Press release

Waiting days for Universal Credit claimants: consultation announced

SSAC has begun a consultation on proposals that certain Universal Credit claimants must wait 7 days before they are entitled to benefit.

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SSAC has today (19 September 2014) launched a public consultation on the government’s intention that certain Universal Credit claimants must wait 7 days before they are entitled to benefit.

Announcing the consultation, Paul Gray, the Committee’s Chair, commented:

The Committee has previously made plain its concerns about the extension of waiting days for anyone making a claim to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). While these proposals may seem to mirror those on which we have already commented, there are important differences which have the potential to cause significant financial difficulties for some claimants. These warrant closer scrutiny. For example, larger sums of money could be lost as Universal Credit includes an element for housing costs and children whereas ESA and JSA do not. This is further compounded by the fact that Universal Credit is paid monthly so claimants are generally waiting longer for their first benefit payment. We are keen to learn more about the impact of this proposal.

The government has stated that the savings generated (estimated to be over £200 million each year from 2016/2017 onwards) will fund other initiatives designed to help people find work, for example by improving English language skills and providing support to lone parents.

The change is intended to commence in April 2015.

The evidence received by SSAC will help inform its report which will be submitted to the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, in the autumn.

Responses should be submitted to the Committee’s Secretary by 17 October:

The Committee Secretary
Social Security Advisory Committee
5th Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NA

Alternatively they can be emailed to ssac@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

More about the consultation

The draft Regulations, Explanatory Memorandum and Equality Analysis relating to this proposal can be accessed on this website.

The Committee’s previous report relating to the extension of waiting days in ESA and JSA can also be accessed on this website.

SSAC would like to hear from any organisation or individual who has comments and possible evidence relating to the following specific aspects of these proposals:

  • the larger sums of benefit involved, since Universal Credit includes amounts for children, housing costs and child care costs
  • the fact that Universal Credit is usually paid monthly in arrears, meaning that claimants will generally wait longer for their first payment of benefit than they would have done under JSA or ESA
  • the additional numbers of people affected by this rule – what are the categories of people who would not currently claim ESA or JSA but who will need to claim Universal Credit and how will the waiting day period impact upon them in particular?
  • are the prescribed exemptions for certain categories of claimant appropriate?

The proposal includes exemptions for those who are:

  • terminally ill
  • recent victims of domestic violence
  • care leavers
  • 16 to 17 year olds without parental support
  • discharged prisoners

Linking rules will also provide an exemption for those with previous awards of Universal Credit or contribution-based JSA or contribution-based ESA

About the SSAC

SSAC is an independent advisory body of the Department for Work and Pensions. The Committee’s role is to:

  • give advice on social security issues
  • scrutinise and report on social security regulations (including tax credits)
  • consider and advise on any matters referred to it by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions or the Northern Ireland Department for Social Development.

The Committee’s Chair is Paul Gray. Its membership comprises: Les Allamby, John Andrews, Simon Bartley, Adele Baumgardt, John Ditch, Keith Faulkner, Colin Godbold, Chris Goulden, Matthew Oakley, Judith Paterson, Nicola Smith and Diana Whitworth. Its expert adviser on Scotland is Jim McCormick.

Most social security regulations come before SSAC in draft for scrutiny, the only significant exceptions being regulations which go to other advisory bodies or which set benefit rates. When SSAC has considered regulations which it has asked to be formally referred, its response is made in the form of a report to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. That report must be presented to Parliament when the regulations are laid with a statement from the Secretary of State showing what has been done (or is intended to be done) about the SSAC’s recommendations (section 174(1) and (2) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992).

Consultation documents can be obtained from SSAC’s website or from the Committee Secretary.

Further enquiries should be directed to Denise Whitehead, Committee Secretary, on 020 7829 3354.

Published 19 September 2014