> Another for the “Really ? Who’d have thought it ?” file.
New benefit rules forcing claimants to wait at least five weeks before they receive any cash will increase demand on food banks, says the TUC.
Under current rules new claimants have to wait an average of two weeks before they receive their first benefit payment. But with the introduction of Universal Credit new claimants will not be eligible for any financial support during the first week of their claim, and will then have to wait a further month before any benefits are paid.
The warning comes in response to a cross-party inquiry into hunger and child poverty, which found that delays in benefit payments is one of primary reasons for soaring numbers of food bank users.
In the last year the food bank charity Trussell Trust helped more than 900,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food aid, with some experts suggesting the true extent of food poverty in the UK could be in the millions.
The new five-week wait for benefits will not only affect people who are unfortunate enough to be made redundant, but also anyone who is unable to continue working due to ill-health or disability – regardless of how long they’ve been in work or how much they’ve paid in National Insurance contributions.
A recent TUC poll found that 70% of people are worried about having to wait five weeks for benefits if they were to become unemployed.
TUC launched the ‘Saving Our Safety Net’ campaign earlier this year, which seeks to challenge the new rule and other benefit changes that undermine the social security system we all pay in to and could need at any moment.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The government is introducing what amounts to a ‘food banks first’ policy for anyone who loses their job or becomes too sick or disabled to work.
“It’s unrealistic and unfair to make new claimants wait five weeks or more before they receive any cash.
“While it is right to deal with people who abuse the system, ministers are now undermining the social security safety net that any of us might need.
“The government’s welfare reforms are attacking people who have done nothing wrong at a time when they most need help.”
The DWP is sending new guidance to 700 job centres, informing them that they must make claimants aware of ‘short-term cash advances’ which may be available while their claim is processed.
Responding to the announcement, Labour MP Frank Field said:
“It is vital both that emergency payments are made available and that they are actively publicised to prevent the need for using a food bank.”
He added the Government should take action to “limit the amount of time it takes to process a claim”.
> Frank Field may say that – election on the horizon, etc – but I doubt that he means any of it. I do rather hope he gets dumped at the next election – though sadly he won’t have to wait 5 weeks for money to buy food.
Only a small number of people will be eligible for emergency support while they wait for the first benefit payment to come through, say the TUC.
> Well thank you TUC, its nice to know you’re catching up at last. Now, what are you going to do about it ?
Source – Welfare Weekly, 08 Dec 2014
New research published by the TUC reveals the future impact of a controversial new welfare reform – the five-week wait – on workers in North West England, with 39,000 newly unemployed people set to be hit each month.
Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent arrears before any cash support arrives.
The TUC’s new research reveals the monthly average number of newly unemployed people broken down by region, local authority (county and unitary) and constituency. This indicates how many people can be expected to be hit by the five-week wait when Universal Credit replaces workers’ current safety net benefits.
Across the region, Lancashire is the most affected local authority where over 5,000 people each month are expected to be hit by the five-week wait, in Manchester more than 3,600 people will be affected whilst in Liverpool just under 3,500 people will be affected.
These local authorities are amongst the biggest affected in the UK, ranked 4th, 9th and 11th respectively. The DWP’s own analysis suggests that the measure may increase claimants’ reliance on short-term loans.
The TUC has launched a new campaign, Saving Our Safety Net, to highlight the five-week wait and other welfare reforms that cut safety net protection for working people.
North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:
“We know workers in the North West have suffered cuts in real earnings over the last 5 years, and will have relied on savings to get by, which means that many workers have no financial buffer if they lose their job. Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.
“Welfare reform is one thing but the five week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job. People need to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on.
“Job security has got worse since the recession. Government ministers are out of touch and fail to understand the anxiety many people feel not knowing if they’ll still have work next month. If your job goes, the five-week wait puts you at greater risk of a downward spiral where you’re trapped in debt, lose your home, become ill from the stress and fall too far to climb back again.
“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a 5 week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own. These people have paid for, and deserve, a safety net.
“We are launching the Saving Our Safety Net campaign to expose government welfare plans for what they are – cuts to the National Insurance safety net we’ve all paid into on the understanding that it will be there when we need it.”
Source – Welfare News Service 07 Aug 2014