DWP to review Universal Credit claims from ‘early stages of pandemic’ – are you affected?

Coffey questioned on Universal Credit uplift and legacy benefits

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced stringent lockdown measures would come into force on March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. It meant Britons were urged to stay at home, impacting businesses and meaning millions were unable to go to work.

Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show there were 1.2 million starts to Universal Credit in the four weeks to April 9, 2020.

In comparison this year, there were 130,000 starts to Universal Credit in the four weeks to April 8, 2021.

Since March 12, 2020, which was the last count date before the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a 100 percent (3.0 million) increase in the number of people on Universal Credit.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, various temporary changes were announced including the suspension of needing to attend face-to-face assessments.

However, people who applied for the benefit as Covid hit may be subject to a benefits check by the DWP, reportedly impacting around one million.

Amid the retrospective review, Citizens Advice has set out your need-to-knows on the DWP’s Trust and Protect scheme.

The network of charities has also suggested some steps people should take to ensure they don’t lose out on benefits they’re entitled to.

Citizens Advice benefits expert Lawrence Barratt said: “If you applied for Universal Credit in the early stages of the pandemic then the DWP may contact you for some additional information to support your claim.

“To ensure you don’t lose out on money you’re entitled to, make sure the contact information in your online journal is up to date.

“It’s also important to respond to any calls or emails from the DWP as soon as possible.

“If you don’t, there’s a risk your benefit payments could be stopped or changed.

“Citizens Advice can support you with free, independent advice if you’re struggling to provide the evidence you need or have any other questions about Universal Credit.”

What is the ‘Trust and Protect’ scheme?

“In the early stages of the pandemic last year, the DWP introduced new measures to make sure people could apply for benefits quickly, without the need to visit a Jobcentre.

“This meant that some of the requirements relating to proof of identity, housing costs and household circumstances were eased.

“The DWP is now looking at all claims made in the early stages of the pandemic and asking people for this evidence to support their application.

“People who claimed New Style JSA and New Style ESA last spring may also be contacted.”

How will the DWP contact me?

You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre. This may show up as a withheld number.

“Make sure your contact details are up to date and try to check your online journal at least once a week for new notifications.

“If you’re struggling to manage your online claim for any reason – including lack of access to a computer – you should be able to change to a non-digital claim. Citizens Advice can support you with this.”

What happens if I can’t provide the right evidence?

“If you can’t provide the right evidence, or you cannot be contacted by officials seeking to verify your claim, your payments could be stopped or changed.”

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