Thousands of Universal Credit claimants in Wakefield left waiting too long for payments

Universal Credit has been heavily criticised for leaving those in need out of pocket.
Universal Credit has been heavily criticised for leaving those in need out of pocket.

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants in Wakefield are being forced to wait longer than five weeks for their first payment, it's been revealed.

People previously entitled to any one of six benefits are being gradually moved onto Universal Credit, under controversial government plans which began at the end of 2018.

The government says the changes, which took effect from last November, will make the welfare system fairer.

The government says the changes, which took effect from last November, will make the welfare system fairer.

But the rollout of the new system has been beset by administrative problems, with one in five new claimants facing serious delays in getting the cash they need.

And Wakefield Council says there is evidence that people are struggling to fill in registration forms, possibly causing them long waits too.

As of July this year, a total of 18,659 people across the district were on Universal Credit.

A report going before senior councillors next week said: "Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) information shows that in Wakefield 81.3 per cent of all claims are fully paid on time with a further 7.5 per cent of claims receiving at least some payment of on time.

"This means that all claimants must wait at least five weeks for their first payment but one in five are waiting longer than this (even if they have provided all the necessary information).

"There is also anecdotal information, which indicates that some people struggle to complete the online claim form and do not provide all the information required to complete the claim.

"It is not possible to quantify the number but these people are will be waiting even longer, before getting any payment."

The government says that the rollout of Universal Credit will make the welfare system more simple and fairer.

But in Wakefield, the Labour-run council has dismissed the new system as "outrageous" and "disgusting".

And there was more consternation last October, ahead of the rollout, when the local authority threatened to defy government instructions to councils over the level of support claimants should be given.

Citizen's Advice is now giving advice and help to those entitled to Universal Credit, but Wakefield Council has continued to offer its own support service to residents.

A DWP spokesperson said: "Claimants struggling financially should speak to their local jobcentre to find out what extra support they may be entitled to.

"With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it, and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system."

Local Democracy Reporting Service