FAMILIES on Universal Credit can get help with childcare costs and energy bills when the £20 benefit uplift ends.
The government is planning to scrap the Universal Credit increase in September – but there are other ways for Brits to access extra cash and savings.
Families who claim Universal Credit have had an extra £20 a week to help them cope during the the pandemic.
The extra cash was introduced at the beginning of the Covid crisis as part of a package of emergency financial support.
But ministers have said the temporary uplift will end in September after lockdown is over, despite pleas for the higher payment to continue.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you’re experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don’t cover costs, here are your options:
- Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit payout.
- Alternative Payment Arrangements – If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
- Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the Government for emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
- Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help cover your rent.
- Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussell Trust website.
Work and Pensions secretary Therese Coffey told MPs this week: "Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants who receive the £20 to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments largely in October, or late September for some people."
There are other ways for Universal Credit claimants to access extra cash – here's a round up of the available options.
Council tax reduction
Universal Credit recipients are usually eligible for a discount on their council tax bill – and it can be reduced by up to 100%.
You can check if you can save money on the tax by checking with your local council.
To apply you should visit the government website which will direct you to your local council to see what support it can offer – but the amount will usually depend on your circumstances.
You will need to apply directly with your local authority.
What you get depends on:
- where you live – each council runs its own scheme
- your circumstances (income, number of children, benefits, residency status)
- your household income – this includes savings, pensions and your partner’s income
- if your children live with you
- if other adults live with you
School uniform grant
School uniforms can be expensive – and that's why some local authorities offer struggling parents a grant to cover some of the cost.
You could get up to £150 to put towards your child's school uniform, but the amount varies depending on which council area you live in.
Families in London boroughs such as Islington and Hackney can get £150 and £100 respectively.
At the bottom of the scale are those in the West Midlands, with Sandwell council giving out £20 for a child in primary school or £25 for secondary year pupils in years 7 to 11.
You can use this government website to work out which local authority you fall under.
You just have to put your postcode into the search bar to find out.
Then, to find out whether your local authority offers school uniform grants, the first step is to visit your council's website.
Click on the education tab or search for "uniform grant".
There should be a section that tells you whether help is on offer, how much you might get, the criteria, and what you need to do to apply.
Flexible Support Fund
The Flexible Support Fund is designed to help people claiming unemployment benefits to find a job.
It is offered by local jobcentres by Jobcentre Plus advisers.
The scheme is discretionary and you do not have an automatic right to it if you qualify.
The payment will cover travel expenses to attend an interview and tools and clothing or uniforms requiredto start work
If you are claiming Universal Credit, you may also be able to get help with the first month of childcare costs from the Flexible Support Fund.
There is no set amount you claim as the payment will depend on individual circumstances.
If you claim Universal Credit, you may be able to claim back up to 85% of your childcare costs.
You – and your partner if you live with them – will usually need to either be working or have a job offer.
The most you can get back each month is £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children.
You can make a claim on the government website after logging in to your Universal Credit account.
How to save on energy bills
You could cut your energy bill by up to £300 a year by switching to supplier if you're on a pricey standard variable tariff (SVT) deal.
This saving could work out at am £25 extra in your bank account each month.
The amount you pay for varies depending on where you live and how much energy you use, so it's worth shopping around to see the latest deals.
Use a comparison site like EnergyHelpline.com or uSwitch.com to find the best deal.
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