Published On: Tue, Apr 14th, 2020

Universal Credit: Thérèse Coffey confident in system during coronavirus crisis | Personal Finance | Finance


The number of people claiming Universal Credit has surged during the coronavirus crisis. In the last four weeks, the Government has received around 1.4 million claims for the payment.

Today, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey appeared on BBC Breakfast today, and said that around 1.4 million people have claimed Universal Credit.

Meanwhile around 200,000 people have claimed “more historic” benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

Today, the Secretary of State was asked about whether she was worried about the people who are fearful of falling short of getting support in the crisis.

“They should be able to get that support,” she replied.

READ MORE: How long does a Universal Credit advance payment take?

“We did have a huge number of phone calls early on,” she said, before explaining that the system has since changed during the crisis, meaning Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff will now proactively contact claimants, rather than the applicants call them.”

Ms Coffey added: “I’m confident the system is working, I’m confident that people will start to get their money next week, and also, anyone who has asked for an advance has been able to get it in the last few weeks as well.”

How is Universal Credit paid?

Universal Credit is paid once a month, following the first payment.

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The payment is usually made into the claimant’s bank, building society or credit union account.

It may be that the payment includes an amount for housing, and usually, people will need to pay this to their landlord.

It will usually take around five weeks to get the first payment – something which the government has been urged to end by a number of charities and organisations.

This waiting time is made up of a one month assessment period, and then up to seven days for the payment to reach the account.

If a person needs help with their living costs during this five-week wait, then they can apply for an advance payment.

However, it’s crucial to be aware that this advance must be paid back.

The advance recipient will need to start paying it back out of their first payment.

While they can choose how many months they pay the advance back over, currently, this must be paid back within 12 months.

Elsewhere on BBC One today, Stephen Timms, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, told Victoria Derbyshire that the select committee wants to find out about how coronavirus is affecting people who need to rely on the benefits system, urging people to share their experience today or tomorrow.

The DWP has said it has processed at least 365,000 advance payments.

When asked if he thought the system was coping well, Mr Timms said: “The IT has coped and that is a good thing and I think the Department is entitled to be pleased about that because it could have collapsed under the weight of applications.

“The big question in my mind is are people who are asking for an advance, who need money urgently, are they getting it urgently or not?

“Now, the figure you’ve just given suggests quite a small proportion of the people applying for Universal Credit have so far got an advance. Is that because they don’t need an advance, or is it because the Department isn’t coping with the scale of the demand?”

Have you been affected financially by the coronavirus crisis? If you’d like to share your story, please email personal.finance@reachplc.com.



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