BRITS on Universal Credit should get their first payment after two weeks, and get to keep their extra £1000 coronavirus uplift, a powerful groups of peers demands today.
And in a huge boost for The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign, the Lords Economic Affairs Committee backed all of our main asks of the Government for how to repair the troubled benefits programme.
Around 4.2million people were on Universal Credit as of the start of April as thousands lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
An extra 3.2million people claimed for the new benefits system since March – and 1.2million claimed advance payments.
In a fresh report out today the peers argue that the five-week wait, which The Sun has been campaigning to get slashed down, is the "main cause of insecurity".
They said it "entrenches debt" and "increases extreme poverty" and must be addressed now.
People who have had a £1000 boost to help during the coronavirus crisis should get to keep the cash going forward, they added.
The DWP said no one has to wait five weeks for cash as urgent payments are available if people need them.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Chair of the Economic Affairs Committee, told The Sun: "The Sun's campaign has revealed many of these problems with Universal Credit and has been calling for change.
"Our report reinforces the need for the Government to act on these recommendations – and do so now.
"There is a great wall of unemployment sadly coming our way and there will be many more people dependent on Universal Credit. It needs fixing."
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2024, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
And he added: “Most people, including our Committee, broadly agree with the original aims and objectives of Universal Credit.
"However, in its current form it fails to provide a dependable safety net.
"It has led to an unprecedented number of people relying on foodbanks and not being able to pay their rent."
He said some features of the system were harming women, disabled people and the vulnerable.
And he added: “Universal Credit needs more money to catch up after 10 years of cuts to the social security budget" and "substantial reform" to its design.
“The five-week wait for a first payment must be replaced by a non-repayable two-week grant to all claimants."
The Lords report also recommends that the punitive taper rate should be reduced – another aim of The Sun's campaign – to encourage more people into work.
And it says all claimants should have a higher work allowance to allow them to keep more of their hard-earned cash too.
The Lords also conclude that including childcare support in Universal Credit was a "mistake" and paying in arrears is a huge barrier to work – as we have repeatedly highlighted.
"In some cases it has been a disincentive to work," the report says.
The Government should remove childcare support from Universal Credit and be made into a new standalone benefit paid, it added.
Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said of the report: “Sadly, this report confirms what many have known for a long time – Universal Credit is simply not working. There is clear consensus that the system is not delivering on its objectives and is instead pushing people further into poverty and debt.
"Ministers should listen to their Conservative colleagues’ calls for a reformed social security system."
The DWP said in response to the report it would "consider their recommendations in detail.
Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said of the report: “The case for Universal Credit has never been stronger.
"The system defied its critics in unprecedented and unforeseeable circumstances, processing more than 3.2m new claims at pace since mid-March and paying more than a million advances worth hundreds of millions of pounds to those in urgent need within days.
“We remain committed to supporting the most vulnerable in society, which is why we currently spend over £95 billion a year on the benefits system. We’ve also increased the Universal Credit standard allowance by up to £1,040 a year, as part of a package of welfare measures worth over £9.3 billion.
“We welcome the acknowledgement by the Committee that Universal Credit is here to stay and we will consider their recommendations in detail.”
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren't enough to cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
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