Universal Credit could plunge 100,000 children into Christmas crisis, ministers warned
More than 100,000 children could be exposed to severe financial hardship over Christmas because of the Government’s troubled welfare programme Universal Credit, ministers have been warned.
According to the housing association Peabody Trust, tens of thousands of families who applied for the new benefit after 20 November will be hit by the standard 35-day delay, leaving them without cash over the festive period.
The organisation estimates that 67,000 families, which means around 116,000 children, will be affected.
In light of the findings, Peabody is urging ministers to reduce the waiting period from five to two weeks, which would cut the number of families left without an income over Christmas to 44,000.
Emergency government loans are now available to those in financial difficulties during the handover to Universal Credit, but critics of the new system have warned that it leaves claimants locked into debt repayments.
Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field, described the arrangement as a “nationalised form of debt” that was forcing people to rely on food banks.
Anya Martin, policy officer at Peabody, said: “People having to use their benefits to repay the government means that this hardship continues even when regular payments have kicked in.
“Reducing the waiting period to two weeks from the start of a claim would make a huge difference to thousands of vulnerable families across the country.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “There’s no reason for people to be without money over Christmas because advance payments are widely available.
“Anyone applying for Universal Credit can get an advance of up to 100% upfront, payable on the same day if someone is in urgent need.”