NEARLY two million people have applied for universal credit benefits since the government advised people to stay at home due to coronavirus.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said there had been more than 1.8 million claims since 16 March.
Ms Coffey told MPs that figure was six times the normal claimant rate, and in one week there had been a “tenfold” increase in claims.
She said about 8,000 staff had been redeployed to deal with the claims.
The figures show the growing increase in demand on the benefit system since the government urged people to avoid non-essential travel and contact with others to curb the spread of the virus.
Ms Coffey told MPs there had also been more than 250,000 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and over 20,000 claims for Employment Support Allowance.
“Overall, this is six times the volume that we would typically experience and in one week we had a tenfold increase”.
She said that the rate for universal credit had appeared to have stabilised at about 20,000 to 25,000 claims per day, which she said was “double that of a standard week pre Covid-19.”
She added: “We’ve also issued almost 700,000 advances to claimants who felt that they could not wait for their routine payment and the vast majority of these claimants received money within 72 hours.”
Universal credit is a consolidated monthly payment for those of working-age, which replaced a host of previous benefits including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit.
In October 2019, there were 2.6 million universal credit claimants – just over a third of whom were in work.