Reposted from Dash 24
A Labour MP has claimed that the government is “keeping under wraps” plans to make people who lose their jobs wait five weeks before they get any benefit payment under universal credit.
Michael Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, says the plans are being kept secret by the government in the run up to the next general election but they are “hidden in the small print” of the rules for the controversial new benefit system.
Mr Meacher says the impact of a five-week wait will be “devastating” for anyone who loses their job as they will be unable to get help to cover rent, mortgage, food or fuel bills.
He said: “The five-week wait will apply to anyone making a new claim, however long they have held their job or however much national insurance they have paid in during their working life.
“The plans are hidden in the small print of the rules for the new universal credit system which Ian Duncan Smith (IDS) likes to parade as the government’s flagship benefit reform.”
He added: “The programme has already been dogged by repeated delays and wasted at least £130 million through disastrous IT contracts. The five-week wait will hit millions of people.
“Since the economic crash in 2008-9, there have been 22 million new claimants for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA). In future everyone in this situation will have to wait five weeks for their first payment.”
Under current rules, new claimants wait just over two weeks for their first payment but under DWP plans this will no longer happen.
He explains: “DWP plans now mean people will not be eligible for any benefits for the first week of unemployment and in total will have to wait at least five weeks before they get any money. The vast majority won’t even get limited emergency advanced payments.
“Benefit delays are one of the top three reasons people give for going to food banks. Even the government admits that the five-week wait will force more people to go into debt.”
He added: “The only ones to gain will be the rip-off payday lenders like Wonga who must be licking their lips because theirs will be the only loans that many unemployed people will be able to get.”
Mr Meacher said the “wider significance” of this latest move is that it “cuts another big hole in the welfare security net to which we all contribute”.
“The TUC is leading the campaign to ‘Stop the Five Week Wait’, and this should play a lead role in campaigning before the election.”
In a statement, a DWP spokesman said: “Universal credit is a vital reform that will simplify the benefits system and make work pay.
“The seven day waiting period for benefits is not limited to universal credit but will apply to out-of-work benefits under the current system too. People can apply for an advanced benefit payment if needed.
“Paying benefits monthly is an important part of universal credit because it replicates the world of work and makes the transition to employment much smoother. We have matched this with increased budgeting support.”
The DWP added: “Many people find a job quickly, and people who have recently become unemployed have money from their final pay packet to help make ends meet. We discuss budgeting support with all universal credit claimants and over three-quarters (78%) of claimants feel confident about their ability to budget with monthly payments.”