Universal Credit: What other support is available as £20 per week uplift ends?

From Wednesday, the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift will end. Credit: PA

The biggest ever overnight cut to social security has taken place, with 5.5 million people across the UK seeing their Universal Credit (UC) payments cut by £1,040 per year.

As of Wednesday, the £20 per week uplift - a temporary measure brought in to help people on lower incomes during the coronavirus pandemic - has officially been withdrawn.

Almost 40% of UC claimants are in work.

With furlough coming to an end last week, and with energy, food and petrol prices rising, charities have raised concerns that the cut could have a devastating impact on families.

So, what other help is out there if your UC has been cut?

Household Support Fund

The government has announced it will launch the Household Support Fund this month to help vulnerable households over winter.

Small grants worth up to £500 million are intended to help struggling families meet costs for daily needs such as food, clothing and utilities.

Local councils in England will start distributing the small grants from October to help millions of households, the government said.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive up to £79 million of the £500 million fund.

Making the announcement last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "We appreciate that prices of some things have gone up rapidly and the half a billion pounds will help three or four million of our most vulnerable families with £100 or £150 over the winter period and I know that will make a difference for people at I know what is a difficult time."

Employment schemes extended

As well as the Household Support Fund, the chancellor has pledged another £500 million which he said will help people get into work.

The government said it is extending the following schemes to help people do this:

  • The Kickstart scheme - this is funding to encourage employers to take on 16 to 24 year olds who receive Universal Credit, with the government covering the cost of 25 hours of work per week for a total of 6 months, as well as the employer's national insurance contributions. This will be extended until the end of January.

  • Job Entry Targeted Support scheme - people who have been on Universal Credit for more than 13 weeks can get employment support for 6 months, which includes a personal careers adviser.

  • Apprenticeship Incentives - this encourages employers to take on apprentices, with a payment of £3,000, in addition to the £1,000 already on offer.

Free school meals

If you have children, they may be entitled to free school meals. If you are on Universal Credit, your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get). Get more information about how to apply here.

Food bank vouchers

If you are struggling to afford food, you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or an organisation that’s already supporting you - for example, a charity, school or children’s centre - for a food bank voucher.

Support with essential costs

You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check who your local council is here.

Where can I get financial advice and help?