Universal Credit has become crucial for many people across the UK. Coronavirus has made many people unemployed while others have seen their income drastically reduced.
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At the beginning of the month, Therese Coffey detailed that nearly two million people applied for Universal Credit since the government launched its lockdown rules.
This was six times the normal rate and on top of this, more than 250,000 claims came through for Jobseeker’s Allowance, with a further 20,000 claiming for Employment Support Allowance.
The direness of the situation was made even more astute as she revealed that advance payment application rates had also risen, a sign that people needed money very quickly.
As Therese confirmed: “We’ve also issued almost 700,000 advances to claimants who felt that they could not wait for their routine payment and the vast majority of these claimants received money within 72 hours.”
Much of this demand is likely to come from new claimants who have never needed state support in the past.
Because of this, it would be understandable if some people are unsure of where to start.
Thankfully, there is help available to guide people through the online application process.
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Understandinguniversalcredit.com, a website dedicated to answering all things Universal Credit, details that there are two ways people can get help with their application.
The first is through the “help to claim” support scheme.
Help to Claim can support people through the early stages of their Universal Credit claim, from the online application, through to when the first full payment arrives.
It’s a free, independent service provided by impartial advisers trained by Citizens Advice.
These advisors can help with things like how to gather evidence for an application or how to prepare for an assessment.
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It should be noted that this service is only available in England, Wales and Scotland.
There is also a Universal Credit helpline which can help claimants through the process but this is likely to be very busy at the moment.
Understandinguniversalcredit.com details that claimants no longer need to call at all as the process has been entirely reworked due to coronavirus: “To help us get through the unprecedented number of Universal Credit claims, we’ve changed how we process them.
“This means there is no need to call us. If we need to check any information provided as part of your claim with you – we will call you.
“Don’t worry, we are working hard to progress all of the claims. There is no need to contact us to check progress.
“You should apply for Universal Credit online.
“You do not need to call DWP to arrange an appointment and you shouldn’t attend the jobcentre. We will know that you have applied and will contact you if we need any more information from you to process any payment you are due.
“We will put a note into your online account and follow up with a phone call – this may appear as a private number.”
Moving the application process entirely online is not the only change introduced to the Universal Credit system.
The minimum income floor, a system used to determine how much money self-employed people could get, was also abolished to make the application process easier.
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