Universal Credit: Fears payment wait time will not be shortened amid coronavirus crisis

The benefit was set up by the government to provide support for living costs, however, more have become reliant upon the service due to being let go from their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis. It has been estimated over 1.4 million people have now applied for the benefit in the last four weeks to support them in uncertain times. Usually, the first sum of money after making a Universal Credit claim arrives in the claimant’s bank account within five weeks.


  • Universal Credit: How to claim, how much you will get and payment date

However, campaigners have petitioned the government for this wait time to be shortened as Britons become more reliant upon the service.

The government, however, has dashed the hopes of a shorter wait time, stating the system cannot be changed.

Universal Credit director-general, Neil Couling, told a press briefing: “If you play about with the architecture of Universal Credit, you won’t be able to pat the vast millions we have to pay each month.”

However, Mr Couling attempted to reassure those who were concerned they would not receive payment on time.

He stated 87 percent of people would be paid in full within five weeks, and said the DWP could make attempts to top this figure.

Mr Couling, however, did admit reaching 100 percent of claimants within this time was not achievable.

The comments from the director-general follow criticism of the Universal Credit system by former MP Frank Field. 

Mr Field, who formerly chaired the Work and Pensions committee, said it was “inconceivable” most claimants would receive their money on time.

He told The Independent: “There are bound to be many who don’t get it within five weeks, particularly as you’ve got people doing the processing who I doubt have had the proper training.

“We need money now. We’re in a new politics as far as Universal Credit goes.

“I think it’s the beginning of the end of this deeply flawed benefit as we know it.”

Requests for Universal Credit have skyrocketed in recent weeks.

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  • Universal Credit payments can only be paid into these three accounts

Permanent Secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, Peter Schofield, told a select committee that calls to the Universal Credit helpline totalled 5.8 million over a seven day period. 

An inquiry will now be undertaken to investigate the efficacy of the system, and how it has responded to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Mr Couling has estimated the problem with Universal Credit claims could worsen.

He added: “Next week, that’s the peak week. We had about 270,000 claims in the first week of the pandemic, we had 540,000 roughly in the second week, then about 380,000, and last week was about 220,000. So that’s the kind of mountain we’ve got to go up.

“In terms of how much this is going to cost, I don’t know yet. I’m concentrating on getting the cases paid. We’ll total up afterwards.”

The DWP has advised potential claimants to use the online form to make a claim for Universal Credit.

This is due to increased wait times on the helpline, which have left some Britons waiting on the phone for up to four hours to speak to an operator.

However, some have also reported waiting in thousands-long queues to access the relevant information on the website.  

The department has now seconded 10,000 workers from other parts of government to assist with the surge in demand. 

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