FOR some low-income families, the short month of February means that welfare payments don't need to stretch as far.
But 2020 is a leap year meaning that there's an extra day this month – February 29 – but how does this affect your Universal Credit payments?
Does it mean that I'll get less money?
The DWP says that the standard monthly allowance stays the same every month, regardless of how many days there are.
These are currently set at £251.77 for single people under 25 or £317.82 for those 25 and over.
If you're in a couple and both under 25, you'll get £395.20, while couples where one or both partners are 25-years-old are entitled to £498.89.
February is always a shorter month than most, typically with 28 days, meaning that you won't have to make your payments last so long.
For example, someone who gets £500 a month in total will be able to budget £16.13 a day in January when there are 31 days, but in February they can budget £17.85 a day.
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements– If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussel Trust website.
As there are 29 days in February 2020, you'll need to make your payments stretch further than you would normally need to in the shortest month of the year.
This works out at £17.24 a day for a £500 monthly payment.
The amount that you're paid for other elements, such as housing, child and income support, will also be the same.
It also means that there will be one less day in the assessment period but it will not affect March's payment either.
What happens if I'm normally paid on 30 or 31 of the month?
If you're benefits are normally paid into your bank account on 30 or 31 of the month then you're going to get it earlier than usual this February.
You'll be paid on the last working day of the month, which is Friday February 28, instead.
What does the extra day in the year mean in the long term?
The National Housing Federation (NHF) has previously warned that hundreds of claimants will miss out on a week's worth of rent this year.
The administrative loophole will affect those who pay their rent at the start of every week.
This is because monthly Universal Credit payments are worked out based on 52 weeks in the year – but this year there will be 53 Mondays.
Despite this, claimants will still receive the same amount as if there were only 52 Mondays, leaving society's most vulnerable at risk of falling into rent arrears at the end of the year.
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
UNIVERSAL Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
- Get paid faster: The Government must slash the time Brits wait for their first Universal Credit payments from five to two weeks, helping stop 7 million from being pushed into debt.
- Keep more of what you earn: The work allowance should be increased and the taper rate should be slashed from from 63p to 50p, helping at least 4 million families.
- Don’t get punished for having a family: Parents should get the 85 per cent of the money they can claim for childcare upfront instead of being paid in arrears.
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
Even though an extra week in the tax year occurs every five or six years, this will be the first time so many claimants will be affected since the scheme launched in 2010.
Chief executive at NHF Kate Henderson warned that tenants will "need to find other sources of income" to foot the shortfall or risk falling into arrears.
But the DWP doesn't agree. At the time we reported the issue, a spokesperson told The Sun: "Having 53 rent days does not mean paying more rent over a year as most of the final payment will cover the first week's rent for the following year."
If you're worried that you won't be able to pay the bills this month then you can apply to the jobcentre for a budgeting loan.
This government will lend you money to help pay for costs related to moving house, travelling to and from work or putting towards the rent, interest-free.
But you must remember that you have to pay it back and repayments will automatically be deducted from your next Universal Credit payout.
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