To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make it her policy to suspend repayment of all universal credit advances during the covid-19 outbreak.
This answer is the replacement for a previous holding answer.
22 April 2020
As part of the Government’s strategy to support people affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency, DWP is making a number of changes to its benefit processes to ensure people who need financial help have access to the benefit system.
Universal Credit New Claims Advances are available to support those in immediate financial need until their first Universal Credit payment is made and the Department is committed to delivering advances as soon as possible to claimants who have requested them. Face-to-face checks for Universal Credit advances have been suspended and claimants can apply for an advance by phone or online without attending their Jobcentre.
Universal Credit is already much more generous than the legacy benefit system it replaces. From 6th April 2020, we have increased the standard allowance for everyone by over £80 a month for one year. This is on top of the existing 1.7% increase already announced. The increase in the Universal Credit standard allowance provides additional support to claimants in order to help them manage the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including the repayment of new claim advances.
The Government has reduced the maximum deduction from 40% to 30% of a claimant’s standard allowance from October 2019 and this will be further reduced to 25% from October 2021. The repayment time for advances has already been extended from 6 months to 12 months, and will be further extended to 24 months from October 2021.
If a claimant is in financial difficulty as a result of the level of deductions being made they can contact the Department to request that a reduction in deductions be considered. Any adjustment to repayments will be based on the individual circumstances of the claimant.