Universal Credit Children’s Christmas Crisis
Ministers have been warned that more than 100,000 children could be exposed to financial hardship this Christmas, due to the struggling Universal Credit welfare programme.
This struggle is down to the standard 35-day delay in Universal Credit’s first payment, meaning that anyone applying for the welfare programme from the 20th of November and onwards, will not receive any kind of benefits until AFTER Christmas. Housing association Peabody Trust believe this to be in the region of 67,000 families, which means around 116,000 children! Areas transferring on to universal credit in the next few weeks include postcodes in north-west London, Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Wolverhampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Wakefield, Portsmouth and Milton Keynes.
Anya Martin, policy officer at Peabody, said: “People having to use their benefits to repay the government means that this hardship continues even when regular payments have kicked in.
“Reducing the waiting period to two weeks from the start of a claim would make a huge difference to thousands of vulnerable families across the country.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “There’s no reason for people to be without money over Christmas because advance payments are widely available.
“Anyone applying for Universal Credit can get an advance of up to 100% upfront, payable on the same day if someone is in urgent need.”
However, these early payments simply leave claimants trapped in a circle of debt repayments. Around a third of all Universal Credit claimants have upto 40% deducted from their income to repay advances and debts. The Commons work and pensions committee chair Frank Field has called this arrangement a “nationalised form of debt” that was “fast becoming a main supply route to food banks”.
Along with other organisations, Debt Assist UK are calling on the government to reduce the five-week waiting time to two weeks, over the festive period.
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