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UNIVERSAL CREDIT ( UC ) : Rollout Schedule * Mines * Sanctions * Changes * Delays * Reports From Infected Manors - Page 23 - Carers UK Forum

UNIVERSAL CREDIT ( UC ) : Rollout Schedule * Mines * Sanctions * Changes * Delays * Reports From Infected Manors

All about money
266 posts
DWP staff cut by 21% since universal credit rollout began, figures show.

Exclusive : Ministers accused of making " Reckless and irresponsible " reductions to workforce amid rise in staffing errors that leave claimants " Cleaning out their savings to survive. "

Ministers have been accused of making “reckless” staffing cuts after it emerged the department responsible for welfare benefits has lost 21 per cent of its workforce since the controversial universal credit system was introduced.

Campaigners warned staff in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were under “intense pressure” to deal with growing workloads after government accounts data revealed the workforce had been reduced by 19,189 since 2013, amounting to a loss of one in five employees.

Universal credit claimants meanwhile said they had been left struggling to put food on the table after being denied financial support they were eligible or ordered to pay back large sums of money due to overpayments made as a result of errors by caseworkers.

It comes after the UK’s spending watchdog revealed fraud and error in the welfare bill were at their highest levels since 2006, with benefit claimants and pensioners losing out on £2bn that they were entitled last year to because officials short-changed them.

Another £1.1bn was overpaid to claimants due to errors by caseworkers, or because the recipient failed to give the right details about their income – through the complex online portal system – on time.

In one case, a couple in Scotland said they were forced to “clean out their savings just to survive” after the DWP made two errors on their benefit calculations in the space of eight months.

Gordon Dunlop, 44, said he and his wife Samantha, 36, both mature students living near Dundee with their two teenage children, had applied for universal credit last September. After submitting all the relevant documents, they were placed on a high award.

But in March, when Mr Dunlop made a minor amendment to their claim due to a small rent increase, he was informed by a caseworker that they had been overpaid, and must repay £7,000 – meaning they received no support over the following months.

In May, Ms Dunlop stopped receiving her student loan, but although the couple informed the DWP of this, their entitlement did not change and they continued to receive no universal credit.

Two months later, the couple were informed they had been underpaid more than £1,000 because the caseworker had made “several errors”.

Mr Dunlop told The Independent: “We had been struggling. We had to use all our savings to try and survive, because we were getting no help from them, and it basically cleaned out all our savings because we had to survive on something. We had to live off food we had stored in the freezer.

“It was just chaos. And it’s extremely stressful. The bills keep rolling in. We worried about how we were going to survive from day to day. And now we’re always fearful that it will happen again.”

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents people working for the government, said the staffing cuts in the DWP had been “hugely detrimental” to the ability of its members to serve the public effectively.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: “Our members in social security are trying hard in difficult conditions to help universal credit claimants, benefit claimants and the disabled. What they need is a properly resourced department, not cuts and increased workloads.”

Margaret Greenwood, shadow work and pensions secretary, said it was “both reckless and irresponsible” of the DWP to cut staffing by a fifth at the same time as rolling out the “deeply flawed” universal credit programme, and that staff and claimants were suffering as a result.

The Liberal Democrats’ DWP spokesperson, Christine Jardine, echoed the remarks, saying it was “astonishing” to see the department cut its workforce to such an extent when “so many people are suffering from DWP’s blunders”.

Abby Jitendra, policy and research manager at the food bank provider the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s really important that a big change to that system, like universal credit, is done right. Making sure there are enough frontline staff to give people a personalised service is crucial.

“Universal credit should be protecting people from needing a food bank – but we need to make sure it’s properly resourced if it’s to do so.”

It comes after it emerged in March that work coaches – the frontline staff in jobcentres – are going to be handed bigger workloads to reduce costs, with their caseload set to rise from around 130 to more than 280 by 2024-25.

Meanwhile, ministers were recently accused of “wasting huge chunks of desperately needed resources” after a £200,000 newspaper advertorial vowing to “set the record straight” on universal credit was published on the same day charities revealed claimants were “selling sex to survive”.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are focused on the quality of support we provide and the vast majority of people are satisfied with the service they get from us, with universal credit offering better personalised support.”
Daily Mirror ... part of their " Road to Wigan Pier " series :


Since Universal Credit came in the food bank has been packed : My Wigan Pier Story.

As part of our Road to Wigan Pier project, eight decades after the publication of George Orwell's essay, Coventry Food Bank project manager Hugh McNeill, explains how visitor numbers have soared since the introduction of Universal Credit.

When his restaurant closed in December 2013, Hugh McNeill turned to Coventry Food Bank to feed his family. Unable to get paid work, he started to volunteer there before becoming project manager in 2014. He tells Maryam Qaiser how the switch to Universal Credit has left people needing the service more than ever.

Since the introduction of Universal Credit, we have seen a significant rise in people coming to Coventry Food Bank - and these people have been coming back a number of times.

Universal Credit is a benefit which is applied for online and if you are not computer literate, it can cause real problems. Some people haven't applied because they simply don't know how to operate a computer.

Universal Credit has had a real negative impact for many people, it is quite a complex process. When you apply for it because you lose all your benefits for five weeks, so the transition to Universal Credit can cause a lot of undue hardship on families.

We work with around 358 agencies who refer people to us, including single parents, people with mental health issues, disabilities and hard-working families, who are in jobs but still struggling and homeless people.

In 2016/17 we saw 15,500 people use the food banks in Coventry, but there was a steep rise in 2018/19 to 22,100, following the role out of Universal Credit.

Some people we see are really hard-working but they still rely on help from food banks because they just can't afford to put food on the table. They feel like they are carrying such a burden.

n the past six months alone, we have seen 12,000 people coming through our doors – that is quite a steep rise.

Over the years Coventry has seen a decline in the number of jobs available locally, particularly since Brexit and the housing market for rent has risen sharply. The cost of living has gone up, while peoples earnings have stagnated.
" Halt universal credit pilot " MSPs tell UK government.

MSPs are calling for a stop to the next stage in the rollout of universal credit over fears about the impact it will have.

The next phase of the new benefit's implementation is due to start in Yorkshire this month.

For the first time it involves people on existing benefits being moved to universal credit.

One MSP warned the scheme had been "littered with mistakes" since being introduced in 2013.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament's social security committee have told the UK government they want more clarity around the impact the move will have on those affected.

'Deeply concerned'

In March, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed claimants in Harrogate who still receive the old-style benefits will be the first people to be moved to universal credit under a pilot scheme starting this month.

The benefit was previously introduced gradually across the country for people making new claims.

Committee convener, SNP MSP Bob Doris, warned the scheme was not working and said the pilot scheme should be stopped.

He said: "We are deeply concerned that despite raising this issue as part of the committee's In-Work Poverty Inquiry with the DWP in January, and the UK government's failure to appear at our committee to give evidence, they have carried on with plans for implementation regardless."

He added: "This movement represents a huge cultural shift and we do not believe it is right to sanction the working poor, effectively punishing people for going to their work.

"The DWP has said they are currently taking a 'light touch' approach to in-work conditionality or sanctions but there is little confidence that when the system rolls out more widely that low paid and part-time workers won't suffer as a result.

"The rollout of universal credit has been littered with mistakes and it is vital that this latest pilot is put on hold to ensure that there is no negative impact upon claimants who rely on this money."

The committee has also stated its opposition in principle to attaching punitive conditions to those already in work.

Speaking at the time of the announcement of the pilot in March, Amber Rudd said: "Moving people from the old and outdated benefits system to universal credit is a positive and important moment.

"Once on universal credit people will benefit from a more personal service and can expect to receive up to six benefits combined into one, making it easier for them to manage their money.

"But the switch needs to be done carefully which is why we are taking a step-by-step approach to this, starting in Harrogate.

"I want to be sure that the switch to universal credit is a hassle-free process for claimants and everyone receives the personalised service they deserve."

A DWP spokesperson said: "We are taking a measured approach to moving people to Universal Credit from the old system, working with expert stakeholders to ensure vulnerable and complex claimants are fully supported.

"We will also consult with Parliament before extending the process to more people."

Young mother with small baby " Left without food for days " by universal credit mistake.

Vulnerable people unable to eat and relying on sleeping pills to curb their hunger after being refused benefits, report finds.

Universal credit claimants are being blocked from challenging erroneous decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), leaving vulnerable people without the support they need, according to a new report.

Error and failures in the benefits system, as well as poor advice by universal credit staff, means many people were “getting lost in the quagmire” of the appeals process, the research by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found.

Charity workers told The Independent that some vulnerable claimants had been left unable to eat and been relying on sleeping pills to curb their hunger after their benefits were refused or left unpaid.

Some had had them reinstated on appeal over a year later.

When claimants disagree with a DWP decision on their benefits claim they must ask the department to conduct an internal review, called a “mandatory reconsideration” (MR), before they can appeal to an independent tribunal.

Based on an analysis of 1,600 benefit cases from welfare rights advisers across the UK, the report found people were being wrongly advised that decisions could not be appealed.

Some were wrongly told they needed to provide evidence to challenge a decision, which delayed or prevented their efforts to have mistakes corrected.

When people are refused when they first try to claim, their online account is often closed, which the report said made it even harder to get a decision reviewed because letters explaining why it was refused can no longer be accessed.

One case cited in the report said a single mother who worked part-time for McDonalds was left £560 short of her correct monthly entitlement because the system had said she was earning more than £1,500 more than she actually did.

She took payslips and bank statements to the jobcentre showing the amount she actually earned but they refused to change her entitlement, saying she had to raise it with HMRC. CPAG said this advice was incorrect.

Another case cited was that of a young mother in Harrow was wrongly denied benefits after fleeing domestic abuse with her two young children. This meant she went “days without food”, it says.

The 21-year-old had already submitted an MR, but it had been refused. It wasn’t until eight months later, when she got support to from her local Law Centre to take her case to tribunal, that the DWP reversed the decision and reinstated her benefits.

Pamela Fitzpatrick, director of Harrow Law Centre, who supported the woman, said: “She finally got rid of the partner but he had isolated her from family and friends so she had nobody. Her six-month-old had a heart condition awaiting surgery.

“When I saw her she was relying on social services to give her a tiny amount of money and food vouchers for the food bank, but she was having to walk to the food bank and back with the baby, living in dreadful accommodation under threat of eviction because she had no money to pay her rent. She hadn’t eaten in days.”

Ms Fitzpatrick said the system was flawed because most MRs rarely lead to a change in decision, although cases are often overturned when they get to the tribunal appeal stage.

She added that DWP staff were often not trained properly, seeing MRs as just a “rubber stamping”.

“It also goes back to the issue of advice. There’s such as lack of welfare benefits advice and legal aid because there have been so many cuts over the years. People are struggling on their own. To find their way through the system is very difficult,” she said.

In the foreword to the CPAG report, Dame Laura Cox DBE, former justice of the High Court, said: “Many people are getting lost in the quagmire of the appeals process. Understandably they lose confidence in the system and give up. Erroneous decisions therefore stand, to the detriment of individual families and to society as a whole.

“If, due to complexity, inflexibility or incoherence, the appeals process in universal credit cases is almost impossible to understand and to pursue effectively, incorrect decisions go unchallenged and suffering is prolonged. Children fall through that safety net and our system of justice is undermined."

Chief executive of Cpag Alison Garnham said the universal credit system “threw up so many obstacles” to getting a decision reviewed that some claimants – often the most vulnerable – were likely to give up and lose out.

“The failure to ensure universal credit operates in a way that upholds basic legal duties is cause for serious concern. Universal credit staff dealing with claimants do not always seem to understand the rules as to how decisions can be challenged,” she added.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We continue to work closely with CPAG and welcome the opportunity to do so. We have already improved guidance online and advice to staff about Mandatory Reconsiderations.

“Anyone who disagrees with a benefits decision is able to request a Mandatory Reconsideration either online, by phone, in person or in writing.”
Universal credit : Government failing to compensate 10,000 severely disabled claimants, MPs warn.

" Why won’t the government stop fighting this and just get on with giving disabled people the money they’re owed ? "

Thousands of severely disabled people who were wrongly left about £100 a month worse off after moving onto universal credit are still being denied the money they are owed, MPs have warned.

The government was condemned for failing to compensate the vulnerable claimants – despite losing a High Court case – amid growing fears of a further delay until the autumn.

Ministers have also failed to pass promised regulations to start the next stage of universal credit, with just four days to go until MPs pack up for their long summer break.

Frank Field, chairman of the commons work and pensions committee, attacked the delays, saying: “About 10,000 people are still waiting for compensation.

“Why won’t the government stop fighting this all the way through the courts and just get on with giving disabled people the money they’re owed?”

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, will be confronted over the impasse in an evidence session on Wednesday – although she could be moved hours later, in Boris Johnson’s expected reshuffle.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been under pressure to act over people with severe disabilities since losing the court case last year – and again on appeal in May.

Two men known as TP and AR, and a woman known as SXC, who received severe disability premium (SDP) benefits, successfully argued they were discriminated against when moved onto universal credit.

TP and AR received £6,517 and £4,788 respectively in compensation for the pain and distress caused, plus payments of £173.50 and £176 a month respectively to cover the shortfall in their benefits.

The government then proposed regulations to give SDP claimants moving onto universal credit before January this year compensation of £80 a month, with £180 a month for those moved afterwards – but they have not been passed.

Mr Field said: “The government belatedly accepted that it had been wrong to push some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens onto universal credit, slashing their incomes in the process.”

The committee chairman released a letter from Ms Rudd in which she said she was not expecting a delay to the next stage of universal credit, known as “managed migration”.

It has already been scaled back to just 10,000 people, after ministers scrapped a vote on transferring 3 million because of fears the new benefit – which merges six working-age benefits into a single payment – pushes people into poverty.

The committee noted there were just four sitting days before the House of Commons rose for summer recess, suggesting the government had run out of time.

“With no sign that those regulations will be put to parliament this week, it seems clear that the pilot will not be starting on time, or anytime soon,” it said.

Ms Rudd has admitted universal credit was likely to be the main cause of the explosion in food bank use, but insisted she had made changes to make advances on payments easier.
Poor universal credit advice costs claimants thousands, MPs say.

DWP accused of failing to help those who unnecessarily signed up for the benefit.

Benefit claimants are being left thousands of pounds a year out of pocket because jobcentre staff are failing to inform them that they will be worse off if they move prematurely to universal credit, MPs have said.

The Commons work and pensions committee accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of failing to inform, protect or compensate claimants who stand to lose up to £400 a month after voluntarily and unnecessarily signing up to universal credit.

When claimants discover that they are worse off, the DWP routinely refuses to allow them to move back on to legacy benefits – a lock known internally as the “lobster pot” – even when they complain that they were incorrectly advised to claim by department officials.

The committee cites the case of a man with anxiety disorder who heard a radio advert for universal credit and assumed he had to make a claim immediately. He and his wife ended up irreversibly £400 a month worse off. “At no stage was he informed that it was not actually necessary for him to make the claim,” the report says.

MPs said universal credit should come with a health warning because it was so difficult for claimants to work out whether it was in their interest to move on to it, and officials took so little care to advise them properly or correct mistakes. All claimants inadvertently left out of pocket should be compensated, they said.

The committee said it had little confidence that all DWP and jobcentre staff had a comprehensive understanding of what moving to universal credit meant for different claimants, and cited evidence that officials were not adequately trained in the new system or properly understood the old system.

Its chair, Frank Field, said: “In the history of humankind, has there ever been an example of a government introducing a fundamental welfare reform and none of its employees being able to tell if it will leave people better or worse off?”

Currently, claimants who wait to be moved to universal credit under the managed transfer process taking place during the next three years will have their income protected, but those who move prematurely or as a result of changed circumstances will not.

Ministers originally promised that no claimant would be worse off in cash terms after moving to the new benefit. But the committee estimates about 3 million working families now stand to lose out under universal credit – compared with 2.4 million who will gain – making it critical they receive the correct advice.

Those that lose out will see a drop in income of an average £59 a week, or around £3,000 a year. Groups affected include families with a disabled child who stand to lose £30 a week, some disabled claimants who will lose £70 a month, and self-employed claimants who can lose up to £8,000 a year.

The trapping of claimants in the “lobster pot” of universal credit was just one of a number of serious flaws and unfairnesses highlighted by MPs in a wide ranging progress report on the troubled evolution of the online benefit project, which its director general calls “the biggest digital development in Western Europe.”

The committee remains deeply concerned that universal credit is far from fit for purpose and the DWP is moving too slowly to bring in design changes announced by ministers to address problems that have left claimants in debt, food insecurity and at risk of eviction.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Universal credit helps people into work faster than the old system and provides targeted support. Around one million disabled households will gain an average of £100 more a month, and changes to work allowances mean 2.4 million households will be up to £630 per year better off.”
Surge in EU citizens unfairly refused access to universal credit.

" Hostile environment " of benefits system leads EU nationals to destitution.

EU citizens are being made homeless and destitute after being turned down for universal credit despite having the legal right to reside in the UK, in what critics are calling the benefit system’s very own “hostile environment”.

Ministers are being urged to review “unfair practices” after law centres and welfare advisers reported a surge in cases in which EU nationals without UK citizenship have ended up in debt or sleeping rough because of incorrect decisions to refuse their application for universal credit that cut off their benefits overnight.

Claimants who challenge the decision typically have to wait up to 40 weeks for an appeal hearing. Welfare advisers say they win their the appeal in almost all cases, resulting in back payments of thousands of pounds.

However, during the wait for an appeal claimants struggle to pay rent as the claim for universal credit automatically ends previous awards, including housing benefit. With zero income, they experience stress, eviction and debt, and rely on family loans and food banks to survive.

Welfare advisers argue that extra complexity introduced into the benefits system to address public and media concerns about so-called “benefit tourism” mean universal credit is now wrongly penalising EU citizens who have earned permanent residence though years of work or family connections.

It is believed potentially thousands of EU citizens have been affected. One law centre said that while it saw just a handful of cases each month last autumn it was now seeing at least three a week. Several others contacted by the Guardian said they had seen a surge in cases as claimants moved onto universal credit from legacy benefits as a result of a change in circumstances, such as moving home.

“What is happening to our EU citizen clients is little short of scandalous,” said Michael Bates of the Central England Law Centre in Birmingham. “To see people who have lived and worked here for so long being told they don’t qualify for benefit when they so obviously do is a disgrace”.

Janet Coe, assistant director of Merseyside Law Centre, said it had seen a large increase in EU citizens incorrectly refused access to universal credit over the past six months. “I would absolutely say it is a hostile environment,” she said.

Malgosia Pakulska, senior welfare benefits advisor at the East European Resource Centre, said: “In my experience it looks like the default decision for EU nationals [regarding universal credit] is ‘no’. If you are able to argue your rights or you can find an organisation that is willing to help, then the decision is changed in the client’s favour. But this often takes months.”

Single people, often women, and those who are disabled or in low-paid work are disproportionately affected when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refuses universal credit to EU citizens, say welfare advisers. Claimants who lack financial savings or the language skills to pursue the tortuous process of overturning the decision are most likely to end up destitute.

The problem has grown as more EU citizens move onto universal credit from existing benefits, at which point under DWP rules they must show again they are habitually resident in the UK. Some claimants struggle to show evidence that they are eligible because they have not kept employment and benefits paperwork.

Welfare advisers say the DWP makes little effort to access its own records. These often show that the DWP had previously agreed the claimant had a right to reside in order to receive legacy benefits, and in almost all cases the circumstances informing that decision will not have changed.

“We’ve been doing welfare work for over 30 years. We’ve often seen poor decisions, but not this poor,” said Coe. “The more complex the case the less likely the DWP will make a correct decision. It is partly about how they train the staff and what appears to be a lack of will to help and assist.”

Although the welfare system has never been straightforward for EU citizens to navigate, under the old system claimants refused a particular benefit were rarely left penniless. Under universal credit, which rolls six main benefits into one payment, claimants seeking social security support are put in an “all or nothing” situation.

EU officials are said to be aware of the complexity of the rollout of universal credit.

Luisa Porritt, deputy leader of Liberal Democrat MEPs, called for an urgent review: “ The government must urgently review these unfair practices. The inhumane, hostile environment created by the Tories is a disgraceful way to treat our friends, family and neighbours.”

The DWP said it was not aware of a rise in tribunal cases involving habitual residence test decisions. Universal credit decision makers were specially trained and mentored in this area. A DWP spokesperson said: “Staff must pass rigorous training before taking these decisions and we expect them to offer a high standard of support to help people with the evidence they need to provide.”

It added: “There’s been no change in the eligibility for universal credit since 2015 and there have been no changes to access to benefits ahead of EU Exit.”

" How am I not a priority ? "

Roxana Adamczyk, 32, from Poland, has spent 13 years in Birmingham working for local firms and studying for a degree. When she applied for universal credit in January she was turned down, on the incorrect basis that she did not have a legal right to reside.

Adamczyk’s son – whose British father is estranged – had reached school age and she had moved off income support expecting universal credit would provide some support while she set up her own business – which she had been planning with job centre help.

Despite her work record, and her receipt of income support being a clear sign she had the right to reside, the DWP knocked back her application. It said did not believe she was habitually resident in the UK, and her income stopped overnight.

Attempting to rectify the error was a nightmare, said Adamczyk. “They told me they could not speed up the appeal process because I was not a priority. I said: ‘Listen, I have a small son, all my money has stopped and I could lose my house. How am I not a priority?’”

Having previously volunteered with Citizen’s Advice, Adamczyk was not daunted by universal credit’s bureaucratic maze. She made a second application in February, which was again rejected. She took steps towards another appeal, and threatened the DWP with legal action. The DWP granted the second application on review.

She received no income between January and the end of May. She is still appealing the first application.

The process has been stressful, she says: “I was able to take out an overdraft. My landlord was understanding. And my mum flew over from Poland to help,” she said. “Without that we would have been homeless.”
yep , and UK living in the EU are not entitled to benefits in the country they live in .....

swings and roundabouts , but people just love a copy and paste from newspapers .

swings and roundabouts ,,,,,,,,,,,,
Except , in this and other instances , the DWP are acting unlawfully.
WHAT A SURPRISE ????????????

Universal credit wait fuels poverty and food bank use, says research.

Government urged to reduce five-week wait claimants must endure before first payment.

Ministers have come under renewed pressure to fundamentally overhaul universal credit after fresh research claimed that the welfare benefit’s built-in five week wait for payment fuelled claimant poverty and increased food bank use.

The Trussell Trust food bank network said the minimum 35-day wait for payment endured by claimants after signing on to universal credit could have a rapid, devastating and long-lasting impact on their finances, housing security and mental health.

Claimants unable to cope without income during the waiting period faced destitution, Trussell said. They were unable to afford food, frequently went without meals, failed to pay utility bills, ran up rent arrears and risked eviction.

Food bank use had soared by a third in areas where universal credit had operated for a year, it said, drawing on data from 414 food banks. Demand for food parcels increased by 40% where universal credit had been in place for at least 18 months, and 48% where it had been established for at least two years.

The research cited the case of John, a man with severe mental illness, who did not eat for nine days after being left with no income after claiming universal credit. His health had declined to the point where he “didn’t feel well enough to leave the house to get a food bank voucher”.

Government measures to mitigate the negative effects of the five-week wait were either limited or failing, Trussell said. Repayable advance loans issued to claimants to tide them over simply created long-term difficulties for claimants as they paid them back, in effect leaving them “deciding between hardship now or later”.

“Universal credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five-week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution,” said Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie.

The Trust called for a significant reduction in the five-week wait to ensure claimants were paid much sooner. “Universal credit is the future of our benefits system. As long as its design continues to pull claimants into financial hardship, it will not be the poverty-fighting reform [ministers] promised.”

The scale of the problem was underlined by separate research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which estimated that that two in five families set to move on to universal credit in future – about 2m households – will be unable to meet basic living costs during the five-week wait.

The foundation said there was “nothing compassionate or just” about the five-week wait for an initial payment, which it described as “immoral.” It backed Trussell’s call to shorten it, saying that universal credit was forcing families to go to food banks when it should be helping to reduce the need for them.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) dismissed the Trussell Trust report as unsubstantiated and based on unrepresentative data, and insisted its advance loans were working as intended. “It categorically does not prove that universal credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage,” a DWP spokesperson said.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said the five-week wait was wrong and advance loans were not the answer. “Labour will stop the rollout of universal credit and ensure that our social security system lifts people out of poverty and supports any one of us in our time of need,” she said.

There are reports that the Labour party is set to announce that it will “scrap” universal credit at its annual conference next week. A year-long review of party policy is said to have recommended that it should adopt a policy of “transformative change” to make the benefit fairer.

The design of universal credit built in a six-week waiting time for a first payment – later reduced to five weeks – to put claimants on to a monthly-in-arrears payment cycle, paid electronically, ostensibly to reflect the world of work. The benefits it replaces typically had a 15-day wait for payment.

However, the designers seemingly failed to recognise that substantial numbers of claimants were used to one or two-week payment cycles, and few had sufficient savings to tide them over a lengthy period without income, making their transition to the new benefit an often traumatic struggle.

Universal credit bundles together six working-age benefits into one monthly payment. It was originally due to be fully operational in 2017 but the current deadline is 2023, when about 7m people will depend on it. A devastating auditors’ report last year found it was unlikely to deliver planned financial savings or employment benefits.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said the Trussell data echoed its own findings. “It’s clear, from the findings across the charity sector helping universal credit claimants, that the system is not providing everyone with the financial safety net people need,” she said.
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