Extra Universal Credit support you can claim as 200,000 lose £62 a week
Hundreds of thousands of Universal Credit households are losing out on more than £240 a month because of the benefits cap, figures show.
Under the current Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) system, claimants can get a maximum of £23,000 a year in London and £20,000 if you live outside M25.
Those who lose their jobs or face sudden life emergencies can access a nine-month grace period during which period their benefits will not be capped.
This applied during the Covid outbreak, but has now ended for many people. Latest DWP figures show 43,000 households were newly capped between November 2020 and February this year.
This brings the total number of households subject to the cap up to 200,000 – 180,000 of which were Universal Credit claimants and 24,000 housing benefit claimants, many of whom are working but struggling on low incomes.
According to Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), families subject to this threshold are losing out on £62 per week – or £248 a month.
The charity added that many of these families may struggle to make up for the shortfall due to a lack of employment right now.
CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Thousands more households who have lost jobs to Covid-19 are now subject to the cap even though in the pandemic it is much harder to find ways to replace their lost earnings and become exempt.
Households struggling to keep up with essential payments, rent, household emergencies or even commuter fares have the option to apply for a Budgeting Loan to tide them over.
The extra cash can help pay for essential bills and even repairs and is in place to stop people turning to rip-off payday lenders or illegal loan sharks for money in desperation.
The loan is similar to a Universal Credit advance payment, and is offered to claimants interest-free, with the money to be repaid within two years.
If you’ve been switched onto Universal Credit from Pension Credit, any time spent claiming for it will count towards the six months.
You cannot get a Budgeting Loan if you are currently claiming Universal Credit as that’s where advance payments come in. If you’re a single parent, we’ve got more schemes in place that could help you below.
Council tax discounts are also available to those who live alone or have certain vulnerabilities, while parents can also apply for help on school uniform costs.
Parents can also apply for up to 85% of childcare costs to be reimbursed through Universal Credit.
Workers can get up to £646.35 per month for one child and up to £1,108.40 for two or more children. For more information visit the Understanding Universal Credit website.
There’s also 50% off train and bus travel if you are eligible for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card.
This can help you get to interviews and appointments as well as other journeys you make. Those receiving Jobseekers Allowance may also be eligible.
The government’s Help to Save scheme also offers people on the lowest incomes incentives to save anything from £1 up to £50 per month.
After two years of saving, the government will give you an extra 50p for every £1 you have saved.
What is the benefit cap?
Couples and single parents in London – £1,916.67 a month
Couples and single parents outside London – £1,666.67
Single person with no children in London – £1,284.17 a month
Single person with no children outside London – £1,116.67 a month
More financial support for parents
If you’re a parent struggling to cover your bills, you may be entitled to extra financial support. See what you’re entitled to below.
You can get free NHS dental treatment if you’re pregnant when you start your treatment. To get free NHS dental treatment, you must have a MATB1 certificate issued by your midwife or GP and a valid prescription maternity exemption certificate (MatEx).
You’re also entitled to free NHS dental treatment for 12 months after your baby arrives. To prove your entitlement, you will need to show a valid maternity exemption certificate, a notification of birth form (your midwife will give you this form) and your baby’s birth certificate.
Eligible employees can also take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ and the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. The first 6 weeks is paid at 90% of average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax while the remaining 33 weeks is £151.20 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower). These are the rules for those claiming Shared Parental Leave instead.
If your child is below the age of 18 and you don’t live with another adult, you can apply for 25% off your council tax.
All parents can claim Child Benefit. This is a state subsidy of £21.05 a week for your first child and £13.95 a week for subsequent children.
If you’re on sick leave because of coronavirus but don’t qualify for sick pay, you can get a one off £500 covid support payment from the government.
The Healthy Start scheme supports parents with food vouchers. You qualify if you’re 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four and get income support or another benefit. Payment vouchers start from £3.10 a week.
If you’re on a low income, you may be able to claim income support, jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), or housing benefit – which can help with rent. Here’s a guide to benefits.
If you’ve a three or four year old child, you can register for the government’s 30 hours free childcare scheme on top.
The Care to Learn scheme can help with childcare costs for parents still in education. It’s £160 per child per week if you live outside London or £175 per child per week if you live in London. All payments will go directly to your childcare provider.
As well as the above, there are also water bill discounts, free prescriptions, free school travel (and uniform relief ) and energy bill discounts that you can claim