In an official report published today about Universal Credit, The Work and Pensions Select Committee has said the prolonged six-week wait for first payment may cause people “acute financial difficulty”.

The Universal Credit programme, a single social security benefit aimed to replace six individual income-related benefits, was designed to ensure people were more inclined to work than to claim social welfare. But this has faced major problems, including almost a quarter of people concerned having to wait more than six weeks to receive their first payment because of bureaucratic backlogs and investigative protocol.

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The programme has been rolled-out across the UK in stages, over the past four years, with approximately 610,000 people now on the list.

Six-week wait a “major obstacle”

The Committee stated that reducing the delay to simulate the wait for a monthly salary would eliminate a “major obstacle,” potentially hindering the success of the policy.

Speaking on the subject, Committee member Heidi Allen said that the duration of the wait does not adhere to the “original intentions of the system,” because the payment waiting time does not reflect “how the majority of people are paid i.e. monthly”.

Government in the process of making changes

At Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions, PM Theresa May ardently advocated the idea of Universal Credit, saying it was a more efficient way to ensure that “work pays”. The PM added that the government was taking heed of the Committee’s concerns and was in the process of deliberations.

This has faced considerable criticism from MPs, who say a six-week delay in payment may push certain sections of society into abject poverty. The Committee suggested that advance payments could potentially "mitigate” some of the problems of Universal Credit, but that it is unlikely that it would fix its core defects.

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Committee Chairman, Frank Field, dubbed the six-week wait as "cruel”. Speaking on the topic Field said that a six-week wait is unjustified and if anything makes it worse and far "more difficult for people to find work”.

According to Parliament UK website, in some areas where the initiative has been rolled-out, there is compelling evidence to suggest an increase in people facing considerable financial problems, which include rising rent arrears, subsequent homelessness, mounting debt and “overwhelmed food banks”.