In Parliament this week I called on the Government to take urgent steps to improve access to the social security system for new claimants during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking via video link in response to a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) statement on Covid-19, I said: “There have been over 82,000 new claims for Universal Credit in Wales during the pandemic which is unprecedented, and I echo the thanks to DWP staff. But some still are struggling to get support with their new claim – like a constituent who couldn’t get through on the phone, and had to walk 45 minutes to get help as she can’t afford internet access. Can I urge Ministers to do more to make it much easiser to access support with new claims, including ending the five week wait.”
In response DWP Secretary Therese Coffey MP said that the government would not be ending five week wait for a first payment and defended the department’s policy of advance payments for new claimants. She went on to acknowledge that there had been ‘difficulties with telephony’ but said that the DWP had ‘turned that system around’.
The ongoing pandemic has highlighted the need for the government to review how it is handling Universal Credit claims. It’s very well for the Secretary of State to talk up advance payments for new claimants, but as long as these are in the form of loans rather than grants they will only push more people into debt. The pandemic has highlighted flaws in our social security system which simply cannot be ignored the Government.