Philip Hammond has pledged to invest £1.5bn in the much-maligned Universal Credit programme, to address concerns about its "operational delivery".
Among the changes to the scheme announced by the chancellor in his 2017 Budget was the removal of the seven-day waiting period applied at the beginning of a benefit claim. This effectively turns the six-week lag for payments from the time of application into five weeks.
The system will also be altered so that households who qualify for Universal Credit will be able to access a month’s worth of support within five days, via an interest-free advance, from January 2018. This will now be repaid over 12 months rather than six.
Hammond also announced that government would make it possible for claimants to apply for an advance online.
The programme, which brings together six existing employment benefits into one payment system, has come under increasing pressure from politicians, unions and activists who have called for rollout to be paused while implementation issues are addressed.
"The switch to Universal Credit is a long overdue and necessary reform," said Hammond in parliament today.
He added that it delivers a "modern welfare system, where work always pays" but said he recognised concerns on both sides of the House as to the "operational delivery of this benefit".
He set out a "£1.5bn package to address concerns about the delivery of the benefit".