Responding to these findings, Iain Porter, policy & partnerships manager at the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said:
“Universal Credit has the potential to be a force for good in our society, but the current design of the system is stifling its ability to provide the support families need. For millions of people, every day feels like they are constantly swimming against the tide, at risk of being pulled under by the powerful currents of low pay, high rents or an unexpected bill.
“The Trussell Trust is right that there is nothing compassionate or just about the initial five week wait for Universal Credit. Nor can we stand by while the system is forcing families to turn to foodbanks when it should be helping to end the need for them. We estimate that 2 in 5 families yet to move onto Universal Credit will be unable to meet basic living costs during the five week wait. That’s 2 million families, of which around 700,000 will continue to face a shortfall during the following year as they repay their Advances.
“The Government has a responsibility to go beyond sticking plaster solutions to this problem by ending the immoral five week wait. Ministers have shown a willingness to take action before to correct flaws in the system, they must do so again if Universal Credit is to provide a reliable lifeline to families when they hit hard times.”
JRF is calling on the Government to:
- Make the option of fortnightly payments available to everyone from the start of a Universal Credit claim.
- Urgently introduce an upfront non-repayable grant aimed at those most in need of support. Alongside this a two-week run-on of child tax credit should be introduced to help families with children.
- Incorporate greater flexibility for claimants around repaying an Advance under Universal Credit or backdating their claim, so no one is pulled deeper into poverty or destitution