Government set to 'back down on six week Universal Credit wait'
The Government is preparing to row back on the controversial six-week wait faced by new Universal Credit claimants amid growing pressure from MPs, it has been reported.
In a major climbdown, Sky News has said ministers are expected to announce a reduction to the first payment delay to four or five weeks following intense cross-party criticism of the policy.
The gradual roll-out of the system to combine six benefits into one has been plagued by problems, with reports of families being plunged into debt and rent arrears as a result.
Sources told the broadcaster to expect “some movement [on the wait time] in the early part of next week" - ahead of the Budget on 22 November.
They add that Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke and Employment Minister Damian Hinds have been in "constant contact" with MPs pushing for a review of the policy.
The U-turn would follow last month’s major concession to end the 55p per minute phone charges imposed on some callers to the Government’s benefits hotline.
Under the latest proposed changes, ministers could also ditch the week-long waiting time before a new benefits claim can be lodged.
Mr Gauke may also do more to ensure claimants are offered advance payments to see them through the period until their first payment.
Tory MP Heidi Allen, who has been among those urging the Government to slash the waiting time, told Sky News: "We know the Government have listened fully to our concerns so many of us are hopeful we will hear positive news soon.
"Ahead of the Budget next week, we will be having a backbench debate on this issue. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for an update there."
Elsewhere fellow Tory backbencher Johnny Mercer said he was "confident" that the wait time would be reduced, while party colleague Steven McPartland agreed.
The Department for Work and Pensions was not willing to comment.