The British government received 1.8 million welfare payment claims between March 16 and the end of April, Work and Pensions Minister Therese Coffey has confirmed.

Coffey said the claims have been made through the Universal Credit benefits system, which sees benefits paid to people in work and those who have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 crisis.

Overall, Coffey said the volume of welfare claims has been six times higher than pre-coronavirus crisis levels during the same period. In one of the weeks, she said, the rise was tenfold.

Coffey said her department was “standing up to the challenge” and had so far redeployed around 8,000 staff to process the surge of new claims.

Coffey also said claims appear to have “stabilized” at between 20,000 and 25,000 daily, which is double the previous standard rate.

She dismissed calls from Labour, however, to end the five-week wait for the first payment and ditch a two-child limit on Universal Credit.

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