More than a million claims have been made for Universal Credit as the Government began restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus.
So when will the money arrive in accounts?
Universal Credit is the Government’s new welfare scheme, taking the place of income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit.
Anyone already on those benefits is being moved across to UC instead, with the process expected to be completed by September 2024.
And all those making a new claim for UC can expect to receive their money in five weeks. It’s paid in arrears after a month-long assessment of the claimant’s income over that period.
So the five weeks before your first payment is made up of a one month assessment period and up to seven days for the money to reach your account.
The long wait means some choose to take part or all of their first payment as an advance.
Universal Credit director Neil Couling has revealed that the monthly assessment period for those who first submitted claims on March 16 – when Boris Johnson first announced restrictions, a week ahead of lockdown – has concluded.
He said that claimants can now look on their online account and see how much they are due” – with the money to be paid in on Wednesday, April 22.
But the DWP has warned that initial payments are “going to be an issue”, as some people “may be surprised that it is not as much as they were expecting”.
This would be due to any income or redundancy payments a claimant may have received affecting the amount to which they are entitled.
But Mr Couling said more Universal Credit claims will be paid on time and in full during the coronavirus crisis than usual.
He is “confident” that the department is in “a very good place” to exceed the 87 per cent of Universal Credit payments which, on average, were received fully and promptly before the pandemic.
He said: “I think we’ll do better than that, definitely.
“Looking ahead at the current estimates the system gives me at the moment, we’re already at the levels of payment that, as you said, there are in peacetime.
“So I think we’re going to do better than that, I’m really confident about what we’ve done.”
How often your benefits are paid
Attendance Allowance – Usually every 4 weeks
Carer’s Allowance – Weekly in advance or every 4 weeks
Child Benefit – Usually every 4 weeks – or weekly if you’re a single parent or you or your partner get certain benefits
Disability Living Allowance – Usually every 4 weeks
Employment and Support Allowance – Usually every 2 weeks
Income Support – Usually every 2 weeks
Jobseeker’s Allowance – Usually every 2 weeks
Pension Credit – Usually every 4 weeks
Personal Independence Payment – Usually every 4 weeks
State Pension – Usually every 4 weeks
Tax credits, such as Working Tax Credits – Every week or every 4 weeks
Universal Credit – Every month (except in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
He added that “you can never get to 100 per cent” and admitted that people may think “that’s not quite what I was expecting” when they see their first payment total.
Pushed on his confidence, Mr Couling added: “We’ve cleared all the identity checks, we’ve cleared the verification checks.
“So I’m pretty bullish on this, I think we’re in a very good place”.
Mr Couling admitted his department is “climbing a really big mountain” but is in “good shape” ahead of the peak week.
“Next week, that’s the really peak week,” he said. “So we had about 270,000 claims in the first week of the pandemic, we had 540,000 roughly in the second week, then about 380,000, and last week was about 220,000.
“So that’s the kind of mountain we’ve got to go up. I’m increasingly confident we’ll do the half a million based on the rate at which we’re clearing the cases, how hard people are working across DWP and the extra resources.
“Be in no doubt…I would lay serious amounts of money, we’re going to get these claims done and it is our duty to get them done and everybody inside DWP is working their socks off to get this done.”
Mr Couling confirmed that the department has received 1.4 million Universal Credit claims, compared to the 220,000 normally filed in an average month, including “about three times the normal rate of claims for people who are self-employed”.
As of April 12, the department had already paid 513,000 advances to Universal Credit claimants who asked for upfront cash to tide them over while waiting for their first payment, he said.
Mr Couling also revealed the department has recruited 20,000 extra processors, including diverting 10,000 workers, with plans to recruit 5,000 more.
He added that 20 per cent of the department’s staffing, around 17,000 employees, are in long-term isolation and that they have distributed 2,000 laptops and are “rolling out about 500 a day” to enable them to work from home.