EXCLUSIVE: We knew record numbers were applying for the six-in-one benefit, but until now we didn’t know how many actually got a payment. DWP ministers insisted there was good reason why some are not paid – and branded criticism ‘feeble’
More than a quarter of a million people who applied for Universal Credit as coronavirus hit have not received a payment of the benefit, official figures show.
A record 800,000 people applied for UC during two weeks in March as a nationwide shutdown threatened to cripple the economy. But until now it was not known how many ended up actually getting a payment.
Now official figures show 33% of them – around 264,000 – have not received a Universal Credit payment, as of June 4. Of those, around half had an award of £0 in their first month due to their earnings being deemed too high.
The other half were either deemed ineligible for Universal Credit or withdrew their claim. Labour MPs branded the figures “not good enough” – but a Tory minister branded the criticism a “feeble attempt to denigrate Universal Credit.”
DWP officials insisted large numbers of those people will have joined other government support packages like the furlough scheme. Others would have received redundancy pay or their final month’s salary, meaning they earned too much to qualify for UC.
Ministers added the 67% of applicants getting a payment was actually higher than the 63% in January and February. But Labour MP Neil Coyle, who obtained the figures, said they showed “ministers are letting people down just when they need help most.”
He said some of those rejected would have applied for an advance, only to find they did not receive a UC payment to repay it from. He also pointed out there were no clear figures on how many might have fallen through cracks in the system.
“Universal Credit has been failing for seven years but the Government has finally been forced to admit it has been of no use at all to hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. “Universal Credit is an appalling, inhumane system and well overdue reform.”
Some of those who received £0 in the first month could still receive UC in future months, if their earnings go down. But Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “We believe the five-week wait is too long to wait to receive support.
“If a family has been awarded nothing for the first month then they could wait as long as nine weeks before receiving anything at all. It is not good enough.”
Overall a record 2.3million households have applied for Universal Credit benefit between March 16 and May 26.But until now ministers had not made clear how many of those people did not end up getting a UC payment.
Ministers confirmed the figures in a written question in Parliament, which took more than a month to answer. It said between March 16 and March 29 there were 800,000 declarations made and processed to Universal Credit.
Of those, 67% have received a UC payment, 16% had a “nil award due to earnings”, and 16% were either closed due to ineligibility or withdrawn. Less than 1% are still waiting for details to be verified.
We asked the DWP for comment on its own figures. Minister for Welfare Delivery Will Quince replied: “This is yet another feeble attempt to denigrate Universal Credit.
“Of course, for a range of reasons, not everyone will qualify at the moment they apply – it is however too simplistic to jump to the conclusion that they are not supported by our safety net welfare system.
“Universal Credit has delivered in these unprecedented times, confounding its critics. “This is not just an attack of a policy that has stood up to significant pressure, but also ignores the extraordinary efforts of DWP staff who have gone above and beyond to process more than two million claims, ensuring that a record proportion of those eligible for support receives it in full and on time.”