Universal Credit payment fears
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