The DWP has just released statistics that tell us that
83% of new claims to Universal Credit Full Service received full payment on time.94% of new claims received full payment within 4 weeks of the payment due date.97% of new claims received full payment within 8 weeks of the payment due date.
This is an improvement. According to the NAO report, in 2017 a quarter of new claims were not paid on time, and in March it was 21%. However, it’s still woefully sub-standard. The DWP has five weeks to process claims; the complexity of the system means that many claimants have already suffered delays before they get that far; by this account, some of them will not have received payment within three months.
Is it possible to do it faster? Supplementary Benefit, a complex benefit delivered to cover more than six million claims a year without the benefit of computers, used to have a target of 14 days. The Conservative minister Linda Chalker told Parliament in March 1980:
I should like to say a few words about our intentions. Regulations will be made to put the supplementary benefit position broadly on a par with the similar provisions for national insurance … That means that benefit officers will be required to determine new and repeat claims as far as is practicable within 14 days of the time when they are in possession of all the information necessary to make a determination. I emphasise that, as my right hon. Friend said in Committee, the vast majority of new and repeat claims for supplementary benefit are cleared well within the 14-day period. But I accept that regulations along the lines that I propose will serve as a useful reminder of the need for speed in resolving claims.