Our key ask #1 is to resolve the five-week wait in Universal Credit
What is the five-week wait?
Under Universal Credit, the first payment for new claimants is made five weeks after a claim is made.
What is the impact of the five-week wait?
An advance is available to mitigate the five-week wait. However, this help comes in the form of a loan which can be repaid over a period of up to 24 months. This means that someone can effectively start off their Universal Claim in debt.
In its UK Poverty 2023 report, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation highlighted the five-week wait as one of the key elements designed in the benefit system that increases poverty.
The Mitigations Independent Review Panel Report made recommendations for interim measures – which do not require intervention by the Northern Ireland Executive – as well as longer-term solutions.
The Cliff Edge Coalition fully endorses these recommendations.
Interim measures include:
- Amending guidance to interpret the Universal Credit Contingency Fund (UCCF) more widely
- Increasing the Contingency Fund Budget to £5 million
- Wider promotion of the payment by the Department for Communities and beyond
Longer term, work is needed to examine a number of alternative solutions to the five-week wait through a dedicated working group, with input from those with lived experience and the advice sector.