BRITS struggling financially can now find out what benefits they could be entitled to with a new online tool – and it only takes a few minutes.

The benefits checker has been launched by the government to help people find out if they are eligible for support like Universal Credit.

Claims for Universal Credit have soared since the coronavirus pandemic outbreak hit a year ago as restrictions impact household income.

Six million Brits are now claiming the financial support, according to the latest official figures up to January 14 – that's up 98% compared to March 2020.

The new benefit checker tool is free to use on the gov.uk website and all you have to do is answer some questions.

The information you'll need to hand include what your current income is for you and your partner if you have one, and how much you have in savings, if any.

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 payout.
  • 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 for 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 by applying for a Council Tax Reduction. Alternatively, you might be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments to help 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 Trussell Trust website.

You'll also be asked about any benefits or pension you already get and what your outgoings are, such as rent or childcare payments.

A recent council tax bill is also required.

Users of the tool should be aware that eligibility for benefits is not guaranteed but the checker can indicate whether it's worth starting a claim.

It can also guide you to more information about the type of financial support available and the eligibility criteria in detail.

The government has said it's also worth using other benefit checker tools to understand what support you might get.

There are several free online benefit calculators that will break down your payments and what you’re entitled to. These include:

  • Turn2Us
  • entitledto
  • Policy in Practice

Anyone claiming legacy benefits has also been warned to check carefully before making a claim for Universal Credit.

Six benefits are being gradually replaced by Universal Credit, but claimants might not be better off by switching over.

What benefits will Universal Credit replace?

UNIVERSAL Credit will be claimed by everyone by 2024. It replaces six types of benefit payment:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

Using the tool alone does not mean you are making a claim. But you may be guided to more information on how to claim after using it.

A Universal Credit claim would automatically end your entitlement to the older benefits. You'll also need to wait up to five weeks for your first payment to arrive.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said that any information you submit when using the tool is not kept by them and can't be traced back to you.

Will Quince, the minister for welfare delivery, said: "In a matter of moments, you can find out if you may be eligible for Universal Credit.

"If you are, you could also receive additional benefits, such as half-price travel and childcare payments."

He added: "If you think you’re eligible to claim, please do check, so you can see what support you may be able to access."

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