Uni­ver­sal Credit pay­ment fears

Cynon Valley - - FRONT PAGE - DAN BLOOM AND WILL HAY­WARD waleson­line@waleson­line.co.uk

PEO­PLE could be left out of pocket over Christ­mas af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of Uni­ver­sal Credit (UC) in the re­gion. Many have re­ported de­lays in get­ting their first pay­ments.

PEO­PLE in South Wales could be left out of pocket over Christ­mas af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of Uni­ver­sal Credit (UC) in the re­gion.

Peo­ple in ar­eas that have moved onto the UC sys­tem have re­ported de­lays in get­ting their first pay­ments.

With job cen­tres in Aber­dare, Llantrisant, Pon­typridd, Porth, Tony­pandy and Tre­orchy mov­ing to the sys­tem this month, there are wor­ries that this could leave some claimants with a fi­nan­cial black hole at one of the most ex­pen­sive times of the year.

UC, which is a six-in­one ben­e­fit meant to sim­plify the wel­fare sys­tem, has al­ready been widely crit­i­cised for in­creas­ing food bank use and leav­ing peo­ple out of pocket.

The rea­son for the spe­cific Christ­mas is­sue is be­cause there is a five­week wait for the first pay­ment when peo­ple start claim­ing the ben­e­fit, mean­ing that if they start at the end of No­vem­ber, they are un­likely to get cash be­fore Christ­mas.

UC is rolling out in two phases. The first phase is al­ready hap­pen­ing now – the sec­ond phase isn’t.

The first phase in­volves new claimants and ex­ist­ing claimants whose cir­cum­stances change – they are be­ing put on the ben­e­fit right now.

This process started in one area at a time, with each job cen­tre hav­ing its own launch date.

The first job cen­tre launched UC in No­vem­ber 2015. Now it’s in al­most ev­ery one, and the fi­nal 107 will launch it in No­vem­ber and De­cem­ber.

That means that by Christ­mas, any­one who makes a new claim will be put on UC.

There were al­ready 1.2m peo­ple in this po­si­tion by Septem­ber. By May it will be two mil­lion, and by De­cem­ber next year it will be three mil­lion.

The sec­ond phase in­volves up to four mil­lion ex­ist­ing claimants who will move onto UC later through a process called “man­aged mi­gra­tion”.

Un­like in the first phase, they will be able to ac­cess a £3bn tran­si­tion fund to en­sure their ben­e­fit pay­ments don’t sud­denly drop. They will also mostly not start mov­ing over un­til sum­mer 2020. Only 10,000 peo­ple are be­ing moved over in the first year from July next year af­ter UK Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters slowed the process down.

Cam­paign­ers’ fears are great­est when UC is new to an area.

It means job cen­tre staff are deal­ing with their first cases un­der the new ben­e­fit, which it’s claimed could lead to teething prob­lems and de­lays.

So while any­one who claims from late No­vem­ber faces a wait over Christ­mas, it’s those in new UC ar­eas who are be­ing high­lighted.

It’s im­por­tant to know the DWP has a sys­tem to en­sure your money is not cut off. It’s called an ad­vance pay­ment.

As soon as you make a claim for UC, you can ap­ply for 100% of your first month’s pay­ment. You can ap­ply through your on­line ac­count or Job­cen­tre work coach, and it should ar­rive within five days. But you have to pay the ad­vance back out of your fu­ture ben­e­fits.

The re­pay­ments can be spread over 12 months and there is no in­ter­est.

Else­where, hous­ing ben­e­fit will also keep be­ing paid for the first two weeks of a UC claim, to help bridge the gap.

There is a five-week wait for the first pay­ment when peo­ple start claim­ing Uni­ver­sal Credit for the first time – but ad­vance pay­ments are avail­able

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