6 week wait for Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a new single payment for working age people introduced by the UK Government. It remains reserved to the UK Government; however the Scottish Government has some administrative powers to change payment arrangements for Universal Credit.


I am very concerned that under Universal Credit, families will have to wait for six weeks to receive any payment. This will have a devastating impact on some of the most disadvantaged families across the UK.


In 2013, the Chancellor announced that new Universal Credit claimants subject to work-related conditionality who have not had a claim in the previous six months will have to wait seven days before becoming eligible for support. As Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears, any claim is paid at the end of the calendar month –  so one calendar month plus the seven waiting days at the start of the claim plus seven days to process the claim is how we reach a 6 week period.


Many organisations have voiced concerns that Universal Credit brings together support currently delivered by a number of benefits and that the potential loss to individuals and to families could be substantial. I am particularly concerned about the impact on those with little or no savings who risk being forced to rely on foodbanks, doorstep lenders and payday loans.
My SNP colleagues and I have consistently argued that the Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and the UK Government must act now to protect those who will be most disadvantaged.


In Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government have already said they  will use their new limited powers over Universal Credit to give people the choice over having payments twice monthly and tenants can have the housing element paid direct to all landlords. A consultation on the regulations is now ongoing. However, while the Scottish Government are doing all that they can to improve the Universal Credit system, our powers are only available once eligibility has been decided by the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions.


My SNP colleagues and I have undertaken to press the UK Government on this issue given the disastrous impact this could have on people in Scotland. The SNP Spokesperson on Social Justice, Eilidh Whiteford MP has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to raise this matter.