Briefing page for Trussell Trust food banks

#5WeeksTooLong – help us kickstart the campaign

Universal Credit should be fighting poverty, not forcing people to use food banks. That’s why we want to launch a campaign calling on the government to end the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment.

We can’t do this without you. To kickstart the campaign, we need your help to document the hardship caused by the five-week wait.

Submit a case study

Why we’re doing this now

We know from what food banks have already told us that the five week wait is too long and can cause huge hardship. Together with the foodbank network, we’ve been working hard to push for change. As a result, the government has made some changes – but these won’t stop people needing food banks. We need them to do more. A five week wait is too long – it needs to end.

The government has done two things to try to help people struggling with the wait:

  1. Whilst you’re waiting for a first payment, you can apply for some of it to be paid early (an ‘Advance Payment’) – this is then taken from your payments when they come through. But this puts people between a rock and a hard place: no money now or not enough money later?
  2. If you’re already supported by some benefits under the old system, the government has said these will carry on being paid for two weeks. But this is only for some people from July 2020, and it still leaves a three week gap.

1.6 million people are expected to move to Universal Credit over the next 12 months alone, and will not get this support.

We want everyone to get support during the five week wait, and to get it sooner. We’re calling for changes by this Spring, when the government next makes big spending decisions in its Spending Review.

If food banks, the people we support, and the public, come together to show how damaging the five week wait is, then we can make sure the government has no choice but to end it, so that no one else is forced to a food bank while waiting for Universal Credit.

How you can help

Your evidence makes a difference. We need case studies as soon as possible to show the five week wait continues to cause hardship for people who should be supported by Universal Credit.

Please submit any recent case studies using our short online form. They should highlight at least one of these issues:

The impact of waiting for the first payment: particularly on a person’s ability to pay for housing, food, childcare, or medication. This could be short-term, such as during the wait or just after the first payment, or long term, such as debt or relationship breakdown.

Issues with advance payments: such as someone not being able to live off their advance payment or finding the repayments unaffordable.

Impact on other services: For example, someone waiting for the first payment who fell into rental arrears and was evicted, needing temporary accommodation; or someone whose illness worsened and needed to use healthcare services.

Submit a case study

To submit a case study please use the form below. You’ll be asked for:

  • A few details about the person’s situation
  • A brief summary of the case
  • The impact of the five week wait on the person and their family
  • Brief details of any support provided by the local authority.

Questions about Universal Credit

If you have any questions or need any more information, don’t hesitate to contact our policy and research team by emailing ellie.thompson@trusselltrust.org. We’ve also answered some of the more frequent questions in our Universal Credit FAQ page.

Universal Credit FAQ