A TEMPORARY £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit payments is set to be extended for another six months, according to reports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have come to an agreement following tense negotiations, reports The Telegraph.
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It comes after Mr Sunak was believed to be waiting for the plans to be signed off by the Prime Minister last week, ITV's Peston reported.
The Sun has also reported that the support, which is worth £1,040 a year, will stay in place as long as coronavirus restrictions last.
If it's given the go-ahead, plans to scrap the boost from April 2021 will be abandoned.
The scheme will then be phased out, continuing only for the poorest families.
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.
The Chancellor had also been considering replacing the uplift with a one off £500 payment, equal to six months worth of cash, to everyone entitled to it, but has now axed this idea, according to reports.
He's also been facing pressure from MPs and campaigners to make the uplift permanent or risk thousands of Brits falling into poverty.
But the Treasury has been reluctant to keep the top-up as it is estimated to cost taxpayers £6billion a year.
The boost to payments was introduced as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support the poorest households through the pandemic.
It's worth noting that the extension has not been formally approved yet and we're not likely to hear for sure if it has been before next week's Budget.
In the Budget, Mr Sunak is also set to extend furlough – but tax hikes are coming too.
Meanwhile, the price of a pub pint could fall as he mulls an alcohol duty cut.
Richard Lane, director of external affairs at StepChange Debt Charity, welcomes an extension of the programme but said it still leaves families in a state of "uncertainty".
He said: "A six month extension risks simply kicking the can down the road, leaving households to face significant uncertainty when unemployment is expected to be at its peak.
Mr Lane added the government should commit to a longer term extension.
Everyone who claims Universal Credit gets the £20 a week uplift, regardless of what elements you are entitled to.
The extra cash has automatically been added to the standard allowance element for all Universal Credit claimants and can be viewed in claimants online journals.
The Treasury has been contacted for comment.
We've put together a guide to what changes to Universal Credit may be announced in the upcoming Budget.
If payments are cut, we've put together a round up of seven other ways to get help paying bills.
Universal Credit's tax on workers should be cut to help struggling Brits back into employment, a new think tank report has said.
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