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I’m a benefits expert – the simple check thousands on Universal Credit need to make this Christmas to avoid payment cut

THOUSANDS on Universal Credit are being urged to make a simple check this Christmas to ensure future payments aren’t slashed.

Employers often pay staff early in December, sometimes to help them fund the festive period.

Anna Stevenson is part of The Sun’s squeeze team helping you to save money

But if it means two payments fall within one Universal Credit assessment period, it could see your following month’s allowance reduced.

This is because it looks like you’ve doubled your income in one month.

For example, if your earnings are reported as being for the period up to December 16 instead of 31 this could impact your entitlement.

Experts estimate as many as 100,000 people could be affected this year, although these figures aren’t definite.

But there’s one small check you can do to help avoid this, said Anna Stevenson, benefits specialist at charity Turn2Us.

Anna is part of The Sun’s Squeeze Team, here to help you through the cost of living crisis.

If you’re worried about how to make ends meet, are struggling to pay off your debts or don’t know how best to manage your cash, get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Anna said if you want to avoid having your January Universal Credit payment slashed, speak to your employer to make sure they’re following the correct guidance on early December salary payments.

“Your employer should be working within HMRC guidance and report payments on the usual pay date,” she said.

“This means that you can avoid two payments within one Universal Credit assessment period and keep your allowance at a similar rate.”

What should I do if my Universal Credit pay is slashed in January?

If you think your Universal Credit allowance has been reduced in January due to early December salary payments, Anna suggested contacting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

If it has been cut, you can then ask for a RTI (real time information) dispute.

The DWP can investigate and re-assign the missing Universal Credit payment to your next month’s payment.

But, Anna added: “It is worth noting this can take over a month to rectify, so it is best to talk to your employer before you are paid to prevent this happening.”

What help can I get if I’m on Universal Credit this Christmas?

There’s a range of freebies on offer to those claiming Universal Credit this Christmas.

You can get help via the Household Support Fund, which in most cases is allocated to those on low incomes or benefits.

However, eligibility criteria varies between council areas, so you’ll have to double-check with yours about what you’re entitled to.

If you don’t know what council area you fall under, you can use the government’s locator tool.

Some councils also offer support through the welfare support fund too, to help cover the costs of essentials, like new furniture or food vouchers.

You can get water bill help if you’re on a low income, or debt write-off schemes if you’re in arrears.

One woman on Universal Credit managed to slash her bill by £600 a year thanks to a fund from Severn Trent water.

Or, you could get help through the discretionary housing payment.

Anyone claiming Housing Benefit or the Housing Element of Universal Credit could be eligible if they are struggling with rent costs.

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