To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the number of people at risk of experiencing debt as a result of the six-week transitory wait from legacy benefits to universal credit.
The Department has implemented a number of improvements to ensure no one has to experience hardship at the point of claim.
New claimants to Universal Credit have always been able to apply for a Universal Credit Advance in their first month if they need some financial support until the first regular payment of Universal Credit is made.
Following the Autumn Budget 2017, we have implemented a comprehensive and wide-ranging package of improvements worth £1.5 billion. These include making advances of up to 100% of the indicative award available (from the start of a claim) and increasing the repayment period to 12 months, removing the 7 waiting days, providing an additional payment of 2 weeks of Housing Benefit to support claimants when they transition to Universal Credit, and changing how claimants in temporary accommodation receive support for their housing costs. Additionally, advances will be able to be repaid over 16 months from October 2021.
Furthermore, from July 2020, payments of Income Support and the income related elements of Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance will continue for two weeks after a claim for Universal Credit has been made, benefitting 1.1 million households. This extra financial support is intended to help claimants in the five-week period up to their first monthly payment of Universal Credit, and will not need to be repaid.