Council says government should cut waiting time for Universal Credit payments

By Sarah Edwards

Ahead of the Budget on 22 November, Oxford City Council is calling on the Chancellor to cut the waiting time for Universal Credit payments.
The rollout of Universal Credit for new benefit and tax credit claims began in Oxford on 18 October. New claimants have to wait at least six weeks before their first full payment, including an initial seven “waiting days” when they are not entitled to Universal Credit.
Councillor Susan Brown, Deputy Leader of Oxford City Council and Board Member for Customer and Corporate Services, said: “Although Universal Credit is assessed on a monthly basis, new claimants may have to wait for a week before they are entitled to any payment. Once their claim is assessed they may have to wait another week for their Universal Credit payment to reach their accounts.
“This means at least six weeks between claiming Universal Credit and getting your first payment, and this is far too long. Across the country, waiting periods and payment delays are pushing people into debt, rent arrears and the risk of homelessness. I am calling on the Chancellor to scrap the seven waiting days for Universal Credit and to ensure that claimants get their payments more quickly once their claim is assessed.”
As a response to financial hardship caused by the wait for Universal Credit payments, the council has set up a £50,000 emergency fund for new claimants who cannot afford to pay for food, household necessities or utilities while they wait for their first payment.

The emergency fund is available to people who live within Oxford City Council boundaries and council tenants who:

Have made a claim for Universal Credit and applied for an advance payment.
Are working with the council’s Springboard Money service, which supports people who need help to manage a single monthly payment, or with an advice service.
Need help because they cannot afford to pay for food, household necessities or utilities before they get their first Universal Credit payment.

The fund is not intended to provide help with housing costs, debts, or to be an alternative to Universal Credit advance payments. Any help given by the emergency fund is discretionary and will not take the form of cash payments.