Five-week wait

People who lose their jobs will be forced to wait more than five weeks before they get any help from the government. 

The controversial new plans, part of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare ‘reforms’, will see families already reeling from austerity forced to food banks.

The five-week wait will apply to anyone making a new claim, however long they have held their job or however much National Insurance they have contributed. “Working hard all your life will be no defence against this vicious new plan,” says the TUC.

“Anyone losing their job will have no help to cover rent, mortgage, food or fuel bills. It will have a devastating effect on families.”

The plans are hidden in the small print of the rules for the new Universal Credit system – the government’s flagship benefit reform. The programme has already been dogged by repeated delays and wasted £130m through disastrous IT contracts. Currently new claimants wait just over two weeks to get their first benefit payment, but eligible for any benefits for the first week of unemployment and in total will have to wait at least five weeks before they get any money. The vast majority will not even get limited emergency advanced payments. Benefit delays are one of the top three reasons people give for attending food banks.

“Most people will have the rent or mortgage due in any five-week period, and without help they could well miss a vital payment… Even the government expects the five week wait to make more people go in to debt – with rip-off payday lenders like Wonga the only kind of loans that many unemployed people will be able to get,” adds the TUC.

A new YouGov poll shows massive opposition to this proposal, with seven out of ten people against. It also reveals how well the government have kept the five-week wait hidden. Only one in eight people had heard of the proposal.

The five-week wait will hit millions of people. Since the economic crash in 2008 there have been 22 million new claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). In future everyone will have to wait five weeks for their first payment.

“We all pay into the National Insurance system so that we can get help when we need it… Anyone can lose their job through no fault of their own. People need help to tide them over while they search for their next job. They should not be worrying about whether they can pay their mortgage or feed their children.” says the TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady.

The action against the five-week wait is the start of a campaign to defend the welfare safety net. Sign the petition to tell the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to drop the “five week wait”.

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