To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the effect of the five-week wait for a first payment of universal credit on the mental health of applicants.
30 January 2020
No one has to wait five weeks for their first payment of Universal Credit. New claim advances are available to support those in financial need until their first payment is made. The Department has learnt from where we did not get things right in the past in the legacy benefit system. Too often, the desire to pay quickly meant claimants not receiving their correct entitlement as we did not have an appropriate timeframe to review household circumstances. Universal Credit is calculated to reflect the claimant’s circumstances at the end of their monthly assessment period to accurately reflect circumstances at the point of payment.
Claimants can access up to 100% of the total expected monthly award, which they can pay back over a period of up to 12 months. We have announced that from October 2021, the repayment period for these advances will be extended further, to 16 months. Proposed repayments of the advance are explained, and all claimants are advised to request a level of advance which is manageable both now and when considering the repayments required.
Universal Credit is simpler and fairer than the legacy benefit system. It is designed to target resources at those that need them most and to provide support for people who can’t work or need help moving towards the labour market. Our work coaches all undertake a robust learning process which includes a focus on health conditions and disabilities, how to tailor service delivery according to needs, and has specific content on requirement setting for people with mental health conditions.
Our Work Coaches gauge claimants’ financial needs from their first interview. For those who need help with budgeting, we are able to signpost additional support, for example through the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS), who can help with personal budgeting and money management through its free helpline, printed guides and digital guidance.