UNIVERSAL Credit claimants should continue to receive an extra £20 a week following the coronavirus crisis, MPs have urged.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak boosted the standard allowance – the amount that everyone is entitled to if they’re accepted onto Universal Credit – in April.
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It was rolled out as a temporary measure for 12 months due to the pandemic, applying to all new and existing Universal Credit claimants.
It means that for a single Universal Credit claimant, who’s 25 or older, the standard allowance increased from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.
The standard allowance is set at different levels for those who are under 25 or for those who are in a couple.
In March, the government also suspended sanctions and the requirement to meet job coaches but this was only for three months.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it’s a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you’re falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you’re part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You’ll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You’ll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your existing ones aren’t enough to cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you’re really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
But the latest Treasury Committee’s report looking into the economic impact of coronavirus is now calling for an extension of the “generosity and accessibility” of Universal Credit.
The report, which focuses on the medium-term challenges that emerge as lockdown is eased, also urges Mr Sunak to consider targeted extensions to the furlough scheme, which is set to end in October.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said the report should be “required reading” for Treasury officials planning the Autumn Budget.
He said: “Extending support for the hardest hit sectors of the economy will be essential to limit the rise in unemployment Britain faces in the months ahead.
“The government will also need to shelve plans to cut back Universal Credit payments to prevent millions of families from suffering a fresh income shock next spring.”
Separately, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Universal Credit is today also urging the government to continue the support for Universal Credit claimants.
It said the measures should be extended as the economic consequences of coronavirus continue through the recovery.
The group of MPs noted that even prior to coronavirus many Universal Credit claimants were struggling to get by and stay on top of bills – despite a four-year benefits freeze ending in April.
By maintaining the £20 a week increase, it could provide a lifeline to families trying to get back on their feet and will help stop many getting into a spiral of debt, the report said.
The APPG on Universal Credit is also calling for the ban on sanctions to be reintroduced, given the current struggles of getting a job with fewer opportunities available.
Debbie Abrahams, chair of the group, said: “The coronavirus pandemic saw a huge and sudden increase in claimants.
“As the furlough scheme comes to an end in the next few weeks, this is likely to increase even further.
“It is more important than ever that we make sure that Universal Credit is better able to meet the needs of claimants and provide the timely financial support they need while they work to get another job or start a business.
“Becoming a Universal Credit claimant should not be associated with debt, poverty, homelessness or ill. But for too many it is.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told The Sun: “We are wholly committed to supporting the lowest paid families and our policies, in particular those related to the pandemic, are under constant review.
“No one will be sanctioned unless they fail to meet the agreed conditions of their claimant commitment without good reason.”
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