Nearly 1m people apply for Universal Credit as coronavirus lockdown paralyses economy
Nearly 1m people in the UK have applied for Universal Credit in the two weeks since Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented strict lockdown measures, the government said today.
There are normally around 100,000 applicants per two week period – in the last two weeks there were 950,000.
The government has moved 10,000 staff to process the claims and is recruiting more to help shift the backlog.
“With such a huge increase in claims there are pressures on our services, but the system is standing up well to these and our dedicated staff are working flat-out to get people the support they need,” a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said.
The number of Universal Credit claimants is not a proxy for unemployment figures, as it is possible to apply while still in work, but a YouGov survey on March 24 found that one in 20 people in the UK had already lost their job due to coronavirus.
Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “We have never seen anything like this – it is not remotely normal even in the grim circumstances of a recession.”
As businesses, shops, restaurants and bars are closed, the government has offered to pay 80 per cent of employees’ wages if their company keeps them on – but there is no incentive for an employer to apply for this.
Britain’s 5m self-employed people will not hear about whether or not they are eligible for similar aid until June.
Universal Credit has a waiting period of at least five weeks.
Last week the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefit shot up to a record high of over 3m in the week ending 21 March, dwarfing the previous peak of 665,000 in a week in 1982.
US unemployment data for the week ending 28 March is due on Thursday.