THE pandemic is leaving millions of Brits out of pocket.
Many households are struggling to pay their bills, or rent, as the pandemic continues.
Meanwhile workers stuck on the furlough scheme are losing out on 20% of their pay.
But help could be at hand. Benefits like Universal Credit and child tax credit are available whether you are in work or not.
Every year, millions of Brits miss out on thousands of pounds because they don’t know what they can claim.
Here’s our guide to the benefits available and how to find out what you’re owed.
The six main means-tested benefits have been rolled together as a single benefit called Universal Credit. These are:
- Working tax credit
- Child tax credit
- Housing benefit
- Employment and support allowance
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
You can get Universal Credit if you’re over 18, out of work or on a low income and have less than £16,000 in savings.
If you’re a single person over the age of 25, the standard monthly payment is £409.89, while a couple aged over 25 will get £488.59.
But you might get more if you have children, have a disability or health condition, or need help to pay your housing costs, for example.
You can apply on the government website.
If you think you can get Universal Credit, apply as soon as possible as it takes 5 weeks to get your first payment.
And if you already claim individual benefits, switching to Universal Credit might make you worse off.
You could get loans and grants
If you need extra help in the short term, you might be able to get a government loan.
These are usually paid back over months or years out of your monthly Universal Credit payment. If you stop getting Universal Credit, you will normally need to pay the money back yourself.
If you need money to help you get a job or stay in work, or have an emergency cost such as replacing a broken cooker, you might be able to get a Budgeting Advance loan.
You need to have earned less than £2,600 in the past six months (or £3,600 as part of a couple) to apply.
What you get depends on the size of your family, whether you have savings of over £1,000 and whether you can pay the loan back. The most you can get is £812.
You can apply through your local JobCentre Plus.
Advance and hardship payments
If you don't have enough money to live on while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment, you can ask for an advance.
You must pay the advance back within a year through your Universal Credit payments. There is no interest added so you pay back the same amount you borrowed.
You can also ask for a hardship payment if you can't pay your rent, heating bill or buy food because you got a sanction.
You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.
You can apply for a budgeting loan if you have been claiming one of these benefits for the past six months:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Pension Credit
Budgeting loans come from the government and can help pay for costs linked to things like getting a new job, moving house, replacing white goods or buying essential items like clothes or footwear.
You could get up to £812 and can apply online here.
You might also be able to get a grant from your local council or a charity which you won't have to pay back.
It is worth contacting your local council to ask what support they have available.
The charity Turn2Us has a tool on its website where you can search for financial support grants, and you usually have to apply directly to the provider.
Grants are usually targeted to a specific need.
An energy company might have a charity fund for customers struggling to pay their bills, or a council might have a fund to help pay for kids' school uniforms, for example.
Check what you can get
These three free-to-use online calculators can help you work out what you’re entitled to.
Before you start, get together financial information such as bank statements, payslips, details of your main outgoings such as rent and childcare, and information on pension and existing benefits.
If you have a partner that you live with, get their details too as this could affect your claim.
Remember, the amount the calculators will give you is only a guide – but having a ballpark figure can help you manage your money while you make a claim.
Answer a series of questions and this benefit calculator will give you information on income-related benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit.
It will also tell you how your benefits might be affected if you start work.
If you can’t complete the form in one go, you can sign up for an Entitledto account which will let you come back at a later date.
Turn2Us is a charity that helps people get access to financial support.
The Turn2Us calculator will give you information on income-related benefits, tax credits and Universal Credit. It doesn’t calculate non-means-tested benefits but it will include them in your results if you already get them.
It can also tell you how your benefits might be affected if you change the number of hours you work.
If you want to save your results, you will need to sign up for a free account. You will also get a unique reference code, so if you have any problems with your results you can contact the charity and they will be able to help more easily.
Policy in Practice
The Policy in Practice tool can give you similar information on what benefits you could get as the other calculators.
Their website also has specific advice on how your income would be affected if you were self-isolating or caring for someone with Covid.
Usefully, you can also find out how your income would change if you switched from the legacy benefits system to Universal Credit.
The website also includes links to claim for benefits.
Again, you will need to set up a free account if you want to save your results.
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