Free prescriptions to broadband deals: What benefits Universal Credit claimants could get

Rishi Sunak baffles MP with claims Universal Credit is 'generous'

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Examples of what qualifies as a “freebie” benefit include free prescriptions on the NHS and discounts on broadband bills, which could save households upwards of £144. In light of the cost of living crisis, Universal Credit recipients will be looking to access whatever support they can in the months ahead. Currently, the average prescription charge is £9.35 per item but claiming free medication on the NHS could save households a small fortune.

In January 2020, the UK Government introduced new prescription forms which affected how benefit claimants apply for free prescriptions.

As part of this updated prescription form, a new exemption box U was included. The U stands for “Universal Credit and meets the criteria”.

This box is for patients who are eligible for free NHS prescriptions because they claim Universal Credit.

When taking into account their claim, an applicant’s earnings in their last assessment period must be within the entitlement threshold.

Those who get free prescriptions because they claim Universal Credit, but have not been given the updated form, should tick the Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance box instead.

The “most recent assessment period” refers to the assessment period that ended just before the date they claimed the “freebie” benefit. For Universal Credit claimants, this period of time lasts a full calendar month.

Claimants are entitled to either free or discounted healthcare costs if their earnings during that period were £435 or less.

If a Universal Credit recipient’s earnings were £935 or less, and their benefit claim includes an element for a dependant or they have a limited capacity to work, they will be able to get free or discounted prescriptions.

In regards to couples, the net earning threshold will be applied to their combined net earnings.

Furthermore, claimants use their Universal Credit award notice as evidence to their eligibility for free prescriptions.

Aside from this “freebie benefit”, claimants of the DWP payment are also entitled to a sizeable discount on their broadband bill.

Universal Credit claimants, and those who receive other payments, could be eligible for “social tariffs” through their broadband provider.

The country’s largest broadband companies, including BT and Virgin Media, provide deals to people on low income and on benefits which could see them save £144 a year.

To apply for this discount, Universal Credit claimants should contact their provider to check their eligibility as it slightly different depending on the company.

However, only 1.2 percent of eligible households have applied and received this vital means of support.

On the number of people claiming the broadband discount, Gillian Fyfe, a spokesperson for Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “These take-up figures are shocking.

“Low income families across the country are really struggling because of the rise in energy bills, the end of furlough and the reduction in Universal Credit.

“Saving £144 could be a lifeline for them, and yet it seems very few of them know about it or feel able to choose that option.

“The responsibility here lies with the broadband providers. It’s not enough for them simply to offer social tariffs. They need to make people aware that these options exist, and exactly how they should go about selecting these tariffs.”

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