Department for Work and Pensions to look at frequency of Universal Credit payments

Friday, 11 January 2019 - 5:04pm

Following earlier announcements that the Government would delay a vote on proposals to move existing benefit claimants on to Universal Credit (UC), the Government today confirmed that it would instead be seeking a vote on an initial 10,000 claimant pilot.

The Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Amber Rudd, also indicated that there would be a separate pilot to improve access to more frequent Universal Credit payments, and that access to direct payments for housing costs would be made easier for private landlords.

In response to the developments Jacqui McCluskey, Director of Policy and Communications at Homeless Link, said:

“Universal Credit in its current form doesn’t work for people experiencing homelessness. The current payment schedule of once a month has led many to anxiety, debt and not being able to buy everyday necessities like food and fuel.

“It is therefore welcome that the Department will look to make urgently needed reforms to improve access to more frequent payments - we wait to see what this will involve. We are encouraged that they are planning to make direct payments to private landlords easier.

“However, there are still fundamental problems with Universal Credit for the thousands of people experiencing homelessness. Many don’t have the appropriate access to IT to make or manage a claim or don’t have savings that can prevent them falling further into debt as they wait for their first payment. It is crucial that these elements are also addressed before any claimants involved are moved over, even in a pilot.

“Any changes to Universal Credit must also be alongside changes to the wider welfare system. There is still a freeze on benefit levels including the Local Housing Allowance rates, and this must be lifted urgently. We cannot wait until 2020 to see this change. There is ever-increasing gap between income and rent payments and this situation is pushing more and more people into homelessness. There is a long way to go before our benefit system works to prevent homelessness and support people out of it.”

Homeless Link has developed some briefings for staff from homelessness services on Universal Credit. These include tips and information on making a new claim and accessing Alternative Payment Arrangements such as direct payments to landlords and fortnightly payments.