DURING AN INQUIRY in the last Parliament, the Work and Pensions Committee heard evidence that problems with Universal Credit and delays in receiving payment were pushing people—predominantly women—into sex work to obtain the basics needed to survive, including money, food and shelter.

Among the recommendations in the report, published in October 2019, was a call for the DWP to scrap the minimum five week wait for UC. In the interim, the Committee called on the Government to introduce non-repayable advances for vulnerable people claiming the benefit.

In October 2020, the current Committee also recommended measures to cut the wait for a first UC payment, to ensure that everyone has enough money for basics such as food and heating during the wait for their initial monthly payment.

The Government’s response to the 2019 report was received by the Committee on 11 February 2021, and rejects the need for non-repayable starter payments.

Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee said: “The experiences of survival sex heard by the last committee act as a reminder of the hugely damaging impact that the wait for a first Universal Credit payment has been having on so many for so long. The Government’s latest rejection of constructive proposals for cutting the five week wait goes down as another wasted opportunity to rectify the harm it is causing to many vulnerable people.”

The current Committee’s report drew on evidence from both organisations and individuals which suggested that a significant proportion of people faced financial and other difficulties during the wait for a first UC payment. Among the Committee’s recommendations was the introduction of a starter payment for all people claiming for the first time, equivalent to three weeks of the standard allowance.

The Government’s response said that there was ‘no need’ for a starter payment and dismissed the need to conduct or commission any research on possible links between UC and rising foodbank use, increased rent arrears and psychological distress.

* Read the report Universal Credit and ‘survival sex’ here.

* Read the UK Government response to the report here

* Source: Work and Pensions Committee