Worried about benefits and money?  Some of your questions may be answered below, although please bear in mind that the situation will be changing constantly.

I have heard that all face to face medical assessments for benefit claims are suspended.  How will my benefits be affected?

Disability Benefits reviews have been suspended for three months and access to job centres restricted.

Sickness and disability benefit reviews and reassessments have been suspended for the next three months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.  From today there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all sickness and disability benefits - including Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit - for at least the next three months. If your awards are due to expire, they will be extended at the rate of benefit you are currently on.

Please be aware that public access to job centres is being restricted. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has moved 10,000 employees to focus on processing increased numbers of new claims during this time.  Claimants are urged to use online services as much as possible to keep phone lines free. Only the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access DWP services by other channels will be advised to visit the job centres only if absolutely necessary.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-update-benefit-reviews-and-reassessments-suspended

I am on Universal Credit and have to attend interviews at the job centre with my work coach. If I don’t attend will I be sanctioned? 

The DWP has decided there is no requirement to attend the job centre appointments for three months. However the work coach may contact you via your journal, by email, text or telephone. It is important that you respond to any requests. As long as you do this you should continue to receive your benefits as normal.

I am on DLA  and have received a DLA to PIP transfer form/ I have a renewal form to complete for my PIP.  What should I do?

Do not worry about filling in the form or returning it. Your payments will continue. The DWP has confirmed they will contact you at a future date. However, if you feel you needs have changed or there has been a deterioration in you condition please contact our Welfare Benefits Advice team for further advice.

I cannot work and have been told I cannot get sick pay

If you’re an employee and earnt at least £118 a week (£120 from April 2020), you will be able to get statutory sick pay (SSP). Normally you must be off for at least four days in a row, but if your sickness is related to coronavirus you should be paid from the first day you are off sick. Your employer may pay additional contractual sick pay,  so check your contract.  If you are having issues with your employer you should contact HM Revenue and Customs statutory payment dispute team.  Telephone: 03000 560 630

If you cannot SSP or sick pay you may be able to claim other benefits such as new style  Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit.

I have lost my job due to the current crisis, am not entitled to redundancy/notice pay and I'm worried how I will pay my rent. What can I do?

If you are not in receipt of any other benefits you may be entitled to new style Jobseekers Allowance and/or Universal Credit. You can ask for help with rent via Universal Credit. Normally you are paid a month in arrears. An advance payment can be requested if you are in hardship but  this will gradually have to be paid back form future payments.  Universal Credit is means tested therefore income from other sources and savings affects entitlement. These rules still apply.  If you are in receipt of any other benefits you will need please seek advice before claiming.  

I have a mortgage to pay and worried I can’t pay – what help can I receive?

You should contact your mortgage lender to discuss the difficulties. Your lender should offer support, including payment holidays of up to three months, if you’re experiencing issues with your finances because of coronavirus.

I am self-employed, what help am I entitled to?

If you have been self-employed you will be eligible for a grant from the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, worth 80% of your average monthly trading profit over the last three years (up to £2500).  You can still work and be entitled to the grant. To qualify the following criteria apply: 

  • Your trading profit was less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19
  • More than half your income for the relevant periods was earned from self-employment

HMRC will contact those who are eligible contact them directly with guidance on how to apply. Grants will be backdated to March but payments won’t start until June. The grant will be taxable and will need to be declared on tax returns. It will not be available to those who have been self-employed for less than a year. They will need to access other means of support such as new style Job Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit.

If you are self-employed have COVID-19 or are self-isolating, not entitled to SSP or eligible for the Support Scheme, you may be entitled to claim Universal Credit (UC) or new style Employment and Support Allowance. Some of the rules for claiming have been relaxed to make claiming easier during this outbreak.  Normally when claiming benefit due to sickness a ‘fit note’ has to be provided from a GP, confirming you are not well enough to work. This then has to be submitted to the job centre as well as attending an interview.  From Friday 20th March onwards, those who have COVID-19 or who are self-isolating should obtain an 'isolation note' by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form.  Please do not attend a jobcentre.

Other help may also be available for example help with paying council tax or health costs.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-gives-support-to-millions-of-self-employed-individuals

Further help

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

Our Welfare Benefits Advice and Money Matters services can support you with advice and help to claim - call 020 8420 6711 or email [email protected]

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