One person enquiring about Universal Credit waited on hold for over 11 hours yesterday, COVER has learnt
Half a million people in the UK applied for Universal Credit in the space of nine days, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed yesterday.
According to benefits experts, only a small proportion of them will be able to get access to support because the DWP phone lines are inundated with calls.
Usually applicants would be required to visit their local job centre however this is not possible due to COVID-19.
It is thought that the disabled, elderly or vulnerable are most held back because they are less likely to apply online.
One person enquiring about Universal Credit waited on hold for over 11 hours yesterday.
COVER understands she started at 2pm as 278,859 in the queue and reached number one at 1.12am.
Anna Stevenson, a welfare and benefits expert for Turn2Us, told The Guardian that Universal Credit applicants are concerned about whether they will be able to make a claim.
She said: "Universal credit claimants have to make this appointment within 30 days of them completing their applications, and for the claim to be approved, the interview must happen. People have been contacting is to us to ask what is going on as they are finding it impossible to get through."
Charity Turn2us has provided information on its website aimed at those who have currently been offered very little or no support by the government.
These people include self-employed businesses, those on zero hour contracts, people practising social distancing and unable to work, and people looking after their children now the schools have closed and unable to work.
Those struggling financially can use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to find out what they can claim.
Johnny Timpson, financial protection specialist for Scottish Widows, has encouraged advisers to signpost their clients to Turn2Us, which is a charity partner with the insurer.
"The charity's free to access benefits calculator has been fully updated to reflect the recent welfare support changes announced by the government in response to the current crisis," he said. "In addition, new pages have been added to provide key information to people concerned about how coronavirus may affect their job and/or welfare income."
He added: "The support from Turn2Us is open to all with no requirements of being a Scottish Widows policyholder or Lloyd's Banking Group customer. To assist your clients, colleagues and family establish the welfare benefits and grants that they may be entitled too, please go/signpost them to www.turn2us.org.uk."
According to the DWP, 1,500 members of staff have been redeployed to help with Universal Credit claims, and the aim is to increase this to 3,900 by the end of the week.
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