News - 27 January 2020 (LeftFootForward)



Tories deny knowledge of poverty caused by Universal Credit delays

Freedom of Information response claims department has no analysis of payment delays, despite a 2019 admission by the then secretary of state.


The Department of Work and Pensions has failed to analyse the impact of the five-week wait for Universal Credit, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.

Neil Cowan, policy and parliamentary officer at the Poverty Alliance, requested detail from the Department on the levels of poverty, destitution or “food insecurity” suffered by claimants forced to wait five weeks for their first payment.

But the Department of Work and Pensions responded saying that it does not hold any such analysis on the five-week wait.

This is despite being required to hold the personal data of claimants, their benefits records, and details of any payments made.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said that there is abundant evidence that the five-week wait drives destitution and distress. It has pulled countless people into poverty and trapped many more who were already struggling.

“We hear time and again that the policy is pushing some people into rent arrears while others are going hungry to avoid getting into debt,” he said.

He pointed out that Amber Rudd, the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, admitted almost a year ago that delays in paying Universal Credit could be responsible for rising food bank use.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that two in five families on Universal Credit cannot meet their basic living costs during the five-week wait.

Research by the Trussell Trust has shown that in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks have seen a 30% increase in demand — jumping to 48% after two years. ..

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