233.The coronavirus pandemic has put the Universal Credit system under unprecedented strain. It has also highlighted the strengths of its digital, automated processes: a manual system could not have coped with millions of new claims in such a short time. But that strength can also be a weakness. An automated process cannot be tailored to the specific circumstances of individuals, whose needs may be complex. In making recommendations in this report, we have aimed to balance the need for Universal Credit to be more flexible to meet the varying needs of new claimants while maintaining, as far as possible, the benefits that automation brings.
234.The five week wait for a first payment of Universal Credit is an inevitable consequence of the fixed monthly assessment period. It is very difficult to remove the wait for all claimants without a complete dismantling of the UC system. But there is much more that the Government could and should do to mitigate its effects. The measures we have proposed would, taken together, provide vital support for those claimants who need it most.
Published: 19 October 2020