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Hardship now, or hardship later?

We're supporting The Trussell Trust's ‘Five weeks too long’ campaign to end the wait for Universal Credit payments.

Unlike the legacy benefits it replaces, Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears. This approach means that there's a five-week wait for the first payment (four weeks and an extra payment processing week).

The intention behind this design was to ‘mirror the world of work’ but it's not an approach suited to helping people in financial need. By the time people seek help, they've often exhausted their resources and need support quickly. 

People receiving legacy benefits like tax credits are now also being transferred to Universal Credit when they have some changes of circumstances (like becoming sick or moving in with a partner) and are suddenly faced with a long gap in support through no fault of their own.

The Trussell Trust logo

"Unaffordable loans and repayments aren’t the solution to this five week wait. Last year, the biggest reason for a referral to a food bank was benefit payments not covering the cost of living. It’s no surprise that taking money off these already low payments pulls people deeper into crisis right at the very point when support is most needed."

Garry Lemon, Director of Policy & External Affairs, The Trussell Trust

Trussell Trust data shows a 52% average increase in foodbank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for a year or more, compared to 13% in areas that hadn't yet gone live with Universal Credit, or had been using the system for three months or less.

This joint report from StepChange and The Trussell Trust shows that Advance Payments – the loans people can apply for while they wait at least five weeks for Universal Credit – push people into hardship and therefore aren't the solution to the five week wait.

StepChange Debt Charity logo

"It's vital that Universal Credit is effective in doing the job that it needs to do. Our own research shows benefit deductions for debt repayments leaving households short of what they need to get by, with many forced to borrow to make up the difference. With over a million people already using high cost credit to fill holes in their monthly budget, it must be a priority to not make this debt trap worse."

Peter Tutton, Head of Policy, StepChange

What needs to be done?

We're calling for the government to remove the need for bridging loans, in the short term by turning Advance Payments into non-repayable grants, and in the long term by ending the five-week wait.

Download our joint report now to see the full research and recommendations.

Download now

Contact our policy team

Email us for more information on our debt research and statistics across the UK.

Social media

Support the campaign on social media and get the latest updates on the #5WeeksTooLong hashtag.