21/10/2017 16:47 BST

Universal Credit Six-Week Wait Could Soon Be Reduced, Tory MP Suggests

'I think we are very, very close to getting a resolution.'

HuffPost UK
The controversial six-week wait for payments under Universal Credit could soon be reduced

Ministers are ready to reduce the waiting time for Universal Credit payments from six weeks following an outcry from Tory MPs, it has been suggested.

One of those who threatened to rebel over the roll-out of the flagship benefit reform, Stephen McPartland, said he believed the critics were “very, very close to getting a resolution” on the issue.

Some have warned that as the roll-out of the policy gathers pace, the six-week wait is contributing to rising debt, rent arrears and evictions.

Theresa May avoided a Tory revolt on the issue in a House of Commons vote on Wednesday after making a concession by committing to scrap charges of up to 55p a minute to call the system’s dedicated helpline.

HuffPost UK revealed how claimants were forced to languish on hold while racking up charges as high as £15 a call.

The Department for Work and Pensions was forced into a embarrassing backtrack after we confronted officials with accounts of hardship caused by the fees.

We also found claimants were charged more than tax avoiders to call government helplines.

The PM later controversially ordered her party to abstain on a non-binding Labour motion calling for the introduction of the reform to be paused.

McPartland was not one of the rebels reportedly called into Downing Street by the Prime Minister in advance of the vote, the Press Association reported.

But he said Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke was finding it increasingly hard to justify the six-week wait.

The Tory Stevenage MP told BBC Radio 4’s Week In Westminster on Saturday: “One issue is reducing the time people wait for their first payment – it’s currently set at six weeks and I would like to see it reduced to four weeks.

“I think people accept you have to be paid in arrears, a lot of these people on Universal Credit will be in work so they will get paid in arrears themselves, so we would like to see it set down to four weeks which is what you would have when you went into work and got a salary.

“On that particular issue I think we are very, very close to getting a resolution.

“I think the Secretary of State has found it very difficult to justify inside the parliamentary party why they need to defend a six-week wait, so I’m quite pleased about that.”