NEARLY a million Brits tried to claim benefits in the past fortnight — as Covid-19 took a wrecking ball to the economy.
Some 880,000 applied for Universal Credit — up from around 100,000 in a normal two-week period.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
The massive surge in ex-workers signing on for support has left some facing six-hour waits on the phone.
Universal Credit combines six welfare payments, including jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and income support.
It gives an indication of the devastation the virus is already having on the economy.
Labour MP Stephen Timms, chairman of the work and pensions committee, said: “These are enormous figures. There are going to be a lot of people who will struggle to get the bare essentials in the next few weeks unless they are on Universal Credit. It is really, really important.”
Mr Timms said the influx will pile pressure on the welfare system, but it is coping.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s self-employed bailout may ease matters in the coming weeks, he said.
Just under three million were on Universal Credit before the coronavirus crisis erupted here in late February.
Free school meal vouchers launch this week and you can use them in supermarkets
A Department for Work and Pensions source said: “These are unprecedented times and we are taking extraordinary action to provide much-needed help and support to those affected.
“We have seen record numbers of claims for Universal Credit and the DWP has risen to the challenge.”
It is redeploying 10,000 workers to help and recruiting more. The Government is also pumping in £7billion to “strengthen the safety net”.
CORONAVIRUS CRISIS – STAY IN THE KNOW
Don’t miss the latest news and figures – and essential advice for you and your family.
To receive The Sun’s Coronavirus newsletter in your inbox every tea time, sign up here.
To follow us on Facebook, simply ‘Like’ our Coronavirus page.
Get Britain’s best-selling newspaper delivered to your smartphone or tablet each day – find out more.