Universal Credit warning: System risks overload as 105,000 people claim in just ONE day
The Universal Credit system has been facing additional strain after many Britons were catapulted into financial chaos because of the coronavirus pandemic. BBC political correspondent Chris Mason told the Coronavirus Newscast nearly as many applicants had applied for support in one day than in the whole month of January, sparking concerns the system may collapse. Mr Mason said: “This whole business of Universal Credit – regular talking point in Westminster going back years and years and years – but obviously lots of people encountering Universal Credit for the very first time as a result of losing jobs in the last few weeks.
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“I’ve been talking with the Department of Work and Pensions about this ludicrous situation, but perhaps inevitable given how many people have suddenly lost their job, about people ringing up the helpline and discovering they are 90,000th in the queue.
“105,000 people were put on the system yesterday. That’s not miles off from the number that was done in the entire month of January.”
Mr Mason said the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is now working to move as many as 10,000 members of staff to the frontline to cope with the increasing number of applications.
He continued: “The DWP acknowledged that is infuriating for people, that they are very sorry.
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“I’m told 10,000 DWP staff are being put on the frontline to take those calls, to process applications. They are saying, if you possibly can, apply online and not over the phone.
“They’ll take details about your rent, your number of children, that kind of stuff.
“And they point out Universal Credit is now more generous than it’s ever been as a result of the budget and some of the tweaks that have been made since the coronavirus crisis really kicked in here.
“An average family getting a roundabout of £1,000 once those things are done and you can get a payment pretty much within hours, or certainly a day signing up.”
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As part of the package the Government rolled out to address the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Universal Credit allowance will increase to £1,000 from the month of April.
Mr Sunak also announced statutory self-employed workers will be entitled to sick pay and will need to make their claim through the universal credit system.
Current statutory sick pay stands at £94.25 a week with workers being able to receive sick pay for up to 28 weeks.
Work and Pensions Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey said: “As this country ramps up its efforts to support people through coronavirus, we will do whatever it takes to protect claimants and our staff.
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“We are automatically extending all awards and reassessments for health and disability benefits to provide that reassurance to those in receipt of them.”
The DWP also confirmed they will not carry out further reviews or reassessments to the benefits system for three months,
Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits have also been suspended for the next three months to meet with the government’s social distancing guidelines, and this includes any new claims.
The DWP also said ESA and universal credit claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take their application forward in the coming days and weeks.
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