Universal Credit must take into account individual needs says Salvation Army

published on 11 Jan 2019

How long it takes to apply for universal credit

The Salvation Army today welcomed the speech made by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, on Universal Credit but the church and charity says there is still the need to see more initiatives that will enable people to apply for UC more effectively.

Matthew Sowemimo, Head of Public Affairs and Social Policy at The Salvation Army said:

“Both the content and the tone of Amber Rudd’s speech are extremely encouraging. However, we believe that the Secretary of State must go further still if the government is really to resolve universal credit’s present problems, which are causing unnecessary hardship and anxiety to so many of the people using our services. 

“Whilst we fully agree that people need the option to receive payments more regularly once their Universal Claim has been established, it is also clear that people should not be required to wait five weeks for their first payment. For many of the people The Salvation Army works with, five weeks is still far too long and causing great financial strain. The only way to resolve this issue consistently and equitably is by reducing the wait for a first payment further for all claimants.

“The Secretary of State is right to say the system must treat people as individuals. However in many of our services we are seeing an increasing number of people who are struggling to access the social security system at all because of issues engaging with a system that is increasingly ‘digital by default’.”


To enable more people to access Universal Credit more effectively, The Salvation Army would like to see: 

· home visits to claimants, 

· greater advice to work coaches so that they can detect people with major support needs

· helping people make their online applications


Today’s speech by Amber Rudd contained a number of significant announcements, including an end to previous plans to retrospectively apply a two-child benefit cap to new claimants, as well as confirmation that the secretary of state will delay a vote on whether to begin transferring three million existing benefit claimants onto universal credit, as part of a process known as managed migration.


The Salvation Army is encouraged that the Department for Work and Pensions has recognised concerns about Universal Credit and that it will now run a much smaller pilot so that any issues with the process of managed migration can be identified and resolved before significant numbers of people are moved onto the new system. As the Secretary of State has said, it will be important that the outcome of the pilots are reported to parliament so there can be a full discussion of the learnings from them.  


The Salvation Army also welcomes Amber Rudd’s acknowledgement that more needs to be done to ensure private sector landlords concerns about the payment of Universal Credit to claimants are satisfactorily addressed.