People who applied for Universal Credit as Covid hit could be subject to a benefits check by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Citizens Advice sets out your need-to-knows on the DWP’s Trust and Protect scheme, and the steps you should take to ensure you don’t lose out on benefits you’re entitled to.
What is the 'Trust and Protect’ scheme?
In the early stages of the pandemic last year, the DWP introduced new measures to make sure people could apply for benefits quickly, without the need to visit a Jobcentre. This meant that some of the requirements relating to proof of identity, housing costs and household circumstances were eased.
The DWP is now looking at all claims made in the early stages of the pandemic and asking people for this evidence to support their application. People who claimed New Style JSA and New Style ESA last spring may also be contacted.
How will the DWP contact me?
You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre. This may show up as a withheld number. Make sure your contact details are up to date and try to check your online journal at least once a week for new notifications.
If you’re struggling to manage your online claim for any reason - including lack of access to a computer - you should be able to change to a non-digital claim. Citizens Advice can support you with this.
What happens if I can't provide the right evidence?
If you can’t provide the right evidence, or you cannot be contacted by officials seeking to verify your claim, your payments could be stopped or changed.
Citizens Advice benefits expert Lawrence Barratt says:
“If you applied for Universal Credit in the early stages of the pandemic then the DWP may contact you for some additional information to support your claim.
“To ensure you don’t lose out on money you’re entitled to, make sure the contact information in your online journal is up to date. It's also important to respond to any calls or emails from the DWP as soon as possible.
"If you don't, there's a risk your benefit payments could be stopped or changed.
“Citizens Advice can support you with free, independent advice if you’re struggling to provide the evidence you need or have any other questions about Universal Credit.”