Universal Credit: Five weeks is too long

Tom Say is Campaigns Manager at The Trussell Trust, a charity which supports a nationwide network of food banks that provide emergency food and help to people locked in poverty. It also campaigns for change to end the need for those food banks. The Trussell Trust and Housing Justice are currently working together, along with other charities, in a joint campaign called #5WeeksTooLong.

"We’re a country that prides itself on making sure proper support is in place for each other when help is most needed – that’s why we created our fire service, our health service, and our benefits system.

But Universal Credit – our new benefits system – isn’t the poverty-fighting reform that was promised. As a result, people are being for forced to food banks, prevented from moving on with their lives in to settled accommodation or being put at risk of homelessness. This is not right.

Everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – and some people wait longer.

Either that or you can get an ‘advance payment’ – a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. But once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments. This is leaving many without enough money to cover the basics.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) tell us that these repayments are affordable, but we know that’s not true – food banks and the people they support tell us they can leave people stuck between a rock and a hard place: hardship now or hardship later?

To be clear, this isn’t about whether or not DWP should try and make repayments more affordable. It's about whether Universal Credit should have a designed-in wait which forces people to take loans in the first place.

Debt is not the solution to poverty.

Working together to end the wait

It’s so important that the Trussell Trust and Housing Justice have teamed up, along with a range of other organisations, to call on the Government to end the five week wait. It’s through the strength of relationships and joint working like this that we can make change happen.

Together, as part of the #5WeeksTooLong campaign, we can show how damaging the wait is and demand change from the Government.

You can help make that happen. On Wednesday 26 June, we’ll be highlighting the impact of the five week wait on homelessness. To get involved:

  • Right now: Sign up to join the campaign and get all the latest updates
  • Before 26 June: Share your experiences or those of the people you support by emailing us or the Trussell Trust using this form
  • On 26 June: Get on social media, post your experiences and share the campaign hashtag #5WeeksTooLong."
Universal Credit: Five weeks is too long
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