The latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that in January 2022 there were 5.6 million people across the UK receiving financial support through Universal Credit, a benefit intended to help those out of work or on a low income with daily living costs.
However, many new and existing claimants may not be aware that when you apply for Universal Credit, it can take up to five weeks for the first payment to come through and for those in immediate need of financial support, it is now possible to apply online for an advance payment.
It’s important to be aware of this advance must be paid back as a deduction from their regular Universal Credit payment, however claimants now have 24 months to repay the loan, instead of the previous 12.
To apply for a Universal Credit advance you can:
speak to your Jobcentre Plus work coach
apply through your online account
call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644
If a Universal Credit claimant fails to report a change in their circumstances, they could see their payment stopped or reduced – this is known as a sanction.
And if a person receives a sanction, they may be able to ask for a hardship payment if they cannot pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs.
The GOV.UK website states: “If you do not have enough to live on while you wait for your first payment you can ask for an advance payment after you’ve made a claim.
“You can also ask for a hardship payment if you cannot pay for rent, heating, food or hygiene needs because you got a sanction.
“You need to pay it back through your Universal Credit payments – they’ll be lower until you pay it back.”
People experiencing financial difficulties who are struggling to pay their rent, may also be able to apply for an Alternative Payment Arrangement (APA).
This measure could see the rent be paid directly to a landlord, the benefit be paid more frequently than once a month, or the payment be split between the person and their partner.
There is also a Budgeting Advance which can help with certain costs. These include:
The GOV.UK website explains that people who get a Budgeting Advance will repay it through their regular Universal Credit payments.
This means their Universal Credit payments will be lower until they have paid it back, and if they stop getting Universal Credit, they’ll need to repay the money in another way.
How much can I borrow?
The smallest amount you can borrow is £100. You can get up to:
What an eligible person gets depends on whether they have savings of over £1,000 and can pay the loan back.
To get a Budgeting Advance, all of the following must apply:
- You’ve been getting Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or State Pension Credit for six months or more, unless you need the money to help you start a new job or stay in work
You’ve earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 together for couples) in the past six months
You’ve paid off any previous Budgeting Advance loans
To find out more about advance or hardship payments and budgeting loans, visit the GOV.UK website here.
Support is also available through hardship funds at all 32 Scottish councils – find yours here.
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