In the past nine days, there has been a 447,000 increase in new Universal Credit claims, Department for Work and Pension (DWP) figures show. It has come as the UK has felt the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with Boris Johnson announcing stringent new measures on Monday evening, putting the nation into a lockdown.
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The significant increase in claims for the benefit system – which is replacing six legacy benefits – shows that the country is already in the midst of an unemployment crisis that is building much faster than during the financial crisis, the Resolution Foundation said yesterday.
The think-tank has noted that this rate of new Universal Credit claims represents an increase of more than 500 percent compared to the same period last year.
Furthermore, the rise dwarfs the increases to the legacy benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) at the height of the finanical crisis, in which weekly increases in new starts peaked at 78 percent.
According to the Resolution Foundation, the number of new Universal Credit cliams in the past nine days is greater than that of the successful claims made to JSA in any entire month during the financial crisis.
Karl Handscomb, Senior Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The unprecedented surge in new Universal Credit claims shows that the UK is already in the midst of an unemployment crisis.
“The increase in claims is putting huge pressure on our social security system, and is driven by a huge hit to family incomes.
“The Government was right to increase the generosity of the benefits system last week. It now needs to ensure the resources are there so that claims are processed quickly, and people receive support as soon as possible.”
Universal Credit is paid monthly in arrears – although it may be that this is twice a month in Scotland. Gov.uk directs people living in Northern Ireland to seek more information from the Nidirect.gov.uk website.
New claimants need to be aware that it usually takes around five weeks to get the first payment – something which has become known as the five-week wait.
This includes a one month assessement period and up to seven days for the payment to reach one’s account.
Should a person need help with their living costs during this time, they are told they can apply for an advance payment.
However, it’s crucial that people are aware that this payment must be paid back – starting out of the first payment.
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Claimants can choose how many months they pay the advance back over.
Currently, however, the money must be paid back within 12 months.
Universal Credit: How to get advance payment
Gov.uk explains that a person can apply for an advance payment in their online account or through the Jobcentre Plus work coach.
That said, during the coronavirus pandemic, claimants are being directed to apply online.
In order to apply, the applicant will need to do the following things:
- Explain why they need an advance
- Verify their identity
- Provide bank account details for the advance.
According to the government, individuals will usually find out on the same day as to whether they can get an advance.
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