pooh-poohed it. But, actually, you have to be pretty out of touch not to realise that making people with no jobs or very low pay wait six weeks for their first cash is going to cause them real hardship.

6 Responses to The Six Week Wait – Already Causing Hardship

  1. Keith Povall
    Nov 20th 2015, 7:16 pm

    Yes, I registered for UK on Nov 4th. Claim not valid until the 17th (more than 7 days), then was told at jobcentre an act of law had deemed claims won’t be paid for the first 7 days. During this time I strongly believe the bills just pay themselves ?

    As for the atmosphere of threat of sanction if you don’t provide evidence of 35 hours a week job search activity. All that is missing in the jobcentre are the swastikas.

  2. Bill Kruse
    Nov 20th 2015, 7:55 pm

    The whole point of UC is that it’s functionally useless so people have to take out private unemployment insurance to cover themselves. Let us not forget the role of the giant American insurance company Unum and their established history of criminality in the field of disability denial in all this as we know from Private Eye they’ve been working with government as ‘consultants’ since the early 90s. They must be rubbing their hands with glee and I’d imagine so is IDS as I can’t see his help in establishing a multi-billion pound insurance industry in the UK by wrecking social security is likely to go unrewarded.

  3. Kiddycapfury
    Nov 20th 2015, 8:12 pm

    Just love how you are described as the ‘Officer covering social security, tax credits and labour market issues’, because, long as that list is, I just knew that there was no chance on Earth that ‘for the Benefit Cap’ would be in it!

    It would seem that the TUC has done the Tories’ job for them, and truly believe, hook, line and sinker, that your idle benefit-capper is an idle, fat b***ard who occasionally starts fires to keep down the number of sprogs who keep stealing their fag/gambling/beer money.

    Sadly, that is not the case, and many benefit cappers actually work Richard! Yes, the reviled of society, the scrounging shirkers, are frequently found working on the lowest rung of all as zero hour contract types, but that’s not work is it, at fewer than 16h a week (JSA) or £430 per month (net; UC) it’s just not worth mentioning lets just call them workless, and pity poor people on tax credit cuts instead, when actually, working cappers can lose £1155/month and be left with £1.75/person per day. But who cares that benefit cap children will starve to death? Joe Halewood, Rebekah Carrier , Lady Hale.. You can name them, quicker than counting them!

  4. Kiddycapfury
    Nov 20th 2015, 8:15 pm

    Oh yes, about that 6 week wait, well when I finally got my money it had been capped (incorrectly, I was due five more months of grace period) by £627 lol!

  5. Richard Exell

    Richard Exell
    Nov 21st 2015, 5:31 pm

    Kiddycapfury – I’m not sure where you got the impression either I or the TUC supports the benefit cap. I have posted about the benefit cap on a number of occasions, see for instance http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2014/09/73-per-cent-of-the-people-hit-by-the-benefit-cap-are-children/ and http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2014/12/the-benefit-cap-is-it-worthwhile/

  6. Ron
    Nov 23rd 2015, 11:34 am

    It’s about time the writing ceased, Richard, and action takes place because as we write another disabled person dies … and the TUC sits around doing nothing – doing the tories work for them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!