March 2019 – Universal Credit Estimates Day debate

March 2019 – Universal Credit Estimates Day debate

Thank you to those who have contacted me about Universal Credit (UC) and financial hardship.

I am committed to having a strong safety net where people need it. That is why the Department for Work and Pensions has committed to a test and learn approach to delivering UC and has made improvements where necessary, such as through removing seven waiting days and introducing 100 per cent advances. Since 2016, almost £10 billion has been injected into UC, and UC will be £2 billion more generous than the legacy system when fully rolled out.

All UC claimants are subject to an initial assessment period, regardless of the circumstances that have led to a claim. Assessment periods allow for UC awards to be adjusted on a monthly basis, ensuring that if a claimant’s income falls, they do not have to wait several months for a rise in their UC award.

The DWP recently announced that parents may be eligible to receive a Flexible Support Fund Award or a budgeting advance to enable them to take up a job offer or increase their working hours. The DWP is also piloting a more flexible approach to claimants reporting childcare costs, which will allow people to be reimbursed for childcare even if they are not able to provide immediate evidence. Once the pilots have concluded, the DWP will consider whether to roll out this approach further.

I am glad that UC has been designed with accessibility in mind. Where a claimant requires assistance to complete the initial application process, support is available via the Universal Credit helpline, face to face in the Jobcentre or in exceptional circumstances through a home visit. If a claimant needs more intensive or specific support to make their claim, face-to-face and other help is available through the Universal Support Assisted Digital Service.

I also welcome advance payments which are worth up to 100 per cent of someone’s indicative award and are available from the date of their claim. Around 60 per cent of eligible new claims to UC received an advance in October 2018. This shows that people are being made aware of advances and are getting help when they need it. I would add that if a claimant is in financial difficulty as a result of the level of deductions being made, they can request that a reduction be considered.

I hope this helps to clarify the support available to people claiming UC when they struggle with financial difficulty, and I will continue to support improvements when necessary.