Government announces 'benefit boost' for thousands moving to Universal Credit

Thousands of people being moved on to Universal Credit are set to receive up to two weeks of additional cash to provide them with extra support, Ministers have said.

Monday, 20th July 2020, 12:02 am
Updated Monday, 20th July 2020, 8:16 am
Picture c/o Pixabay

From Wednesday July 22, anyone already claiming income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support whose existing benefits end due to them applying for Universal Credit will receive a payment worth up to two weeks of their legacy award.

The Government said the one-time payment, known as a run-on, is to help people during their first assessment period, and does not have to be paid back.

Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince said it will be paid automatically to eligible claimants when they claim Universal Credit for the first time, so they don’t have to contact the Department for Work and Pensions to receive it.

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It will not affect the amount of Universal Credit they receive, he said.

Mr Quince added: “This one-off payment will provide additional support as claimants move from legacy benefits to Universal Credit. It doesn’t have to be paid back and won’t affect their UC award, so is welcome extra cash in pockets.”

Run-on payments will include other premiums that claimants have been receiving prior to moving over to Universal Credit, including Enhanced Disability Premium, carer premium or ESA work-related activity component.

Universal Credit is intended to simplify the benefit system, replacing six previous legacy benefits with a single monthly payment.

The Government says Universal Credit, which is now available in every jobcentre across the UK, has seen people moving into work faster and staying in work for longer than they were on previous benefits.

But the system has proved controversial, with problems experienced in areas where the benefit was first introduced, and concerns the way the benefit was paid left people out of pocket.

Paying the benefit in arrears has also raised concerns about people having to wait weeks before their first payment.

However, Ministers say no one has to wait five weeks for money as upfront advances can be requested.

The Government claims the benefits system would have ‘buckled under pressure’ if Universal Credit – which it calls a ‘modern, digital system’ – had not been introduced.

Ministers said as well as financial help, Universal Credit provides claimants with tailored employment support and referrals to specialist support services including those for improving skills and personal budgeting.

The Government said since mid-March, when the pandemic first began to bite in the UK, it has processed more than 2.5 million claims for Universal Credit and paid more than one million new claims advances, getting hundreds of millions of pounds to those in urgent need within days.

The Government lists independent benefit calculators to help people check to see how much support through Universal Credit they are entitled before moving from legacy benefits. This can be found at www/gov.uk/benefits-calculators.

For further information on Universal Credit, visit www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk

Additional support during pandemic

The government has introduced a package of temporary welfare measures to support those on low incomes through the Covid-19 outbreak.

It says taken together, these measures and those announced in the Budget provide more than £9.3billion of additional support through the welfare system for people affected by COVID-19, with:

:: A £20 per week increase to the Universal Credit standard allowance and Working Tax Credit basic element.

:: An increase in the Local Housing Allowance rates for Universal Credit and Housing Benefit claimants so that it covers the lowest third of local rents.

:: A relaxation of earnings rules for self-employed Universal Credit claimants affected by the economic impacts of Covid-19.

There is also help available for childcare costs. Working parents in receipt of Universal Credit can claim up to 85% of their childcare costs, compared to 70% under the previous system.

For families with two children this could be worth up to £13,000 a year.

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