Universal credit

Wokingham will soon be part of the Universal credit system, as its phased introduction comes to us. The system comes to the Reading office in December and to the Bracknell office probably in February next year. So far the rollout around the country has not produced too many difficult cases. The government I am assured is monitoring responses very carefully and is willing to amend where there are problems in the system.

There has been active debate recently about the time it takes for someone to get their first benefit after applying. It is true that it can take up to six weeks from the first application. The benefit is paid monthly in arrears, and it is the full amount of state support for those who rely on it. This would be unacceptable for people who are out of work and have no other income or savings without a system of advances.

To deal with this the government makes available advances or loans to cover the period before the first benefit payment is received. Anyone who is out of money and applying for Universal credit should apply for such  an advance which can be paid promptly. The advance is repayable with no interest charge over the following months when the individual is in receipt of the benefit following assessment. The benefit paid covers the assessment period of four weeks and any waiting period after assessment, which  is paid in arrears. There is a possible seven waiting days before assessment.

The government is looking at whether the assessment and waiting period can be reduced. The reason it is relatively long is the complexity of the calculation and the need for evidence of circumstances, as the benefit covers housing, unemployment, family needs and any disability. It replaces a number of benefits with their own forms and application systems. Any reduction in time taken would be welcome, but the calculation needs to be done accurately based on good information to be fair to everyone.

I am of course willing to take up any application that is causing problems when the system is introduced locally, as I do not wish to see anyone without money to buy their food and cover their basic living costs whilst awaiting the outcome of the application.

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4 Comments

  1. alan jutson
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    If what you say is fact, then once again it would seem that the governments explanation of the way the scheme works, and the availability of a transition period using financial advances (interest free loans) from the present scheme to the new one, is lacking real clarity for many people who seem to be having real financial problems.

  2. Epikouros
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    The welfare state when it becomes captured by vested interest and is created out of idealism rather than practical realities and then the administration is put into hands of government bureaucrats is sure to do far more harm than good. A sensible welfare state would not seek to incentivise abuse, bad practices, an unsustainable financial liability and create a culture of dependency and entitlement.

  3. Norman
    Posted October 27, 2017 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    If I may say so, it’s an eye-opener to come to this blog, and see how hard MPs may work to care for individual constituents, as well as on the greater causes. It’s a tough calling, and we have much to be thankful to you for, in what must often seem a thankless task.

  4. MikeP
    Posted October 28, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    I thought Universal Credit brought together a range of other benefits such as those you mention. That being the case, why don’t claimants have funds from their current benefits to bridge the gap till their UC pays up? If UC is paid in arrears but all other benefits were paid in advance I can see the problem but that could have been foreseen and a standard 6-week bridging payment of the old benefits built in to the implementation surely? In the grand scheme of things this would have been a relatively small price to pay compared to the political grief this scheme has attracted.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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