There is a possible u-turn in the future for the policies surrounding the universal credit benefits system, which has begun edging closer as more Tory backbenchers have started to voice their concerns with the system.
Many have been left arguing against the current decision to have all new claimants waiting for six-weeks before receiving any benefits from their universal credit, and are asking for the time to be reduced to a month to ensure that many are left in a situation which doesn’t leave them falling into debt. Although Theresa May has continued to insist that the current track is a system that works, many backbench Conservative members have voiced concerns about the effect that this wait may have on those claiming the vital benefit scheme.
This comes after a decision was made last week to scrap the charges on a telephone helpline for the service after Jeremy Corbyn began an uproar surrounding it, and the situation has continued to spiral as MP’s continue to find issue with the service. No decision has been made as of yet to change the waiting period, although the DWP has continued to insist that it has no imminent plans to amend the system.
The work and pensions committee are hoping to publish a report this week that will supply cross-party suggestions for how universal credit could be improved, as it has been found that many of the worries about the future rollout focus on the initial six-week wait for payment that many critics and charities have suggested could cause serious issues, as it has so far made many families build up rent arrears and other debts while waiting for the vital money.
The DWP says that people can be helped by receiving advance payments from them, yet have faced increased pressure on dropping the waiting time to four weeks, as many MP’s including those representing the Conservatives have argued against the current payment period. Many say that these payments should match those you would receive when you first start a job and receive your first salary.
Criticism on the policy has come not only from within Parliament, but also from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who stated that many families feared universal credit because they think that the system seems to assume that everyone applying has a nest egg to tide them over, which many of those that are applying for support will not have.
Labour has helped to lead the opposition to the system, after Jeremy Corbyn’s initial issue with claimants being charged 55p a minute when they call a universal credit helpline on a mobile phone – an issue that has since been scrapped as they have changed the fee to completely free. This was also followed by a major Commons defeat on the government, as an opposition day motion that was calling for a pause in the rollout was won by those opposing the rollout, with the move being passed 229 to zero – after government whips ordered all Tory MP’s to abstain from voting.
The Shadow pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, said that Labour was supporting the idea of universal credit as a useful method to help those struggling with money and those who needed help to get back into work. However, they also want more changes to the support that is being offered, as they not only want the reduction in waiting time but other policy changes including alternative pay arrangements so that claimants can have a situation that suits their needs better.