Increase in the number of people applying for Universal Credit

Since the middle of March, as the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak has worsened, nearly a million people have applied for Universal Credit as a result of having lost their jobs, or seen a decrease in their household income.

The figures show a massive increase in demand on the benefit system due to the Coronavirus crisis. The Department for Work and Pensions has reallocated 10,000 existing staff to support this uptake and to process claims, and in Northern Ireland the Department for Communities is making updates and information available on its website.

At this time, Universal Credit may be an essential lifeline for households who have seen a reduction or total drop in household income as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. Reflecting this, on 20 March 2020 the Government announced that it would be increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic element by £20 a week for the next 12 months. This is a very welcome development for those who have lost work or had their hours cut.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a benefit for working-age people, who are in or out of work. It combines the previous means-tested support for adults of working age and their children into one benefit, and is intended to simplify the benefits system. We have included everything you might need to know about Universal Credit, including eligibility and how it is calculated in an information factsheet available on our website.

While Universal Credit is an essential form of support for those who need it, there are still outstanding issues with the system that must be addressed.

Issues with Universal Credit

It is important to highlight some issues with Universal Credit that claimants need to be aware of:

  • If you make a successful claim for Universal Credit it may take a minimum of five and six weeks before you receive your first payment.
  • You can apply for an Advance Payment. However, this is a loan and repayments will automatically be taken from your Universal Credit until you’ve paid the advance back.

Employers For Childcare recognises that these issues can worsen financial hardship for households at an already challenging time. The Coronavirus crisis shows just how quickly things can change and it is vital that we have a social security system that acts as a safety net to support families. We strongly advocate for the Government to end the long and unnecessary wait for first payments and to change Advance Payments to be non-repayable grants rather than a loan which can add further financial pressure on households.

 Additional financial support may be available to you during this Coronavirus outbreak, to find out more about the options available and if you are eligible please see information here or speak to a member of our Family Benefits Advice Service.

Our Family Benefits Advice Service is here for you

There has never been a more important time for up-to-date and accurate information on social security available. With an increased demand on advice services and an ever-changing landscape, it is vital that families are receiving all the financial support they are entitled to.

For further information on Universal Credit as well as other benefits and financial support, please call our Family Benefits Advice Service on 028 9267 8200 (lines are open for incoming calls Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm, however you can email at any time and one of our advisors will contact you as soon as possible between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday).