LOW-INCOME households are set to lose their £20 monthly Universal Credit boost by the winter.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended extra Universal Credit payments in March for six months but Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has ruled out continuing the boost into the winter.
The extra support for Universal Credit claimants, worth £20 a week, was first launched in April 2020 and meant to last a year.
But the uplift was extended for six months during the 2021 Budget so will run until September.
There have been concerns of a third wave of coronavirus infections amid fears of the Indian variant of the disease which could lead to further lockdowns.
This could stop people being able to work and hit their incomes.
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 by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help 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.
However, Ms Coffey indicated in an interview with the Evening Standard today that the extra support won’t continue beyond the current deadline.
She said: “We’re not anticipating, or I’m not anticipating, any further need to do stuff entirely out of the ordinary.
“We need to try and get people into work and fill the vacancies that we do have in this country.”
Ms Coffey suggested the NHS will be better equipped if there is a surge in infections as more people will have been vaccinated, reducing pressure on hospitals.
The increase has been described as a “lifeline” for struggling families, worth an extra £1,040 a year, but Mr Sunak said firmly in the March Budget that it would end later this year as lockdown would be long over by then.
This was contradicted a week after the Budget by government minister Will Quince, who is responsible for looking after Universal Credit at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
He said: “It’s right that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will continue to look at the economic, societal and health picture going forward, and be able to take a view, in the end of the summer or perhaps as we approach the last quarter of this year, on how best we continue to support some of the lowest paid, most vulnerable, poorest and of course, most disadvantaged in our country.
“To be frank, we don’t quite know where we are going to be in the third and fourth quarter.”
The Treasury was previously reluctant to extend the original timetable but changed its mind after MPs, charities and campaigners warned removing the boost will plunge thousands of families further into debt.
The Treasury and the DWP have been asked for comment.
Two million Brits on benefits could be in line for a payout worth £1,560 if the Government loses a legal challenge after excluding them Covid support.
Here are seven other ways to get help paying bills if you’re on Universal Credit.
Universal Credit’s tax on workers should be cut to help struggling Brits back into employment, a new think tank report has said.