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Coronavirus crisis: charity calls on government to end five-week wait for Universal Credit

With BA being the latest big company to announce suspension of more than 36,000 staff, charities are receiving unprecented numbers of calls of people worried about losing their homes and feeding their family.

The Salvation Army wants the current five-week wait for Universal Credit replaced with grants. They say while you can currently apply for a loan, this will only plunge thousands into debt, at a time when anxiety is at an all-time high. When the Universal Credit kicks in, it only covers basic living costs, so families may have to choose between buying food or repaying the loan, when good nutrition is essential to fight off the Coronavirus (Covid-19).

Even before the pandemic, The Salvation Army noticed an increase in people using food banks to feed their family so they could pay back Universal Credit accrued debt.

How can you help? If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford it, top up your local food bank when you do your weekly shop at Tesco, ASDA or Sainsbury’s. Simply pay for your goods and drop your donations off at the designated trolleys at the exit.

Rebecca Keating, The Salvation Army’s Director of Employment Plus, said: ‘The Universal Credit loan system could cause a coronavirus debt crisis. Thousands of people who never thought they would have to rely on state support are now making a Universal Credit claim. Many of these will be forced to take out the bridging loan which will just move their money problems five weeks down the line. We are particularly concerned by those working on zero hour contracts that don’t have the same legal rights of other employees. Many will not have a financial safety net to help avoid getting into debt straight away.

“The Government has made some helpful changes to help people access benefits such as removing the requirement for people to attend job centres appointments for the next three months, but requiring a loan to cover a five week wait for financial support is the point of critical failure that the Government must address. Not only will this add stress for people already struggling with the fall-out from the pandemic, but also leave a lasting legacy if too many people are shouldering too much avoidable debt.”

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Editor in chief Suzi Dixon studied at Bournemouth university, went away for a while to work at The Daily Telegraph, then moved back to the sunny South coast for a quiet (er) life. Bournemouth News & Info is her website and she is assisted by the fabulous Fred From France in all things geeky and technical. Hire us to make your website, too, if you like.

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