Can you claim credit during the Covid-19 crisis?

Paul Lewis explains who is and isn’t eligible for Universal Credit

Portrait of smiling senior couple sitting on couch at home

Millions of people will not be helped by either of the new Government schemes to give employees and self-employed people 80% of their past pay for the next few months if coronavirus affects their work.

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The Government says anyone in need can claim Universal Credit. This means-tested benefit provides an income and contributes towards rent. The amount depends on income and savings, age, disability, and whether you have a partner or children. Over the last month more than a million new claims have been made.

Here is a brief guide to Universal Credit. It is £343–£1,916 a month, but will be reduced by other income and savings over £6,000.

Age
Those under 25 get less. If you’re over state pension age (both of you over it, if you are in a couple) you cannot get UC – claim pension credit instead.

Partner
If you live with someone as a couple, then your income and savings are counted together. Only one of you can claim and be paid. The couple’s allowance is about 1.45 times the single allowance. Disabled people and carers There are higher amounts for some disabled people and carers.

Children
There is extra for a child. If there are more than two children, no extra is paid for those born from 6 April 2017. There is also an overall cap on the total amount of
benefits you can get.

Savings
If savings exceed £16,000, you cannot get Universal Credit. If they are over £6,000, your UC is reduced by £4.35 a month, then another £4.35 for every £250 over
£6,000. If you are part of a couple, your savings are added together.

Tax
Universal Credit is tax-free but every pound of other income can reduce the UC paid by 63p.

Claim
Online only in almost all cases via www.gov.uk/universalcredit. You will need a telephone meeting and there are long delays before they can be arranged.

Payment
Once a month (can be twice in Scotland). There is at least a five-week gap between the claim and the first payment. You can get an advance payment, which you
pay back out of future payments.

UC helpline
Call 0800 328 5644 (but expect a very long wait).

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on

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