Amber Rudd has hinted at changes to Universal Credit which could see the five week wait claimants face before receiving their first payment abolished.
During work and pensions questions in Parliament on Monday, Conservative MP Heidi Allen told the secretary of state that getting rid of the wait for initial payments would “completely revolutionise” the way claimants view the government’s controversial flagship benefits system.
“Lets make the advance payment the first payment, rather than a loan,” Allen said. “I think we will see food bank usage and the whole system transformed immeasurably if we change that.”
The delay claimants face before receiving their first Universal Credit payment – which was reduced from six weeks to five in 2017 – has faced heavy criticism, with the government accused of pushing society’s poorest people into poverty and spiralling debt.
But Rudd appeared to suggest she would consider scrapping the five week wait.
“There are many contributions to how we can improve Universal Credit, some of them carry quite a big price tag with them,” she said. “Some of them have had more success with the Treasury than others.
“I look forward to further conversations with the Chancellor in due course,” Rudd added.
Her comments came after the cabinet minister played down reports of a slowdown to the rollout of Universal Credit.
MPs were due to vote on whether to move three million benefit claimants onto the six-in-one benefits system in the next few weeks.
But this vote has been pushed back and Parliament will instead be asked to vote on transferring just 10,000 people to the new benefits system.
Rudd said: “I will want to consider carefully when I bring to the House the vote for the three million managed migration, which is scheduled for 2020. I’m still considering when to do that.”
She added: “The 10,000 pilot as always, which was announced some time ago, informs us how we do that.”