Hundreds of thousands of Brits have been denied Universal Credit payments over the last year due to their partner’s earnings, reports show.
In July and August 2020, a whopping 200,000 Universal credit applications were denied due to ineligibility due to a partner’s income.
This is despite people struggling to afford food and essentials in the pandemic, reports the Mirror.
Another 200,000 people were denied because they had savings and 50,000 didn’t quality due to their migration status, claims a report by Salford University and the Health Foundation.
And, the data showed that around half a million people who lost 10% or more of their household income during the coronavirus crisis were not eligible for Universal Credit and contribution-based benefit.
The research showed that financial difficulties in these groups was common with 40% falling behind on bills or unable to buy food.
Around 50% reported poor mental health because of this.
Another 70,000 people admitted to skipping meals after being told they were not eligible for government help while income dropped due to Covid.
The employees surveyed were those who had seen their wages fall due to the pandemic – many also lost hours due to lockdown restrictions and saw their salaries drop as a result.
In total, the data found that 300,000 people tried to claim benefits at the start of the pandemic, but were rejected.
The most common reason for being denied Universal Credit was that their partner earned too much money.
This raises issues around how benefit eligibility is decided.
Around 46% of those rejected experienced severe financial strain and 15% went hungry and had skipped a meal in the previous two weeks.
Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger, senior lecturer at the University of Kent, said the system is excluding vulnerable people because of a tick box.
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He said: “The benefits system targets those struggling the most – but this misses out people are struggling, but not quite enough to be eligible for anything.
“To make matters worse, people’s awareness of benefits based on National Insurance contributions (rather than need) is low.
"We need to think about how to redesign the benefits system so that it both helps those most in need, and provides broader support to other people that are struggling.”
David Finch, senior fellow at the Health Foundation, said: “The pandemic has highlighted how Universal Credit currently fails to support many people facing periods of financial strain.
“These findings show the scale of the issue and the significant impact it can have on people’s physical and mental health.
“It is vital that the government takes the opportunity to reconsider social security design to better protect against shocks to income and better support health”.
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