Seven-day Universal Credit waiting period will cause ‘serious problems’
The UK government is to press ahead with proposals to introduce a seven-day waiting period before claimants are eligible for Universal Credit.
Initially announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 2013 Spending Round, the current proposals follow the extension of waiting days in Job Seeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance from three days to seven days, which came into force on 27 October 2014.
A report by the Social Security Advisory Committee expressed its concern about the introduction of waiting days into Universal Credit and the length of time claimants would have to wait until their first payment of benefit - in particular because Universal Credit includes the housing element - and recommended the government reconsidered the policy.
However the government said it shares these concerns and therefore will apply the policy to new claims only and will not apply it to existing Universal Credit claims where a claimant moves into the All Work-Related Requirements Group as a result of a change in circumstances.
The government added that it has identified certain groups of vulnerable claimants that may be particularly affected by the introduction of waiting days and these claimants will not be required to serve waiting days. Additional rules also ensure that claimants migrating from legacy benefits, those moving on and off Universal Credit due to earnings within a six month period and claimants to whom a new Universal Credit award is made when a previous award has ended upon their forming a couple with, or splitting from, a joint claimant, will not serve waiting days.
Expressing his disappointment with the decision, Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “The changes mean that if you lose your job you will have to wait five to six weeks before you receive any money, which could cause serious problems for some people because most Universal Credit claimants have no savings to fall back on. We’re disappointed that the government has not taken on board the recommendation of the independent committee it appointed to examine this proposal.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Waiting days have been a longstanding feature of the benefit system and this brings Universal Credit into line with other working age benefits. It is designed to encourage people to focus on getting back to work, before receiving out of work benefits.
“Universal Credit is simplifying the welfare system to make work pay, and research shows that it’s getting claimants back into work faster and helping them earn more.”