More frequent payments – or just an even longer wait

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The Scottish Government squeezed three small concessions from Westminster on Universal Credit. First, people in Scotland can chose whether their housing element is paid direct to their landlord. And second, we can choose to have payments made twice a month rather than monthly. The trouble is that this is done by delaying half the payment for even longer. You will already have waited five or six weeks for your first Universal Credit payment – and likely got into debt as a result. Then at the end of the next month you will only receive half the amount. As a special concession you will be allowed to wait a further 15 days for the rest. When we met Stevie outside the jobcentre he had just discovered what twice monthly payments really meant, and had asked to go back on monthly payments as he couldn’t last on what he had received. (To make matters worse, he had been told that the wait was 3 weeks rather than 15 days, which is simply wrong.) Twice monthly payments can make it easier to plan – but not if you have to get into debt first.

Oh – and the third concession. Well, people in Scotland are supposed to get the option to receive Universal Credit individually instead of as a single payment for the household, but it seems that the Scottish Government hasn’t actually been given a mechanism that allows them to make that happen without the consent of both partners, so that third concession has been left on an inaccessible shelf.

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Despite growing public concern about Universal Credit, Dundee jobcentre hasn’t given up trying to persuade people to shift onto the new system before they have to. We had reassured David that he didn’t have to move from JSA, but when he emerged from the jobcentre he informed us that they had found another way to make his life more difficult. Now that he has been unemployed for 18 months they are making him come into the jobcentre weekly. This was a fairly common practice a few years back, but we hadn’t come across it recently.

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We have just learnt that our petition on mitigating welfare cuts will finally be discussed by the Scottish Government Social Security Committee on Thursday. Here is the agenda.  You will be able to watch the discussion on line here.

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2 thoughts on “More frequent payments – or just an even longer wait

  1. Prior to getting involved in welfare rights in 1991, I was a personnel manager in a college. (As the salaries, conditions of service and general treatment of staff varied according to whether you were an academic, administrator or a cleaner I really was an “administrator of economic and social equality”! I was also the clerk to the Board of Governors and learned much about how the Tory party works given that half the Board were chums of Michael Forsyth, who makes David Mundell look positively benign..sorry that’s all a digression!). I also retained interest in employment issues via CAB work. What has this got to do with the posting?
    The whole idea of UC and monthly payments etc was to get claimants operating on the same mode as folks in work and budgeting on a monthly basis (ignoring of course that most benefit claimants would have zero reserves and probably debt to start with). However, any employer who wanted to move staff from weekly/fortnightly salary payments to monthly payments (to save money on bank charges etc) would have to negotiate this with employees/trades unions. Most employers would “sweeten the deal” by offering transitional measures to ease the transfer in payment cycles at the start of the process. This could include: advance salary payments in the first few months (to be offset gradually in future payments or on termination of employment); phasing the new cycle in over a number of months; hardship fund; linking it to a general increase in salary etc…there are all sorts of creative ways to do this whilst saving the employer admin costs in the long run.
    However for benefit claimants, UC offered no such cushioning. So, you lose your job, get sick or whatever and you have no money in the bank. You apply for benefits and are told: a. The first week of claim is not paid for; the period of claim will be a month in arrears; you will wait another week to get this month’s payment so that’s one month plus two weeks before you get any money, assuming that your claim goes 100% correctly with no hitches. (the one week waiting period at start of claim no deleted). Also, you may have previous salary payments etc deducted from first payment and when it does come through “in one big lump” it will include your rent payment, assuming that has all been sorted correctly. You still have to apply for Council Tax reduction. You can get an advance payment ( a state secret in the early days) but its a loan so when you do get your UC it will have deductions to pay off the loan. You can apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and if you are lucky might get a crisis grant of about £70 (but just as likely you won’t get an award). If you go to the Food Bank you will get some help but please don’t say it’s because of UC – no if you join the thousands at the FB it’s because you are genetically disposed to mishandle money (which you don’t have) or some other flaw in your way of life; it’s got nothing to do with UC. So, the DWP set up a system which we know will fail to protect the vulnerable at the outset and surprise, surprise, that is what happens. If the DWP were your employer you could pursue damages for breach of contract; the state can treat you how it likes with no sanctions (sic!). End of rant on UC payment cycles!

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