Brits applying for Universal Credit can now be assessed over video call

BRITS applying for some benefits including Universal Credit can have their claims assessed over a video call from March 25.

As a result of the Covid crisis, the Department for Work and Pensions has had to suspend face-to-face assessments for people claiming benefits. 

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No face-to-face assessments have taken place since March 2020 when the Government enforced stay at home orders to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Instead, the assessments have been conducted over the phone or by filling out a form.

But new rules that come into force March 25 will allow Brits to choose whether they would like their assessments to be carried out via video call.

Only those applying for Universal Credit, personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) will be given the online option.

How do I apply for Universal Credit?

HERE’S all you need to know about applying for Universal Credit.

You'll need to apply to the new welfare system via the gov.uk website, starting by setting up an online account.

To make an account, you'll need an email address and a phone number.

After that, you'll need to answer a set of questions about your current circumstances, known as your "to do list".

These include things like when you last received payment for a job, what your household income is and how many people depend on you financially.

If you've lost your job, Citizens Advice recommends that you don't apply until you've received your final wages or any final holiday pay.

This is because any money you receive after you've applied for Universal Credit will count as income and mean that you're entitled to less in your first payment.

You will then need to confirm your identity online.

In certain circumstances, you'll be able to apply over the phone, such as those who don't have regular access to the internet, are visually impaired, or have a physical condition that stops you from using a computer or smartphone.

To do this, you will need to contact the Universal Credit helpline to ask if you can apply by phone or arrange a home visit.

In this case, someone can call them on your behalf if you can't do it yourself.

The DWP assesses claims to help decide whether you can get the help you are applying for.

For example, the DWP will need to do a face-to-face medical assessment to decide whether you are eligible for PIP help.

If you're applying for Universal Credit but do not need a medical assessment, the DWP could call you anyway to determine whether you're eligible for help.

Your claim won't go forwards until this phone call takes place.

The new rules have been brought in due to the coronavirus crisis but it's not clear if they will be scrapped once lockdown restrictions end.

It follows on from a Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) report into how the pandemic has affected low income families published at the end of last year.

The report said that paper-based assessments, or those done over the phone, for was unsuitable for "more complex" benefit claims.

As a result, claimants with more complex cases were facing a "considerable delay" in getting their money "potentially excluding claimants from their full entitlement for indefinite periods".

The SSAC’s chair Stephen Brien welcomed the new legislation in a letter to the DWP Minister, Justin Tomlinson.

He said: "This will help to improve customer service by enabling the Department to tailor the assessment channel to meet the needs of different claimants and help to ensure the most appropriate channel is used to enable an appropriate outcome for the claimant."

Universal Credit claimants also received good news in this year's Budget earlier this month.

Rishi Sunak announced the £20 boost per week would stay in place for another six months, helping low-paid Brits through the Covid crisis.

Will Quince, who is responsible for looking after Universal Credit at the DWP, also hinted last week that the boost may be extended again in autumn if Britain is still fighting off Covid.

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