Coronavirus - support for benefit claimants

We understand that many of our residents will be feeling anxious about their ability to pay their rent and claim benefit support during this uncertain time. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have announced that a range of extra support and measures will be in place to help workers, benefit claimants and businesses that have been affected by Coronavirus.

Please note new guidance comes out regularly, so the information contained on this page is as accurate as possible at the time of writing. This page was last updated on Tuesday 9 February 2021.

 

For people who need to make a new claim for financial support

 

The Department for Work and Pensions understands that people who are required to stay at home or are infected by Coronavirus may need financial support, and quickly.

 

Please be assured that those affected by Coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month's advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.

 

  • The Standard Allowance is to increase by £20 a week for 12 months from 6 April 2020.
  • The Minimum Income Floor (MIF) has been suspended for everyone during the Coronavirus outbreak. 
  • You will not be required to produce a 'fit note' or 'isolation note' to prove you have Coronavirus or are self-isolating.
  • If you have contracted Coronavirus or are self-isolating, you will be treated as having a Limited Capability for Work (LCW).
  • Mandatory work searches and work availability requirements have been removed to account for a period of sickness during the Coronavirus outbreak.
  • You are entitled to work allowance if you are treated as having a Limited Capability for Work (LCW) on the date your Universal Credit application is assessed.

 

Making a claim - new procedures

 

Due to 'the unprecedented number of Universal Credit claims, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has changed its proceduresPlease be aware that after making an online claim for Universal Credit, you do not need to call the DWP, even if you have not been able to get your ID verified online.

 

The DWP will know that you have applied and will contact you if they need any more information to process any payment you are due. A note will be out into your online account and followed up with a phone call. This may appear as a private number so please check your online account and look out for a call from them.

 

What about those who are unable to claim online?

 

If you don't have access to the internet at home, claims can still be made over the phone by calling 0800 328 5644.

 

Using the Government Gateway

 

When you apply for Universal Credit, you will have the option to submit your Government Gateway credentials which the Department for Work and Pensions will use to progress your claim. This should be possible if you have used the Government Gateway in the last 12 months to access your personal tax accounts to check your tax credits, send a personal tax return, or check your state pension.

 

More information can be found at understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk.

 

Watch out for scams!

 

The DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details.

If you're not sure the call is from DWP, please ask the caller to post a specific form of words into your journal if you have already submitted your claim. If you haven't, end the call and call the DWP back to be sure you're speaking to them.

 

 

For people already claiming support

 

If you are currently receiving Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefits, then you may be better off staying on these. If this applies to you, please seek advice first from our Money Matters Team before applying for Universal Credit.

 

 

Employees and self-employed people

 

Job Retention Scheme 

 

On Thursday 5 November, the government announced that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended until the end of April 2021. The grant is set at 80% of wages for hours not worked and will be capped at £2,500 per month. Employers will be required to pay National Insurance and pension contributions, however this will only be for the hours not worked. These changes will be reviewed in January 2021. You can read the full details here.

 

If you’ve been furloughed, you may be eligible for Universal Credit. To find out about the welfare benefits and support you could be entitled to receive, visit https://www.betteroffcalculator.co.uk/free.

 

Self-employed income support scheme (SEISS)

 

In September 2020, the government announced that the SEISS is being extended until the end of April 2021 for those who are actively trading but who are experiencing reduced demand due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The extended scheme will work in a similar way as before but with a reduced payment.

 

The third payment will cover November 2020 to January 2021, with the fourth payment covering February 2021 to April 2021. 

 

The payment for the period November to January will be based on 80% of average monthly profits, and will be capped at £7,500. At present, the payment for the period February to April is expected to be worth 40% of average monthly profits, and will be capped at £3,750. This may however be reviewed. Grants can be claimed online from Monday 30 November.

 

More details of the extended scheme can be found here.

 

While you wait for the grant, you can make a claim for Universal Credit. You should record the grant as part of your self-employment income. This may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get, however, this will not affect Universal Credit claims for earlier periods.

 

Please be aware that self-employed people who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not classed as self-employed for these purposes. If you operate a PAYE scheme, you can 'furlough' yourself if you have no work and thereby benefit from the Job Retention Scheme.

 

Statutory Sick Pay

 

People who cannot work due to Coronavirus and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay will get it from day one, rather than the fourth day of their illness. Those who are classified as ‘self-isolating’ or ‘shielding’ are being treated as incapable of work.

 

As getting a fit note could be problematic, employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for. Where claimants need one, they can get an ‘isolation note’ from the NHS 111 Online service.

 

New style Employment Support Allowance (ESA)

 

The Department for Work and Pensions confirms that as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, new-style employment support allowance can now be claimed online. To apply, you will need:

 

  • your National Insurance number
  • your bank or building society account number and sort code (you can use a friend or family member's account if you do not have one)
  • your doctor's name, address and telephone number
  • details of your income if you're working
  • the date your statutory sick pay ends, if you're claiming it

 

Please be aware that if you're an appointee applying on behalf of someone else, you must apply by phone.

 

More information can be found in the 'New Style' Employment and Support Allowance guide on the GOV.UK website.

 

 

Test and Trace Support payment for low-income workers

 

From Friday 28 September 2020, you are required by law to self-isolate if you test positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. To support low paid workers who are unable to work from home during their period of self-isolation, the government has introduced a new Test and Trace Support payment.

 

Who’s eligible?

 

To be eligible for the funding, you must meet all of the following criteria:

 

  • Have tested positive for Covid-19 on or after 28 September 2020 or received a notification from NHS Test and Trace on or after 28 September asking you to self-isolate
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable to work from home (checks will be undertaken on all applicants)
  • Will lose income as a result of self-isolating
  • Be currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, Income-Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Income-Related Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit

 

Applying for the payment

 

If you’re eligible, you’ll need to apply online or by telephone with your Local Authority. You’ll also need to submit the following supporting evidence:

 

  • a notification from NHS Test and Trace asking you to self-isolate (this will include a unique ID number)
  • a bank statement
  • proof of employment, or if you’re self-employed, evidence of self-assessment returns, trading income and proof that your business delivers services which cannot be undertaken without social contact

 

How much will you get?

 

If you qualify, you’ll receive a payment of £500 per person. It is one payment per isolation period and if you are asked to isolate again, providing you still meet all the criteria you could receive another payment.

 

Payments will be provided within 48 hours of you providing the necessary evidence stated above. The payment will be totally disregarded as income for benefit purposes, however it will be taxable.

 

Can someone make multiple claims if asked to isolate multiple times?

 

A claim can be made for each period of self-isolation required. All eligibility criteria must be met and supporting evidence provided each time.

 

How long will the scheme last?

 

At present, the scheme is set to run until Sunday 31 January 2021.

 

More information on the test and trace support payment here.

 

Scheme/benefit changes

 

Jobseeker's Allowance

 

If you receive Jobseeker's Allowance, you will be treated as being capable of work when self-isolating, i.e. due to having Coronavirus or having symptoms, or being in the same household as someone with Coronavirus or symptoms. This will therefore not be counted as a period of sickness and you will not lose entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance as a result of Coronavirus.

 

Carer's Allowance

 

Carers will remain entitled to Carer's Allowance even if they have a temporary break in caring due to Coronavirus. This includes self-isolation, infection or contamination where either the carer or the person cared for are affected. 

 

Working Tax Credit

 

The basic element of Working Tax Credit is to increase by £20 a week for 12 months from 6 April 2020.

 

Appointments and assessments

 

You do not need to attend the jobcentre unless you are asked to do so. If you are asked to attend, a member of staff will be on site to assist you. Please ensure you wear a face covering at all times.

 

If you need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) the quickest way to do this is online or by phone. If the DWP need to get in touch with you, they will contact you by phone and will leave a message on your journal before they call.

 

Please remember:

 

  • People applying for Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance or other benefits should not go to a JobCentre but apply for them online.
  • Members of the public will not be admitted into JobCentres unless they are directed to do so with a booked appointment.
  • Only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) services by other channels will be invited to attend, with the public urged to use online services.

 

The Department for Work and Pensions have postponed all medical assessments for Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independent Payment (PIP) and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) and there is no announcement on when these will restart. 

 

Anyone who makes a new claim or is due an assessment will be contacted, if necessary, to discuss next steps. This could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments.

 

DWP will shortly be writing out to some PIP and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants asking them to complete paperwork to resume their reviews, reassessments and renewals. For PIP cases where paperwork has already been returned, claimants may be contacted by one of their Assessment Providers.

 

Please be aware that claimants were not being penalised for failing to attend a telephone medical assessment, however, this was only a temporary agreement. As of now, this is a requirement, and failure to attend a telephone assessment may affect the benefit in question.

 

 

Funding

 

A new Council Tax Hardship fund will also reduce Council Tax Bills by up to £150 per year for anyone in receipt of Council Tax support or rebate. 

 

Children who are eligible for free school meals, but who are not currently attending school will still receive help. This will generally be in the form of a voucher. Find out more by clicking here.

 

For further information on any of the above please visit the government website or click here.

 

If you have any questions, or require additional help or support, please contact our Money Matters team by emailing moneymatters@saxonweald.com.

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