MPs launch inquiry into Universal Credit five-week wait

MPs launch inquiry into Universal Credit five-week wait

How to eliminate the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment is the subject of an inquiry by the UK work and pensions committee.

Announcing the inquiry this week, the committee said the Universal Credit process has a “baked in” the wait for the first payment and many organisations have concluded that the delay must be reduced or eliminated entirely.

There is, however, a lack of agreement about how this might be most achieved. Some of the options suggested include:

  • Scrapping the five week wait for all claimants: for example, by making the Advance non-repayable;
  • Offering non-repayable Advances to some claimants: for example, those considered vulnerable;
  • Allowing more flexibility for the start of a claim to be backdated;
  • Extending run on payments to cover all legacy benefits;
  • Substantially reducing the rate at which Advance Payments—the main existing mitigation measure—are paid back, to help claimants better manage their money;
  • Paying UC two-weekly, like many legacy benefits, rather than monthly.

The committee said it wants to help the UK Government to better understand the upsides and downsides of these options, and explore other possible solutions

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Stephen Timms MP, said: “It’s now widely recognised that the lengthy wait for a first payment of Universal Credit is causing real difficulties for people - so it’s hugely welcome that the minister is open to looking at how to fix it.

“The committee wants to look carefully at all the possible solutions, and work out which are the most practical, affordable, and likely to make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.”

The committee has called for submissions to its inquiry by April 17 with answers to these specific questions:

  1. To what extent have the mitigations the Government has introduced so far (e.g. Advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five week wait for UC claimants?
    a. What problems do claimants still experience during the five week wait?
  2. What is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five week wait?
    a. Is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?
    b. Is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?
  3. Are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?
  4. Are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five week wait—either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?
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