The coronavirus outbreak has hit the UK, affecting people not only in terms of health, but also having an impact on the economy and millions of people’s finances. This week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced an increase to Universal Credit, of £1,000 over the year.

Over the course of one year, this increase to the standard allowance works out at roughly an additional £83 per month.

Following the news, Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “For the many thousands of people worrying about how they will pay rent, keep the lights on, and keep food in the fridge, today’s announcement will be a great relief.

“These are vital measures to strengthen the safety net and to keep people in work and they will significantly reduce the numbers of people at risk of losing their home.

“We are already hearing from people who are rapidly losing work and we think the Government may need to further increase Housing Benefit to cover average rents as well as introduce other measures to provide crucial security to these workers during this crisis.”

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Ahead of the annoncement yesterday, the Resolution Foundation, published a briefing note on protecting families and firms from the impact of coronavirus.

Among the think-tank’s recommendations was the suggestion that Universal Credit and other beneifts rise by one-third – to £100 per week.

“To protect families affected from hardship, and strengthen the automatic stabilisers that support demand in the economy, the Government also needs to strengthen the social safety net,” it said.

“The main adult rate of out-of-work support in Universal Credit (UC) and other benefits should rise by one-third, to £100 per week, with equivalent increases in young-adult and couple rates. This would cost £10 billion over a year.

“The Government could go further and target a 10 per cent uprating of other elements of the means-tested benefit system (UC and tax credits), which would bring the total cost to £13 billion.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Universal Credit had been set to increase by 1.7 percent, in line with inflation, following the end to the government’s freeze on working-age benefits.

Under this freeze, the amount has stayed the same since April 2015.

This also includes a number of legacy benefits, with the following now also set to rise in April this year:

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit
  • Universal Credit
  • Child Tax Credits
  • Working Tax Credits
  • Child Benefit.

Research by the Resolution Foundation last year found that a lower income couple with children would be £580 a year worse off as a result of the freeze.

Elsewhere yesterday, the national poverty charity Turn2us announced it had updated its online benefits calculator, following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes mean that people worried about not having enough money to live on during the coronavirus pandemic can access the most up-to-date and accurate information available, Turn2us said.

The updated version will allow the charity to run calculations that show peoples’ entitlement to welfare benefits, which includes contributory Employee Support Allowance (ESA), Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Universal Credit, with the latest government Coronavirus policies factored in.

Now, people using the Benefits Calculator tool will see six new questions, as well as some additional messages on the results page, helping peple affected by the coronavirus pandemic to find out what they’re entitled to, taking into account recent Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policies which have been launched in response to the crisis.

Simone Ranson, Head of Digital at Turn2us, said: “We have updated our Benefits Calculator to reflect the latest government policy and we will keep updating it regularly to respond to any further changes.

“We urge anyone who is struggling with money as a result of the coronavirus panic to do a Benefit Calculation to find out what they are entitled to, and make a claim as soon as possible.”

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