HOUSEHOLDS who claim Universal Credit and other benefits can use free online calculators to work out how much money they should get.
The number of people claiming Universal Credit has soared because of the coronavirus crisis.
Latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show six million people were claiming Universal Credit, as of 14 January, 2021.
This is a staggering 98% increase since 12 March 2020.
But in a boost for people who claim, the amount you receive from benefits is set to rise from April when new rates come into force.
You can see what benefits are rising and by how much in our guide.
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.
Welfare payments increased in April 2020 for the first rise in six years after an end to the benefit freeze.
The amount you could get some Universal Credit could also change depending on what Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces in his Budget tomorrow, March 3.
Last year, the Chancellor announced a £20 a week boost to Universal Credit to help low-income families through the pandemic.
But the hike, worth £1,040 a year, was only a temporary measure set to last until the end of March.
There has been much speculation over whether the policy will be extended beyond this date.
If you’re new to claiming Universal Credit or any other benefits, we explain how to work out how much you should be getting.
Free benefit calculators
There are several free online benefit calculators that will break down your payments and what you’re entitled to.
- Policy in Practice
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.
What benefits are available?
HERE are some of the benefits listed on the Gov.uk website and how often they’re paid.
- Attendance allowance – usually paid every four weeks
- Carer's allowance – usually paid every four weeks
- Child benefit – usually paid every four weeks (weekly for some parents)
- Disability living allowance – usually paid every four weeks
- Employment and support allowance – usually paid every two weeks
- Income support – usually paid every two weeks
- Jobseeker's allowance – usually paid every two weeks
- Pension credit – usually paid every four weeks
- Personal independence payment – usually paid every four weeks
- State pension – usually paid every four weeks
- Tax credits (such as working tax credit) – usually paid every four weeks
- Universal Credit – every month
What help is available if you’re out of work?
The coronavirus pandemic has sparked the biggest surge in UK unemployment in more than a decade.
According to latest figures, the jobless number in the UK has risen to 5.1%, its highest in nearly five years, with 1.74million people now out of work.
We've explained what help is available if you've been made redundant:
Claim benefits: If you're not on them already, it's worth checking if you're eligible for benefits.
You can use the calculators above to work out what you could claim.
Once you've done this, use the Gov.uk website for more information on how to start a claim.
Free grants: Low-income families may be eligible for charitable grants to cover housing costs.
Most grants are different to loans, most do not have to be paid back.
Turn2Us has a tool that can help you check out grants available near you on its website.
You’ll need to enter your postcode, your gender, and your age.
Food banks: You might be able to get free food from your local food bank if you're struggling.
Families and individuals are referred to a food bank if they are identified as being in need of extra support.
This is usually done through a variety of different professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers and Citizens Advice.
Once referred, the person gets a voucher which can redeemed for an emergency parcel with a minimum of three-days worth of food.
The Trussell Trust has an online tool where you can find your nearest food bank.
Support groups: Being made redundant can be an extremely stressful time.
If you're worried about your finances, the Money Advice Service is a charity that offers free advice to help you with your finances.
You can contact them for free via their website.
You should also consider contacting Citizens Advice or StepChange for free advice.
Payment holidays: If you're struggling, don't bury your head in the sand when it comes to bills.
Many companies and lenders are still offering payment holidays on products such as mortgages, credit cards, personal loans and car finance.
But payment breaks should only be taken if you really can't pay.
This is because lenders will still charge interest during this time, so be aware that your repayments will go up in the long-run.
You should also check if taking out a payment holiday will impact your credit score.
We've rounded up 10 things you need to know if you’re at risk of being made redundant or lose your job.
It comes as Universal Credit claimants have been urged to claim council tax discounts "straight away".
Consumer guru Martin Lewis has revealed his top eight money-saving tips that could save you £9,243.
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