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Changes to Universal Credit announced in Autumn Budget 2017

Chancellor for the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, has announced a £1.5 billion package to address some of the concerns which have been raised in relation to Universal Credit.

Waiting days to be removed

Chief amongst the measures already announced is a commitment to remove the seven-day waiting period from the benefit. This built-in waiting period means that many claimants will not be eligible to receive assistance with their day to day living costs or their housing charges for the seven-day period immediately after a Universal Credit claim is made. Housing advocates and landlords have been particularly critical of this policy, as it inevitably starts tenants off on the back foot with a week of arrears and no way of addressing this debt.

This change means that entitlement to Universal Credit will now start on the day of the claim. Legislation will be required in order to enact this change and the Autumn Budget 2017 suggests that the change will have effect from February 2018.

Universal Credit advances

The removal of waiting days should also shorten the wait for payment for many claimants. Without a need to serve a period of waiting days, new claimants should receive their first payments within five weeks of submitting a claim, rather than having to wait for six-weeks. The prospect of waiting five weeks to receive any social security assistance is still incredibly daunting and the Government has previously pointed to the availability of advances as a way to offset any financial difficulties caused by this wait for payment.

In the Budget, Mr Hammond announced changes to the way in which such advances will be handled under the Universal Credit system. The period during which the advance will be recovered will be extended from six to twelve months and claimants will now be able to receive an advance equivalent to their first full monthly payment within five days of applying.

Currently, Universal Credit claimants can only request advances by telephone or during an appointment with their work-coach. The Chancellor has stated that changes will be made to the advances system to ensure that an advance can also be requested online. The changes to advances are scheduled to take effect from January 2018.

Housing Benefit run on

In a further welcome announcement, the Chancellor announced that any new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of Housing Benefit at the time they make a claim for Universal Credit will continue to receive Housing Benefit for a further two weeks, reducing the likelihood of arrears occurring in a tenancy. This will apply to people who submit a new claim for Universal Credit from April 2018.

Tagged In

Benefits, Welfare Reform, Affordability
This article was written on 22 November 2017. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.