Almost half of Universal Credit claimants ‘behind on bills’ before pandemic struck

Many families are behind on bills (stock) (Image: Getty)

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Almost half of Universal Credit claimants who were on the benefit before the coronavirus pandemic struck fell behind on household bills, a report reveals today.

Some 46% of people receiving the Government's flagship welfare payment were not up to date with bills by last November, according to a think-tank's analysis.

It fell back to 38% in March – but just 25% were behind with payments in 2018-19.

The figures analysed by Bright Blue are from Understanding Society's Covid-19 Study and come as hard-up families face being stripped of £20 a week from September.

The Government temporarily increased UC when the pandemic hit Britain.

The move is worth £1,040 a year to some of the poorest households.

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But it costs the Treasury £6billion annually.

It plans to withdraw the rise after the summer when all Covid-19 restrictions are due to have been axed.

A third of new UC claimants fell into arrears during the pandemic also rose, with 32% reporting being behind with at least some household bills near the start of the crisis in May 2020.

But it dropped to 17% in March.

In contrast, just 5% of non-UC claimants were behind on everyday bills in 2018-19, 6% in May 2020 and 4% in March this year.

Bright Blue senior research fellow Anvar Sarygulov said: "Even with the Government increasing financial support provided through Universal Credit in March 2020, many claimants have continued to face significant financial difficulties as the pandemic progressed.

“However, the financial situation for existing and new UC claimants has shifted throughout the pandemic, with some evidence for improvement as the pandemic progressed, especially by March 2021.

“Fully withdrawing the Universal Credit uplift in September 2021 will put an even greater number of claimants at risk of financial problems at a point when the economic recovery is only gathering pace.”

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