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Universal credit: 300,000 people a month will be affected by the five-week wait

From Touchstone:

How long could you go without any income – a week, a month?

According to the debt charity Step Change, 13 million people don’t have enough savings to last a month. Six million people are using credit to make it through to payday and almost three million are using further credit to keep up with existing debt.

With this many people so close to the edge, it’s essential that if you lose your job, or have to stop working due to illness, the benefits you’re entitled to are paid quickly.

But hidden in the small print of the government’s biggest welfare reform – the replacement of most current benefits and tax credits with a new Universal Credit – is a change that will make most people wait at least five weeks before they get any cash support.

Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment.

But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent or mortgage arrears before any cash support arrives.

The TUC, with help from the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, has been investigating and data crunching to find out how many people will be affected by this change. We’ve discovered that across the UK around 300,000 people a month will be hit by the five-week wait.

300K peple every month will be affected by the five-week wait

Download a larger version of the graphic.

We also found that the majority of unemployment benefit claimants are off benefits within 3 months. However, we fear that the five-week wait will make a quick return to work more difficult.

A person who’s just lost their job needs to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on. The policy is a great big debt trap set to catch people at the worst possible time.

It’s likely most MPs have the same low awareness of the policy as the public. But if it goes ahead then you can be sure they will start paying attention as it will affect hundreds of their constituents each month.

Better still, help us make sure MPs know about it today before Universal Credit is fully rolled out. Sign the petition at the Saving Our Safety Net website, asking the government to change the Universal Credit rules so that people get cash help when they need it from the start of their claim.

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