Universal Credit reforms 'will help more than reducing payments waiting period'

A £1.5 billion package to reform Universal Credit will offer "significantly more support" than reducing the standard waiting time for payments to one month, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

David Gauke made the comments as he outlined further details about changes to advance payments, housing benefit and axing a seven day waiting period for the flagship welfare reform.

However, Labour said the changes were not enough and "must be brought forward, amended and added to".

In Wednesday's Budget Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the series of reforms to Universal Credit (UC), after pressure from Tory backbenchers and growing evidence about problems with its roll-out.

Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Gauke said: "This is a comprehensive and wide ranging package worth £1 billion, offering significantly more support than a simple reduction of the wait for the first payment to one month."

There had been growing pressure for the Government to reduce the standing waiting time for the first UC payment from six weeks to a month.

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "These measures for UC are not enough. They must be brought forward, amended and added to.

Mr Gauke told MPs that from January, the period of time over which an advance is repaid will increase from six to 12 months.

He said claimants will also be able to receive up to 100% of their estimated entitlement as an advance payment, rather than the existing 50%.

"In practice, this means that new claimants in December can already receive an advance of up to 50% of their estimated overall entitlement, and may receive a second advance to take it up to 100% in the new year," said Mr Gauke.

He also told the Commons that from the spring, claimants will be able to apply online for an advance, while the seven-day waiting period will be abolished from February.

From April, new claimants already receiving help with housing costs will receive an additional payment of two weeks housing benefit as they move over to Universal Credit, he said.

The schedule for the rollout of Universal Credit has also been amended, Mr Gauke added.

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