Universal Credit: How to receive an early payment amid coronavirus crisis

Britons are eligible to receive Universal Credit if they are 18 or over, under State Pension age, have £16,000 or less in savings, and have found themselves out of work or on low income. For those eligible to receive the payment, it is usually issued monthly and can often prove a catch-all for a number of benefits. New claimants to the system can expect to receive their first payment within five weeks. 


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This is a system which has recently been critiqued due to the widespread need brought about by the outbreak of COVID-19. 

However, the government has stated this is highly unlikely to be changed due to logistical issues and high costs.

But for those who are in desperate need of the benefit, an advance on the payment can be applied for.

Those who are struggling to meet everyday living costs can receive additional help from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assist them with immediacy.

A claimant can borrow a sum up to their first estimated Universal Credit monthly payment to tide them over until the five week wait has passed.

In order to apply, a claimant must provide the DWP with the reason as to why the advance is needed.

Verification of identity must also be provided when claiming online or over the phone, alongside bank account details for the money to be paid into if the advance is agreed.

It is usually determined on the same day whether claimants will be entitled to an advance on their Universal Credit payment.

However, the advance does have to be paid back eventually, usually out of one’s first payment.

The claimant can choose how many months they pay the advance back over, however, it must be paid within 12 months of receipt.

Claimants are not required to pay any interest on this sum, so the amount paid back is identical to what is received.

The government has provided an example to claimants about how paying the advance back works in practice. 

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A claimant who received an advance of £256.05 would be estimated to receive the same amount as a first payment.

If this person chose to pay the advance back over 12 months, they would be required to pay £21.33 per month.

This would mean they would receive £234.72 on their first payment date, as this is the payment minus the proportion they are repaying. 

For those in financial hardship already receiving Universal Credit, claimants may also be entitled to a Budgeting Advance – allowing them to pay for emergency household costs, getting a job, or the costs of a funeral.

These Budgeting Advance payments are also required to be repaid to the DWP.

Universal Credit director-general, Neil Couling told a press briefing the Universal Credit wait time would not be lowered.

He said changing the “architecture” of the Universal Credit system would cause wider issues with the system as a whole. 

Over 1.4 million people have applied for the Universal Credit benefit during COVID-19.

Many campaigners have called for the system to be radically altered and analysed due to the effects of the coronavirus crisis. 

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