Five ways to get help on Universal Credit as hardship payments soar | The Sun

IF you're struggling to get by on Universal Credit, here's five ways to get help as the number of hardship payments rocket.

You can apply for a discretionary hardship payment from the Department for Work and Pensions if you've been sanctioned and need emergency money.

You can be sanctioned for a number of reasons, such as failing to apply for a particular job or refusing an offer of employment – find a full list here.

If you're sanctioned, it means your Universal Credit payments will be reduced or even stopped altogether.

How much you'll have taken off your claim depends on what you've done -or not done.

But you can apply for a hardship payment if you're struggling to pay for bills and essentials.

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However, the number hardship claims have soared over the cost of living crisis, according to OpenDemocracy.

A total of 74,200 hardship payments were made in the first five months of 2022, compared to 40,400 in the first five months of 2019 –which marks an increase of more than 80%.

In May this year, 17,500 people received new hardship payments – up from 12,100 in February.

What is a Universal Credit sanction?

Sanctions were paused during the pandemic, resulting in a sharp drop in hardship loan claims.

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But claims have spiked since they were reintroduced in July 2020.

Sanctions only apply to this standard element of your claim. Any housing or childcare elements will still be paid.

Sanctions are split into four categories; lowest level, low level, medium level, and high level.

How long your sanction lasts depends on these categories as well as the number of previous failures within a year.

The hardship payment is roughly 60 per cent of the amount you were sanctioned by in the last month.

But you will need to pay it back, which will reduce your future payments.

How else can I get help if I'm on Universal Credit?

If you're struggling financially while you're on Universal Credit, there are ways to access extra support.

Council tax discount

Universal Credit claimants could get help with their council tax bills – and in some cases you could get a 100% discount.

Each council runs its own reduction scheme so how much your discount is worth depends on where you live.

Your circumstances will also have an effect on your discount, such as your earnings, households income, number of children you have and how many people live with you.

Your residency status and what benefits you're entitled to will also have an impact.

Cheaper internet and phone deals

Universal Credit claimants are entitled to cheaper internet deals, so you could save some money by switching.

Currently there are eight social tariffs available from major providers and smaller companies.

Eligibility can vary between them, as can speed, so it's worth checking before hand.

The cheapest deal out there is from Community Fibre and costs £10 a month for 10mbps, but it's only available in London.

BT, Hyperoptic and Virgin Media offer the next best prices at £15.

You can find more details on other deals and how to apply here.

Help with energy bills

There are several different schemes designed to help people cover energy costs.

If temperatures plummet below zero that could trigger a payment of £25 automatically.

Cold weather payments are made if it hits freezing between November 1 and March 31, to help you pay for the increased energy costs.

The temperature will have to stay that low for seven consecutive days before the cash is handed out.

You can check if the payment applies to you using the government's postcode checker any time between now and the spring.

The warm home discount is a one-off payment of £150 which is designed to help with the cost of your electricity bill through winter.

The money isn't paid to everyone automatically, you need to apply for it from your energy firm if you're on a low income.

The money is taken off your energy bill and it is likely payments will be dished out between October and March.

If you get the guarantee credit element of pension credit and are named on the bill you should automatically qualify for this benefit.

But if you're on a low income or struggling with bills then you'll need to apply.

Extra benefits

If you're eligible for Universal Credit, there might be other benefits you're entitled to.

For example, if you have a long-term physical or mental health condition you could get a Personal Independence Payment.

This is worth up to £7,500 a year if you get the maximum amount,

Use a benefits calculator to check that you're getting all of the financial support you're eligible for.

Water bills

Lower income families can apply to the WarerSure scheme to save hundreds of pounds on their bill each year.

If you claim Universal Credit or a number of other benefits, you may be able to cap your water bill.

To qualify for the scheme you need to already have a water meter installed, and prove you need to use a lot of water.

You also need to have three or more children under the age of 19 living in the house, and receive child benefit for them.

Or, you need to prove you have a medical condition that you need additional water for.

Suppliers cap the cost of water bills under this scheme at the average household bill your water company charges.

Ask your own supplier what schemes it has or check CCW’s round-up of the different help available.

Many water companies offer help to customers who cannot afford to pay their bills – find yours here.

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Exactly what help you can get and who is eligible will depend on who your supplier is.

Some suppliers might agree to reduce or wipe your debt if you're struggling to pay your water bills.

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