Universal Credit

Department for Work and Pensions written question – answered at on 17 March 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the operation of section 26 of the Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (Claims and Payments) Regulations 2013.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Under Universal Credit, claims may be backdated by up to one calendar month in some circumstances for vulnerable claimants, who may be delayed in claiming Universal Credit through no fault of their own. Claims may also be backdated in specific circumstances when a couple separates, to ensure that there is no gap in entitlement between the couple claim and the new claim made by a single claimant.

In order to provide the best possible support to our claimants, it is important that we are able to have discussions about their claim and circumstances at the earliest possible opportunity, whether to support them back into work or to provide or signpost them to other support and guidance. It is therefore important that backdating provisions are used in specific circumstances, and that all claimants are encouraged to engage with us at the earliest opportunity.

Universal Credit has been designed with a diverse range of claimants in mind and we want the application process to be as quick and easy as possible to ensure that claimants receive their money at the earliest opportunity. Comprehensive support is available to claimants to use our digital service, however, we recognise there will be occasions when people are unable to make or maintain their claim online, so telephone support is available. The initial verification can include a home visit to support a claimant with making their claim and completing any other administrative tasks required, including applications for Section 26, to ensure that they receive the correct payment.

Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland have supported over 200,000 individuals through ‘Help to Claim’ since April 2019, offering tailored and practical support to help people make a Universal Credit claim up to receiving their first full correct payment on time. ‘Help to Claim’ is available online, on the telephone and face-to-face, in locations including Jobcentres and Citizen’s Advice Bureaux.

The Department has delivered a number of improvements to support claimants during their first assessment period, including paying those claimants moving from Housing Benefit onto Universal Credit a two week ‘transitional housing payment’, and introducing a two-week run on for eligible claimants of Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance from July 2020.

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