Thousands in Northamptonshire face five week wait for benefits cash as cost-of-living crisis grows

Up to 25,000 still on old benefts will have to wait when they switch to Universal Credit

By Kevin Nicholls
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 11:26 am

Up to 25,000 of Northamptonshire households face up to FIVE WEEKS with no benefits and bills piling up as the government’s switch to Universal Credit rumbles on.

Debt charity StepChange warned many claimants will be pushed into hardship by having to wait more than a month for their first Universal Credit payment after moving from older benefits.

Measures announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help with the cost-of-living crisis are being criticised for not going far enough to help up to 75,000 low-income households in the county currently claiming benefits.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been criticised for not doing more to help 75,000 county households on benefits as the cost of living crisis grows

Figures from the House of Commons library show:

■ In NORTHAMPTON NORTH, 7,085 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 3,840 remained on the old system. This means around 35 percent of households in the parliamentary constituency are still on older benefits, such as Employment Allowance, Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance, which are set to be fully replaced in two years’ time

■ In NORTHAMPTON SOUTH, 9,272 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 4,960 — around 35 percent — remained on the old system.

■ In WELLINGBOROUGH, 7,941 households were claiming Universal Credit in February, while an estimated 3,987 — around 33 per cent — remained on the old system.

■ In KETTERING, 6,706 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 3,507 — around 34 percent —

■ In CORBY, 9,111 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 3,756 — around 29 percent — remained on the old sy708stem.

■ In SOUTH NORTHAMPTONSHIRE, 4,438 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 2,325 — around 34 percent — remained on the old system.

■ in DAVENTRY, 5,191 households were claiming Universal Credit in February while an estimated 1,945 — around 27 percent — remained on the old system

StepChange said moving from legacy benefits to Universal Credit – which rolls six means-tested benefits into one monthly payment – is challenging because new claimants must wait five weeks for their first instalment, pushing some into debt.

Ed McDonagh, senior public policy advocate, said: "Universal Credit can work to support people overall but it also has features that can cause real hardship and can actually worsen people’s debt as they try to work around them."

In his spring statement, Mr Sunak did not respond to calls to increase Universal Credit and legacy benefits in line with inflation.

Those on old benefits also missed out on the £20 uplift to Universal Credit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The chancellor defended his decision not to increase benefits payments to ease the rising cost of living in the Commons on Monday (March 28) — but MPs said he could have done more.

Mr Sunak told the Treasury Committee he was targeting “support to those who need it most" and warned of the risks of increasing borrowing.

He said: "My job is to make the right long-term decisions.

"An excessive amount of borrowing now is not the responsible thing to do."

Labour’s Angela Eagle hit back: "You've made a political choice to plunge 1.3 million people including half a million children into poverty."