Great Britain

9 Universal Credit and benefit updates – everything you need to know explained

BRITS who claim benefits including Universal Credit will want to know about changes happening to the system.

From the looming cut to the £20 Universal Credit uplift to potential benefit payouts, some of the changes could hit - or put cash into - your wallet.

Here's nine changes to get clued up with.

Universal Credit £20 uplift ends

Those on Universal Credit have already started to receive alerts to warn them the end of the £20 a week uplift is fast approaching.

The £80 a month increase, which was introduced to help hard-up families during the Covid pandemic, will end this Friday, October 1.

The DWP sent out further notifications throughout August and September until the boost is scrapped at the end of next month.

To check your Universal Credit journal and statement, you should log on to your online account.

When you get your update will depend on when you usually receive your payment.

Claimants will be provided with information about how much extra they've been receiving, and when their final boosted payment will be made.

You'll also be told where to look for advice on managing money and budgeting.

Changes to face-to-face meetings

As part of a Department of Work and Pensions shake-up to the benefits system, a number of possible changes were listed in its "Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper" in mid-August.

One of the changes claimants could see rolled out is the use of paper-based assessments could be increased.

Currently people who apply for benefits such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit are made to attend in-person appointments.

It means you could be able to enough provide evidence to allow a paper-based assessment to be carried out instead and save the need to leave home.

As well as paper based methods, the use of video calls and telephone assessments could be another future in how assessments are carried out - limiting the need for face-to-face meetings.

Less repeat assessments for PIP claimants

Another possible change listed in the DWP shake-up is that the frequency of repeat assessments for those one PIP is set to reduce.

It's for those who have long term illnesses that won't benefit from frequent meetings where ultimately no improvements have been made.

Instead, there will only a be "light touch" review at the ten-year point.

However, assessments over the phone are starting to be recorded at the request of PIP claimants - which also affects those on ESA UC too.

Half a million Universal Credit claimants face payment cuts

More than half a million Brits on Universal Credit have had their payments slashed to repay past overpayments of tax credits.

The Department of Work and Pensions is clawing back millions of pounds after hundreds of thousands were overpaid tax credits, some dating back as far as 17 years ago.

Some are paying back historical overpayments they never knew about, while others are the result of clerical errors during the Universal Credit application process.

A portion of the debt is automatically deducted from monthly payments, leaving households without enough cash to live off.

It's leaving them unable to pay for rent and food, StepChange has warned.

Thousands on Universal Credit to be probed for fraud

Thousands on Universal Credit will be probed for possible fraud and have their benefits docked if they gave the wrong details to the department for work and pensions.

DWP announced earlier this month it was launching an investigation, stating that £8.4billion of benefits were overpaid in the financial year to the end of March 2021 - much of it coming from fraud.

It means that thousands of benefit claimants could have money clawed back and face fines after the government found levels of Universal Credit fraud have reached record levels.

It estimates that 3.9% of benefits spending was overpaid during the 2020/2021 financial year - the highest rate on record and up from 2.4% previously.

Some £6.3 billion of the overpayments are believed to be due to fraud, primarily arising from Universal Credit (UC) claims.

Two million could get £1,560 benefit backpay

An upcoming court case could see 1.9million households get a £1,560 payout if the government loses a legal challenge.

These households were excluded from Covid support, and didn't receive the £20 a week uplift given to people on Universal Credit.

Many of those left out of pocket are disabled, claiming benefits such as personal independence payments (PIP) or employment support allowance (ESA).

In April, two Brits were given the go-ahead by the High Court to take legal action against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), arguing that the treatment was unfair.

Should the government lose the case, the DWP will have to make amends and can decide how it will do this.

One option is in the form of a back payment for those affected, worth up to £1,560.

This is equal to the 12-month uplift from March 2020 worth £1,040 a year, plus the £560 paid out through the six-month extension announced in the 2021 Budget.

Alternatively, they may opt to just extend the uplift to those on the old benefits system going forward and not make up for the cash they missed out on.

The DWP may also decide to take action without the case reaching court.

Millions to get Universal Credit bonus at Christmas

Some benefit claimants may be eligible for a one-off payment of £10 over the festive season and payment is is made just before Christmas.

To get the Christmas bonus you need to get one of the following benefits along with Universal Credit.

You need to be getting it in what's known as the qualifying week, which is usually the first week of December.

To qualify, as well as receiving one of the above benefits, you must also live in or be a resident of one of the following:

More than 100,000 due £8,900 state pension pay out

More than 100,000 women are due £8,900 each after it was revealed they have not been paid the correct amount of state pension as far back as 1985.

The extent of the lost cash has been uncovered in a new report which also shows that one person was underpaid by an astonishing £128,000.

An estimated 134,000 pensioners have been underpaid the state pension and are owed over £1billion between them following errors at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Those affected are pensioners who first claimed the state pension before April 2016 and did not have a full national insurance record, most of them women.

They should have received increases to the basic state pension but didn't in an error that the NAO has blamed on complex rules and outdated IT systems that require claims to be made manually instead of being automated.

Big change to benefit claims delayed by a year

Brits who use the Post Office to claim benefits can continue to do so for an extra year after the government delayed closing the accounts.

Post Office card accounts are used by those who don’t have a bank account to access their benefits or state pension.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced earlier this year that Post Office card accounts will remain open for a further year.

They were previously going to be closed on November 30 this year after the DWP decided not to renew its contract.

The DWP is encouraging those who are able to open a bank account to do so before the new deadline of November 2022.

If they can't, they will be transferred to the Payment Exception Service, which allows them to choose how they receive their payments.

Single mum ‘won’t have money to buy kids' food or school shoes’ after Universal Credit £20 cut

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