MORE than HALF of Brits on Universal Credit are having their benefits slashed to pay back loans they take out to cope with the five-week wait for cash.
Thousands of Brits had hundreds of pounds knocked off their benefits because they had to pay back advances they’d taken out at the start or other debts for housing or bills.
New figures revealed yesterday showed that half a million people in October had a deduction to their Universal Credit allowance – 53 per cent of all claims.
Of those people, around half had 20 per cent knocked off, and one in five had up to a third taken off.
6,000 claims had more than 40 per cent of their allowance taken off, a written question to campaigning MP Frank Field showed.
Department for Work and Pensions minister Alok Sharma wrote to say: “The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.”
But MPs have argued that forcing Brits into debt when they move onto the new system is the wrong way to go.
The Sun has been campaigning for the five-week wait to be slashed to stop Brits being straddled with extra debts and costs from the very beginning.
60 per cent of new claimants opt to take out an advance payment to help them last the five weeks before they can get help.
Amber Rudd has made it easier to claim an advance to stop Brits losing their homes or going behind on bills.
But she’s also admitted that the five-week wait for cash has pushed people into using foodbanks.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is taking on a review of the controversial new system to try and make it work.
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 pay out.
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 to help with 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 or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren’t enough to 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 Trussel Trust website.
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Some Brits are also stung for previous over payments on the old system – many of whom are totally unaware that they owed money until it’s taken off their Universal Credit payment.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “When claimants have housing or utility arrears, we make deductions from their benefits to help pay off debts and keep them in their homes.
“Safeguards are in place to ensure that deductions are affordable.”
Earlier this week MPs revealed they will look into whether Brits are being forced into prostitution because of Universal Credit.
WHERE TO GET HELP WITH DEBT
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with debt, the following organisations provide support.
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