The number of Universal Credit claims have soared during the coronavirus (COVID-19) as millions hit by the crisis have sought financial support in order to get by. Statistics from the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) published on May 6 show that since the pandemic began, around 1.8 million claims have been made to Universal Credit.
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Meanwhile, almost 700,000 advance payments had been made to people during this time.
The payment is intended to help with living costs, and it may be that a person or couple can claim Universal Credit if they’re on a low income or they’re out of work.
Among the eligibility criteria is a limit on the amount of savings a person can have in order to get the payment.
The government states that a person and their partner – should they have one – must have £16,000 or less in savings between them in order to potentially be able to get the payment.
However, those who are eligible for the payment may be able to get support with savings.
This is via the Help to Save account – a scheme which is backed by the government.
It allows certain people who are entitled to Working Tax Credit or receiving Universal Credit to get a bonus of 50 pence for every £1 they save in the account over the course of four years.
How does Help to Save work?
Savers can pay in between £1 and £50 into the account each calendar month.
That’s not to say that money needs to be paid every month, however.
It’s possible to save the money in the account as many times as they like, up to the maximum of £50 per calendar month.
The bonuses are tax-free and they are paid at the end of the second and fourth years.
The amounts that a person can get will depend on how much they’ve saved.
It’s possible to earn two different tax-free bonuses over four years.
Even if a person withdraws money, they will get any bonuses they’ve earned.
After two years, the first bonus will be paid to those who have been using the account to save.
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This will be 50 percent of the highest balance they have saved.
After four years, the final bonus will then be paid, if a person has continued to save.
The bonus will be 50 percent of the difference between two amounts:
- The highest balance saved in the first two years (years one and two)
- The highest balance saved in the last two years (years three and four).
Should the highest balance not increase in this time, the saver would not earn a final bonus.
The most a person can pay into the account in each calendar month is £50.
This works out at a maximum of £2,400 over four years.
As such, the most a person can get as a bonus from their savings via the Help to Save account in four years is £1,200.
Bonuses are paid into the bank account, rather than the Help to Save account.
A person can open a Help to Save account if any of the following apply:
- They’re receiving Working Tax Credit
- They’re entitled to Working Tax Credit and receiving Child Tax Credit
- They’re claiming Universal Credit and their household earned £604.56 or more from paid work in the last monthly assessment period
They also need to be living in the UK. Those who live overseas can apply for an account if they’re either a:
- Crown servant or their spouse or civil partner
- Member of the British armed forces or their spouse or civil partner
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