UNIVERSAL Credit's five-week wait should be cut and childcare costs upfront, MPs have urged, in line with The Sun's campaign for changes to the six-in-one benefits system.
A group of politicians from across the political spectrum said the long wait for help at the start was keeping families "locked in poverty" and led to more people going to food banks.
2 A fresh report backs some of The Sun's key demandsCredit: Alamy
And childcare costs must be paid in advance rather than in arrears too, they said.
The two recommendations are ones The Sun has been pushing for as part of our Make Universal Credit Work Campaign.
We've told how many Brits are getting pushed into debt and poverty due to having to wait five weeks for their first payment – and have to turn down dream jobs because they can't afford childcare upfront.
Brits can get access to advances upfront, but then have to pay it back in large chunks over the next year.
In the first report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Universal Credit, they argue that UC can be redesigned to help unlock opportunities for Brits who are struggling.
APPG Chair Ruth George, MP for High Peak, said: "Universal Credit is the most important reform of welfare policy for decades. We share a responsibility to get it right.
"Many constituents report practical difficulties which leave them struggling to get by and can make it more difficult to move into work or to get on in work. We can redesign Universal Credit so that it helps to unlock opportunities for people who are having a hard time.
"We hope ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions will engage with our practical solutions which will dramatically improve the experiences of people living on Universal Credit."
Earlier this week Amber Rudd admitted for the first time that she had changed her mind on the five-week wait and said it should be cut back – in a huge boost for our campaign.
Wannabe-PM Jeremy Hunt said he has been persuaded by her that the wait needs to come down.
She told Politico: "I want to make sure that people who need benefits, particularly people who are coming onto UC from other benefits – so they are already dependent on a monthly pay – can have access to the money as soon as possible.
"We have done that up to a point, because they can now get advances straight away, usually on day one and repay it over a twelve-month period.
"I would much rather they could have some of those funds earlier."
She defended the thinking behind the five-week wait, saying it's meant to mirror the experience of taking a new job.
Ms Rudd said: "It's the same principle, it was honest and fair in the way it was set out but for some people at the end of the month it was really hard."
And she called on the new PM – whether it's Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt – to cut the wait and lift the benefits freeze.
2 Universal Credit's five-week wait is unfair, Amber Rudd admitsCredit: Reuters
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the Government to:
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
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Thomas Lawson, CEO at Turn2us, said: "Debt, homelessness and foodbank usage are all on the rise and linked to the introduction of Universal Credit. But we can and should fix it.
"Universal Credit has the capacity to bring our welfare benefits system into the 21st century and help people to thrive when they most need it. However there are fundamental problems that need to be addressed. This reports sets out a straightforward case for improvement."
MPs demand more action on Universal Credit
- Cap on childcare support to be raised to the average cost of a full-time nursery place
- Government should pay childcare costs to providers if parents want this
- Give all kids of parents on Universal Credit free school meals, prescriptions and free dentist appointments
- Local housing allowances should be restored to better reflect the cost of living
- Benefits freeze should end and be above inflation to catch up
- Ditch changes to pension credit
- Give single parents, couples without children, and second earners a work allowance to incentivse them back to the workplace