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Martin Lewis on 'radical' Universal Credit changes in coronavirus crisis – can you claim?

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Universal Credit (UC) is a benefits system which is replacing six legacy benefits, and the payment is intended to help people struggling to cover living costs – such as if they’re on a low income or they’re out of work. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a huge financial impact on the UK, hundreds of thousands of people have applied for Universal Credit within the past few weeks.

“They are absolutely under huge stress. And then, they will call you back.”

Mr Lewis explained that this meant that applicants wouldn’t need to call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as they would instead contact the claimant during this time.

“You can ask for an advance at that point,” he said.

“I mentioned it earlier but Universal Credit really is something that anybody, if you’re unemployed, self employed, or employed, and you’re looking at reduced income that you’re going to struggle from, well in that case, you can go and claim Universal Credit.”

Mr Lewis then turned to Lee Healey, a benefit expert from IncomeMax, who commented on the benefit payment via video link.

Requesting Mr Healey’s view on the changes to the UC system, Mr Lewis said: “The changes are quite radical aren’t they?”

Agreeing with the financial journalist, Mr Healey replied: “They are – there’s lots going on. The government are doing lots and lots to try and help families.

“The system is creaking a little bit but the DWP are doing everything they can, like you say, they’re making outbound calls to try and make sure that they get those claims through.

“So it’s really important. If you’re stuck and it’s a fallback position, you need to claim Univeral Credit.”

Mr Lewis then referred to the five-week waiting time for new claimants to get their first payment, before explaining that it is possible to request an advance payment.

Mr Healey explained that provided a person could get their claim through, then they could get the advance “very very quickly”.

However there is an important aspect to be aware of when it comes to the advance – and this is that it must be repaid – starting out of the first payment.

Currently, this must be paid back within 12 months.

“So, you just need to factor that in for your budgeting, moving forward,” he added.

The Martin Lewis Money Show – A Coronavirus Special is available to watch on the ITV Hub.

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