Employees on Universal Credit urged to check bank holiday payslips or risk missing out on benefitsMarch 31, 2021
EMPLOYEES on Universal Credit are being urged to check their payslips or risk missing out on benefit payments next month.
Millions of workers will be paid early by employers this week if their usual pay day falls on bank holiday Friday or Monday.
But for low-income earners who rely on the welfare payments to cover bills, it could see them receive £0 in their next Universal Credit payout.
This is because being paid early could see two pay packets fall into the same assessment period, taking them above the income threshold, meaning they don't qualify for benefits that month.
The cash shortfall can cause hard-up Brits to fall behind on bills and pushing them even further into debt.
In June last year, the flaw was branded "irrational and unlawful" by judges, who ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to fix it.
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 payout.
- 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 for 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 by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help 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 Trussell Trust website.
Since November 16, the DWP has been manually moving one of the payments to register in the following assessment period on the system.
The solution is aimed at supporting those who are paid monthly, leaving workers who are paid weekly, fortnightly or every four weeks to fall through the cracks.
The DWP urges those who are paid more frequently to alert their work coach via their online journal to make sure they're not overlooked.
Anti-poverty charity Turn2Us estimates that around 2.3million on the benefit system could be affected by the issue due to the upcomgin bank holidays, although it depends on when payment dates and assessment periods fall.
Welfare expert Anna Stevenson from the charity branded the solution as "impractical" because it puts the responsibility on the claimant, rather than updating the system to do it automatically.
She said: "The monthly assessment period in Universal Credit is a flaw by design, so it can and should be designed out of the system."
"The DWP need to work with HMRC and employers to create an automatic system that works for all stakeholders, and doesn't leave people at risk of financial hardship," Ms Stevenson added.
Normally, you shouldn't need to take any action, but if you believe you're going to be affected, you should alert the DWP through your online journal.
Kate Green, senior benefits expert at Citizens Advice, explained: "The DWP should automatically allocate the payment to a different assessment period.
"Usually this would be the next one, which is when you would have ordinarily received the payment.
"You can check to see if this has been accounted for via your online journal.
"If you experience any difficulties contact the DWP to let them know. They should then change your assessment period manually so you’re not left out of pocket."
A DWP spokesperson said: "We have changed the rules so that Universal Credit claimants getting two monthly pay packets in one assessment period can have their second payment moved to another assessment period.
"This gives claimants more stability in the amount of benefits they receive.
"If a claimant gets two monthly pay packets in one assessment period they should report it to their Work Coach."
Earlier this month, the Government agreed to extend a £20 a week Universal Credit uplift for another six months.
Those still on the old tax credits system will receive one-off payments worth £500 to ensure they get the same amount of support.
Universal Credit claimants will be given 24 months to repay advance loans from April, up from 12 months currently.
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