Due to the Coronavirus some people are stuck abroad and struggling to get back to the UK.
On Universal Credit
There has been no change to the UC Regulations, however there is no harm in asking the DWP to continue to pay UC.
There is some internal guidance to Housing Benefit staff, advising that they can continue to pay HB where the claimant is stuck abroad and is unable to return due to the Coronavirus travel restrictions. Although there doesn't appear to be equivalent UC guidance, we feel it would be logical for a similar policy to apply to UC.
However a parliamentary answer on this topic from 22nd June (see below) does suggest we may be being optimistic.
So if a UC claimant is stuck abroad (or expects to be) for a month or more, we would advise them to make a request that their UC continues due to the extenuating circumstances. Then if their UC is suspended or terminated, they can request a mandatory reconsideration of that decision.
They should also follow the advice about seeking local support and/or applying for an emergency government loan, as given in the parliamentary answer below.
Not already on UC?
If they are not already on UC, we do not think that they will be able to make a new claim for it if they are stuck abroad, even if they have no income for the period they are abroad. However, if claiming UC would be the best option for them (eg they are not currently getting Tax Credits), although we don't hold out a lot of hope (because they are not 'in Great Britain' when they claim), they could try claiming over the phone.
If they are unable to claim and they need help paying their rent, it is worth checking to see if there is anyone else living in the property who may already be getting UC or could make a new claim for it - they may be able to get help with the rent if the DWP considers it reasonable to treat them as liable for the rent in the tenant's absence.
In a parliamentary answer in relation to people stranded abroad, on 22nd June 2020, Justin Tomlinson stated:
"FCO consular staff continue to provide advice and support to British nationals who face financial difficulties overseas due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Those in real financial distress whilst stranded overseas can seek advice and support from their local consular team, who will be able to advise on any local support that may be available as well as facilitate contact with friends and families who may be able to help. The FCO are also working with Non-Governmental Organisations to facilitate support to British nationals in need, including accommodation, food and medicine.
If a British national cannot afford travel costs back to the UK or essential living costs while they are waiting to return and have exhausted all other options they may be eligible to apply for an emergency loan from the government. These loans are interest free. This is a last resort option, with repayment required in full. However, the FCO would work with those British nationals’ currently stranded overseas to ensure flexible repayment plans are in place if they cannot afford to repay the loan within six months."