News articles - 2020

Coronavirus - support for benefit claimants

Date: 20 March 2020

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 almost daily, so the information contained on this page is as accurate as possible at the time of writing. 

 

This page was last updated on Thursday 16 July 2020.

 

 

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 procedures.

Please 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 

 

The job retention scheme provides a grant to employers to enable them to pay the wages of their workforce who are temporarily not working during the Coronavirus outbreak. This temporary period of not working is called ‘furlough’. The grant covers 80% of an employee's wages, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

 

The scheme was set to last until the end of June 2020. This has now been extended to October 2020, but with some changes. Read the full details here.

 

If your employer is planning to apply for the scheme, they’ll first need to:

 

  • Designate employees as ‘furloughed workers’ and notify those individuals of this change.
  • Ensure those members of staff were on the PAYE payroll on 19th March 2020 to be covered.
  • Submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal.

 

HMRC will then reimburse employers with 80% of each furloughed worker’s wage costs, up to the maximum £2,500 a month.

 

Furloughed workers should get a benefit check to see if they could 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)

 

The government announced that the SEISS has been extended until August 2020, but it is not expected to extend beyond this point.

 

There are two grant payments that a self-employed worker may be entitled to.

 

The first grant is a taxable lump sum payment worth 80% of an individual’s average monthly profits over the last three years. The first grant covers the months of March, April and May 2020, up to a maximum of £7,500 (£2,500 per month) and will already have been paid.

 

The second grant, a taxable lump sum payment worth 70% of anindividual’s average monthly profits over the past three years. The grant covers the months of June, July and August 2020, up to a maximum of £6,570 (2,190 per month).

 

The scheme’s online service will begin accepting applications from 17 August 2020. If you’re eligible, HMRC will let you know the date you can make your claim from. If your claim is approved, you’ll receive your payment within six working days.

 

To qualify for the scheme:

 

  • You must be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership.
  • You must have submitted your self-assessment tax return for the tax year 2018 to 2019 by 23 April 2020.
  • You must have traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020.
  • You must be trading when you apply or would be if it weren’t for coronavirus.
  • You must intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021.
  • You must have lost trading profits due to coronavirus.
  • You will need to confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. HMRC will as usual use a risk-based approach to compliance.
  • Your trading profits must also be no more than £50,000 and more than half of your total income for either:
    • the tax year 2018 to 2019.
    • the average of the tax years 2016 to 2017, 2017 to 2018, and 2018 to 2019.

 

For more information click here.

 

You can make a claim for Universal Credit while you wait for the grant. You should record the grant as part of your self-employment income. This may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get but 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. This will be in place until 12 November 2020.

 

Those who are classified as ‘self-isolating’ or ‘shielding’ are being treated as incapable of work and this will also be in place until 12 November 2020.

 

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.

 

 

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 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

 

The three-month suspension of the requirement to attend appointments at the JobCentre in person ended on 18 June 2020. There has been no announcement as to when JobCentres will reopen. Whilst JobCentres are closed:   

 

  • 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 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. 

 

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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