finance

Half a million Brits missing out on Universal Credit – how to claim and calculate payments


HALF a million Brits are missing out on Universal Credit because they’re unaware they’re entitled to the support, according to research.

Hundreds of thousands of people were also put off claiming the welfare payments due to the “hassle” of applying or the stigma around claiming benefits.

Many people entitled to benefits haven't claimed them due to the stigma, according to the research

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Many people entitled to benefits haven’t claimed them due to the stigma, according to the researchCredit: PA

The number of people claiming Universal Credit has soared to 6million since the start of the pandemic, up from 2million at the start of 2020.

But its estimated that between 430,000 and 560,000 people were eligible for the benefit during the start of the pandemic but didn’t claim it.

Half of them believed this was because they did not qualify for the help.

And a quarter of a million people struggling believed they could claim the support but chose not to because they felt they didn’t need them.

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.
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Meanwhile 59% said they believed the application process to be too complicated and 27% felt the stigma of claiming benefits was too much.

The research was carried out by the University of Salford and the Health Foundation who surveyed 2,763 “probable non-claimants” in July and August last year.

The report said the Government needs to do more to reduce the stigma of claiming benefits, such as treating claimants with dignity and speaking about welfare payments with respect.

Ben Baumberg Geiger, lead author of the report and a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, said: “Some of these people say they don’t need benefits – but others don’t claim because they don’t understand that they are eligible, hope that things will get better soon, or are put off by the perceived “hassle” or stigma of claiming.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We want to make sure that everyone receives the support to which they are entitled and we’d urge anyone who thinks they’re eligible for universal credit to apply.

“Universal credit is designed to be as accessible as possible and has provided a vital safety net for six million people during the coronavirus pandemic.”

How to claim Universal Credit

You’ll need to apply to the new welfare system via the gov.uk website, starting by setting up an online account.

This is what you’ll use to manage your account later on.

Many people are complaining that they are having to wait in queues of up to 30,000 people just to get on to the website.

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But Department for Work and Pensions has revealed when its website is quietest to help those applying or checking for updates.

To make an account, you’ll need an email address and a phone number.

After that, you’ll need to answer a set of questions about your current circumstances, known as your “to do list”.

How to calculate payments

THERE are several free online benefit calculators that will break down your payments and what you’re entitled to.

These include:

You’ll typically need to answer information about your living situation and employment to get an accurate figure.

If you live with someone else, you’ll also need to answer questions about them.

This is because how much you’re entitled to will depend on your total household income and how much you have in savings.

Last year, Turn2Us updated its calculator to include six new questions relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

These include things like when you last received payment for a job, what your household income is and how many people depend on you financially.

If you’ve lost your job, Citizens Advice recommends that you don’t apply until you’ve received your final wages or any final holiday pay.

This is because any money you receive after you’ve applied for Universal Credit will count as income and mean that you’re entitled to less in your first payment.

You will then need to confirm your identity online.

In certain circumstances, you’ll be able to apply over the phone, such as those who don’t have regular access to the internet, are visually impaired, or have a physical condition that stops you from using a computer or smartphone.

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To do this, you will need to contact the Universal Credit helpline to ask if you can apply by phone or arrange a home visit.

In this case, someone can call them on your behalf if you can’t do it yourself.

More than half a million people who receive Universal Credit or other benefits have had their payments slashed in a tax raid.

The reduction in benefits is due to mistakenly overpaid tax credits that could have happened up to 17 years ago and which many people would have known nothing about.

This has left struggling families on low incomes relying on food banks, or losing chunks of much-needed cash each month because of back office blunders.

Half a million on Universal Credit have had benefits cut by surprise tax bill





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