This is an issue which Depaul UK has highlighted previously in a briefing to MPs. In this briefing, Depaul UK called for MPs to reduce the time it takes for the first Universal Credit standard allowance payment to be paid to young people to stop trapping them in destitution or debt.
At present claimants must wait five weeks for their first Universal Credit payment to arrive. Although Advance Payments are available, allowing claimants to receive an advance on their first payment, these must be repaid over 12 months.
This can leave some claimants struggling to cover basic living costs until the loan has been repaid.
The Trussell Trust has found that food bank referrals due to benefit delays are increasingly driven by the five week waiting period for Universal Credit.
In Apr-Sep 2017, 16% of electronic referrals due to a benefit delay were caused by the wait for a first Universal Credit payment, compared with 31% by Apr-Sep 2018.
Over the next year, 1.6 million people are expected to move onto Universal Credit, including many of the young people supported by Depaul UK.
The #5WeeksTooLong campaign calls for investment to end the five week wait and ensure new claimants do not start their Universal Credit journey facing financial hardship.
Solutions suggested by the campaign include starting Universal Credit payments sooner, or making Advance Payments non-repayable.
Depaul UK Policy and Public Affairs Manager Daniel Dumoulin said: “We’re pleased to be joining forces with the Trussell Trust and other organisations across the sector in calling for the government to end the cruel five week wait for Universal Credit.
”Young people we work with have used foodbanks because of the five week wait. If they choose to borrow money from the Government to cover the wait then they have to pay this back out of very low incomes, in some cases leaving them with less than £50 a week to cover all non-rent costs.
“It can’t be right that the welfare system forces young people without a home to choose between taking on debt or waiting over a month for financial support”