A committee has heard almost half a million benefits claims have been received by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the past nine days.
Around 477,000 claims have been ‘processed’ since last Tuesday, with 105,000 being made for Universal Credit on Tuesday this week, said DWP Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield.
The unprecedented pressure and volume of new claims has led to people reporting delays, being unable to get through on the phone and struggling to reach advisers.
Today, one applicant said they faced more than an hour wait as there were 133,719 ahead of them in the queue.
It comes as the department’s website, Understanding Universal Credit, received approximately 200,000 hits last week.
Mr Schofield said there had been ‘capacity challenges, unsurprisingly’ with verifying the sudden influx of claims made.
Around a quarter – 70,000 out of around 270,000 Universal Credit applications last week – applied for an advance payment, the committee was told.
Ms Coffey told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: ‘I want to reassure people that help, even if it is not currently the level of help that they would like, is there to help them through the safety net of the welfare state.’