Universal Credit applicants awaiting payment face the threat of eviction and increased debt while awaiting cash.
Claimants wait five weeks after applying for their first UC payment, but can take out an advance loan during this period.
But people often borrow money and fall back on credit cards, with one claimant describing the financial problems as “so depressing.”
Emma Revie, chief executive at The Trussell Trust, a charity working to stop the need for food banks in the UK, said waiting five weeks for the first UC payment is causing families “heavy stress” and “hardship” .
She told the Committee on Work and Pensions on Wednesday that the unpaid period caused huge and immediate financial difficulties – with many having to skip meals, not pay for their heating, risk of eviction or homelessness, and increased indebtedness.
She said, “We also saw very clearly that this caused increased physical and mental hardship for many people, and many people said that it caused severe stress to families and friends. So what is clear to us is that the five-week wait, people tell us very clearly, it causes serious difficulties. “
Iain Porter, social security partnerships and policy manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity that seeks to resolve poverty in the UK, said that waiting five weeks is an issue that pops up “consistently” over and over.
He told the committee that the government would say they solved the five-week waiting period by making advance payments to people, but he said that recent poll suggests that 70 percent of applicants who take the advance are experiencing difficulties as a result.
He said, “Many people take on debts, even if they don’t pay an advance, they borrow elsewhere, for example from friends and family, credit cards.”
Meanwhile, a study by Citizens Advice found that of the 500 individuals surveyed who signed up for UC as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, more than half (53 percent) experienced hardships while waiting five weeks for their first payment.
One in seven respondents (14 percent) who have applied for UC since closing have been unable to afford essentials like food and heating while awaiting their first payment.
You don’t have to suffer in silence when you’re struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact if you need help:
Samaritans: Call 116 123 24 hours a day or send an email to [email protected]
Childline: telephone 0800 1111. Calling is free and will not be mentioned on your invoice
PAPYRUS: A volunteer organization that supports suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: a good cause for people with depression. Not a helpline but provides useful resources and links to other information website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, in a bad mood or are suicidal. Click here attend
Bullying in the UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who feel unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
Cases seen by the charity’s first-line advisers include people who have had to skip meals, rely on hot water bottles for warmth, and have to sell personal effects for income while waiting five weeks.
Citizens Advice said that since mid-March, nearly three million people have applied for UC and more than a million advance payments have been made.
Peter Tutton, head of the policy at the StepChange charity, said that 46 percent of the charity respondents had applied for an advance, but only 29 percent had received it.
He added, “That may not come as a surprise when you have to deal with two million claims and all your staff have to work from home.
“But if you build a system that trusts people to ask these questions instead of assuming people can get in trouble, you get it.”
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said, “With Universal Credit, no one has to wait five weeks for money because urgent payments are available.
“We recognize that this is a difficult time for people on low incomes and we have injected over £ 6.5 billion into the welfare system – including an increase in UC by up to £ 1040 per year – to help those in the most deprived help out.
“Repayments of advances are made over 12 months and deductions are limited. More than 900,000 urgent payments have been made to claimants since mid-March and were deposited into their account within days of a request. ‘