Government announces changes to Universal Credit


Despite numerous flaws in the system and thousands of families struggling to make ends meet, the transition to the Universal Credit system continues unabated. If you are a regular visitor to these pages, you will know that the dissenting voices have grown steadily louder with every passing month – to the point where some have even been coming from within the Government itself.

At last, there are signs that the decision makers are willing to do something, with news that the waiting time for receiving the first payment under the new system is reducing.

A brief recep

The biggest problem with Universal Credits to date has been the transition itself. As households move across to the new system, they have to wait at least six weeks, and sometimes even longer, before their payments start arriving.

Back in October of last year, I gave a real world example of a single mother who had an eight week wait, during which she had to somehow support herself and her child on the princely sum of £20 per week. Of course, she was unable to pay the rent and put food on the table and was soon thousands of pounds in debt.

The reason it takes so long is that after you submit your claim, there are seven “waiting days” before the official date on which your payment is due. Given that Universal Credit is paid in arrears every month, there are then another four weeks to wait. Then, you have to allow seven days for the payment to reach your account.

What is changing?

The change, which came into force on 14 February, removes the initial seven waiting days and starts your claim on the date you register it. The new rules come as a direct response to the uproar that the Universal Credits system has provoked, and the misery and hardship that thousands of families have been put through.

When the anger spread across from the opposition benches to Conservative MPs, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond finally felt compelled to do something, and agreed to measures that would mitigate the hardship.

However, is reducing waiting time from six weeks to five weeks really going to make a tangible difference?

More changes down the line

The answer is probably a resounding “no,” but there is more positive news on the horizon. From April, those who are already claiming Housing Benefit will continue to receive their payments for the first two weeks after they have registered for Universal Credit. In essence, this will reduce the real waiting time down to three weeks.

A flawed system

The above moves are all steps in the right direction, but they do not alter the fact that the Universal Credits system appears to be fundamentally flawed. A recent news story by the BBC discussed the fact that an incredible three quarters of Londoners who have gone over to Universal Credits have found themselves in rent arrears. Would reducing the waiting time from six to five weeks have made any difference?

Staying in touch

There are those on the peripheries of the Corridors of Power who feel that ultimately, the Government will be forced to either a more substantial rethink or to pull the plug on Universal Credits altogether.

At Hylton Potts, we like to stay up to date on the political manoeuvrings in Whitehall, so please keep visiting these pages for the latest news. Even more importantly, though, we are here to provide assistance if you are facing difficulties due to the transition to Universal Credits.

If your family is affected, there is some useful advice on the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website, but if that doesn’t answer your questions, do give us a call or drop us an email, and we will be happy to look into your personal circumstances. You can reach us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at law@hylton-potts.com.

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