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Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into the five-week wait

Work and Pensions Committee calls for submissions to its inquiry on Universal Credit.

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The Work and Pensions Committee, under its new Chair, Stephen Timms MP, has launched an inquiry into Universal Credit, in particular, focussing on the effect and consequences to claimants of the five-week wait for first payment.

In its announcement of the inquiry, the committee said there is no overall consensus over what should be done about the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment. Some of the options suggested include:

·scrapping the five-week wait for all claimants, for example, by making the advance non-repayable

·offering non-repayable advances to some claimants, for example, those considered vulnerable

·allowing more flexibility for the start of a claim to be backdated

·extending run on payments to cover all legacy benefits

·substantially reducing the rate at which advance payments – the main existing mitigation measure – are paid back, to help claimants better manage their money

·paying Universal Credit two-weekly, like many legacy benefits, rather than monthly.

SFHA is hosting a roundtable to capture the views of members, in order to inform its submission to the committee, which will seek to address the specific questions being posed by the inquiry:

1.To what extent have the mitigations the government has introduced so far (e.g. advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five-week wait for Universal Credit claimants?

·What problems do claimants still experience during the five-week wait?

2.What is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five-week wait?

·Is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?

·Is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?

3.Are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?

4.Are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five-week wait – either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?

Jeremy Hewer, SFHA Policy Lead, said: “Members will be only too aware of the distress that the five-week wait can cause the tenants that they engage with and support.

“This call for evidence is an opportunity to provide case studies for the Select Committee that will demonstrate that reform is urgently needed.

“Even if you are unable to attend the roundtable, any evidence that you would like to offer will be gratefully accepted.”

The roundtable will be held at SFHA on Monday 23 March from 10:30 to 12:30. If you would like to attend, please book a (free) place via the SFHA events pages.

The deadline for submissions to the committee is Friday 17 April.

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