Coronavirus: Nearly one million apply for Universal Credit since ‘stay at home’ urge

Nearly one million people have signed on to benefits in the last two weeks since being urged to stay at home because of coronavirus.

Around 950,000 applications have been made for Universal Credit – a huge jump from the usual 100,000 who apply each two-week period.

All of them are not necessarily unemployed, as it is possible to apply while still in work.

But a YouGov survey on 24 March found that 5% of Britons had already lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People signing up to the benefits system will have to wait at least five weeks for their first payment.

The government says it has moved 10,000 staff to process the claims and is recruiting more.

“With such a huge increase in claims there are pressures on our services,” said a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions.

“But the system is standing up well to these and our dedicated staff are working flat-out to get people the support they need.”

As businesses, shops, restaurants and bars are closed due to coronavirus, the government has offered to pay 80% of employees’ wages if their company keeps them on – but there is no incentive for an employer to apply for this.

Britain’s five million self-employed people will not hear about whether or not they are eligible for similar aid until June.

The world was shocked last week by one of the most dramatic graphs of the pandemic when the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefit shot up to a record high of over three million in the week ending 21 March.

That dwarfed the previous peak of 665,000 in a week in 1982.

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