If you're at risk of going into debt you can claim extra benefits - from money off train and bus travel to childcare support
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, an estimated three million people have signed up for Universal Credit - a 'six in one' government benefit which tops up your wages or provides a monthly income for anyone unable to cover outgoings, such as rent and bills.
When initially introduced, the benefit was aimed at helping people on low incomes, but it is also available for anyone out of work and at risk of poverty and/or debt.
Who can claim the benefits?
Anyone who has experienced financial difficulty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is being encouraged to apply for the benefit. This could include self-employed people with a shortfall in work, or those self-isolating and therefore unable to attend work.
You won't be eligible if you have more than £16,000 in savings.
What other benefits are available?
Alongside the monetary benefit, there are several other savings-related benefits you can get as a Universal Credit recipient.
- Up to 50% off bus and train travel: If you're eligible for a Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card, this will give you discount on train and bus journeys. Those receiving Jobseekers Allowance may also be eligible for this benefit
- Money for work clothes: A 'Flexible Support Fund' is available to help people cover the costs of starting a new job and includes the cost of things like uniform or work-appropriate clothes or travel to work. It doesn't have to be paid back
- Reimbursement for up to 85% of childcare costs: Through Universal Credit, employed claimants can claim up for £1,108.40 for two or more children per month, or up to £646.35 per month for one child
- Savings on your Council Tax bill: Depending on your circumstances and the area in which you live, you may be eligible for a council tax reduction, which you can apply for on the government website
- Help to start saving: Those who receive Universal Credit, and some who are on Working Tax Credit, are eligible for the government's Help to Save scheme, which offers incentives to save anything from £1 up to £50 per month. After two years of saving, you'll get an extra 50p for every £1 you've saved
- Benefits for new mothers: If you're having a child, you could be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant. This is a one-off payment of £500 which doesn't have to be paid back and won't affect the benefits you already receive
The Citizen Advice Service can offer additional support with a Universal Credit application, if you're struggling. Alternatively, your local Jobcentre should be able to offer support.
The government's Universal Credit website can also help you to understand what you're entitled to.