Covid-19: IncomeMax chief urges government to review Universal Credit pitfalls

Published by Scott Challinor on April 5th 2020, 9:00am

The well-documented Covid-19 outbreak has forced numerous financial issues, with the UK government having to step in with a raft of measures to protect British workers and their incomes. Yet, even with these procedures in place, there are some pitfalls. 

In conversation with the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Lee Healey, founder and managing director of IncomeMax CIC in Essex, discusses the advice his company has been offering to individuals and recommends further action that the government could take to ease the situation further.

When asked first and foremost how his company had found the last few weeks of the outbreak, Healey admitted that the introduction of social distancing and the closure of workplaces across the country had not come without disruption.

Healey said: “Admittedly, it has been an incredibly hectic last two weeks for my IncomeMax team.

“We relocated all our staff to be able to work from home during the Coronavirus outbreak. This was essential to ensure we could keep on helping the many low income & vulnerable customers we support.”

Yet, in spite of the need to adapt, IncomeMax has been successfully proactive in continuing its work and offering advice to those in need of it amid the uncertainty.

“What we have been doing is following government announcements carefully and disseminating this information to our advisers and the public, via our social media channels.”

IncomeMax’s information sharing even stretched as far as national television outlets too.

Healey explained: “We appeared on The Martin Lewis Money Show live on ITV to help allay fears about Universal Credit. We also launched our new #IncomeChat podcast to help highlight the latest benefit changes and to create a platform for benefit advisers and policy experts to discuss income issues.”

With regards to income issues, there is certainly plenty to ponder.

“There are so many financial issues arising from the Covid-19 outbreak”, Healey said.

“The government are doing their very best to help support incomes at this time, and the benefits system has come under intense pressure. The Department for Work & Pensions [DWP] are working so hard to help citizens at this time, and I’m proud to see the advice sector pulling together and supporting the DWP and families at this critical time.”

Despite their pro-activity, however, Healey feels that the government can still do more to help.

“At the current time, there are some issues to highlight to government.

“One of these is the fact many millions receive legacy benefits like tax credits. Claiming Universal Credit [UC] stops legacy benefits - and this can see people worse off financially as a result of claiming UC.

“We would be appreciative if the government were to explore this issue. Ideally, the government would put in place the same transitional income protection for people that claim UC and have their legacy benefits stopped. There was already a system of transitional protection planned for managed migration. 

“We would ask the government to consider extending transitional protection to families claiming UC at this time.”

Another issue which Healey pointed out related to the status of Universal Credit advance payments.

“The second issue relates to UC advance payments. We understand the DWP are reluctant to make advance payments non-repayable grants. But at this crucial time, it is important that vulnerable people are not pushed into more debt.

“We would ask the government to look again at whether UC advance payments could have their status changed to non-repayable grants for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak. This would make a huge difference to so many people at this time.”

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
April 5th 2020, 9:00am

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