The government has refused to make the Universal Credit benefit regime any less punishing.
Tory welfare delivery minister Will Quince said last week that administrative costs meant “it wasn’t even really considered as an option” to change the benefits structure or to turn the loans given to bridge the five-week wait into grants.
Giving evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Quince said, “Even if we were able to secure the £2.2 billion a year that would be required to do that, it is not operationally deliverable.
“And that is the biggest reason, amongst many, many others, why it wasn’t even really considered as an option.”
Neil Couling from the Department for Work and Pensions said recovering advances from people was already built into the computer system and would need “human beings” to staff such a significant change.
In the six weeks up to 12 April, 1.5 million people applied for universal credit, and around 560,000 people have had advance payments processed since 16 March.
Fifty leading anti-poverty campaigners last week issued a letter saying that tens of thousands of families forced to sign on to universal credit in the last few weeks would discover they would receive no support for any third and subsequent children born since April 2017.
This is because of the two child limit on benefits. Campaigners called for a change to the regulations.