Nearly a million people claim Universal Credit as coronavirus outbreak worsens
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that 950,000 successful applications were made between 16 March and the end of the month
Nearly a million people have made claims for Universal Credit in the past fortnight as the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak takes its toll.
Figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions show that 950,000 successful applications were made between 16 March and the end of the month.
Labour said the figures - nearly 10 times higher than a normal two-week period - were "truly shocking".
Many of the claimants are thought to be self-employed workers whose incomes have dried up as the economy has gone into lockdown.
A DWP spokesperson said: "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.
We're taking urgent action to boost capacity - we've moved 10,000 existing staff to the help on the front line and we're recruiting more."
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood ministers must now scrap the five-week wait for UC payments to come through.
"The number of people now trying to claim Universal Credit is truly shocking," she said.
"The Government must wake up and take action, not leave people waiting days to verify their identity and five weeks to get the support they need.
"Advances are not the answer to the five week wait, they are loans that have to be paid back, and nobody knows how long this crisis will last for.
"The Government should turn advances into non-repayable grants to end the five week wait and make sure people get the support they need quickly at a level that genuinely protects them from poverty."
Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has said that two million self-employed people - nearly half of the total - will not be helped by a government scheme to pay 80% of their normal income.
SNP Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Neil Gray MP said:"The staggering news that almost a million people have applied for Universal Credit in the past fortnight alone highlights the huge scale of the crisis we face - and proves beyond doubt that more support is needed.
"The UK government must listen to those of us who have been calling for welfare protections to be significantly strengthened to help people through this unprecedented emergency.
"The SNP has repeatedly called for the Chancellor to introduce a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. That is the simplest way to ensure everyone has the support they need. It is clear that the current jobs retention and self-employed schemes are failing to cover everyone.
"The Universal Credit system must be urgently improved so it is more generous, flexible, and responsive to people's needs - including by tackling the delays and introducing an immediate upfront payment. People shouldn't have to wait weeks to get the help they need right now."