The DWP has announced measures to help people claim universal credit during the coronavirus pandemic if they cannot get statutory sickness compensation.
It also introduced other changes to benefits as part of the 2020 budget, although some of them only come into effect in 2021.
So what help is available now if you need more money?
For those who are filing their first universal credit application, you should know that it takes five weeks (or sometimes more) for that first payment to be made.
If you can’t wait that long to have the money to live on, the easiest option is to ask for a down payment.
This is an initial payment for your service. The maximum you can receive is your estimated first payment amount.
This advance is reimbursed from your Universal Credit in installments over 12 months – this advance being extended to 24 months from October 2021.
You can also apply for hardship if you cannot afford rent, heat, food, or hygiene needs because you have been sanctioned.
If you are having financial difficulties or if you are behind on your rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA). This could pay the rent directly to your landlord, pay your allowance more than once a month, or split the payment between you and your partner.
Budget loans are not available to those who benefit from universal credit. Instead, recipients can apply for a slightly different program offering what’s called a budget advance.
You may be able to get a budget advance to help you:
- emergency household expenses such as replacing a broken stove
- find a job or stay at work
- funeral expenses
You’ll pay it back through your regular Universal Credit payments – these will be lower until you pay it off. If you stop getting universal credit, you’ll have to pay the money back some other way.
The smallest amount you can borrow is Â£ 100. You can get up to:
- Â£ 348 if you are single
- Â£ 464 if you are a couple
- Â£ 812 if you have children
What you get depends on your savings of over Â£ 1,000 and your ability to repay the loan.
Contact your local Employment Center Plus work coach to apply.
Make sure you use official application procedures to get extra cash on top of your regular benefits, otherwise you could be the victim of a widespread scam.
Don’t be fooled if you find an individual or business online that offers to get you a low cost government loan.
Instead, they can use your details to request a Universal Credit prepayment on your behalf, take a large chunk of the money, and then let you pay the rest.
If you have been subscribed to Universal Credit by the fraudsters, all your usual advantages will be canceled.
Learn more here about budgeting for budget advances and loans for benefit seekers.