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.

My PIP was due to end but the DWP told me there would be no change during the first lockdown.  I am worried my payments will stop soon.

Disability benefit reviews and reassessments were suspended as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.  However, they have now recommenced.  If your award was due to end or is coming to an end you should have been sent a form.  If you have not heard, you should contact PIP to query this and avoid payments ceasing. You will be sent a review or renewal form which you should complete and return within the deadline. If you cannot return it within the time you will need to contact PIP and request an extension. If you do not request an extension, or return it late, then your payment will stop.  

Face-to-face medical assessments continue to be suspended, however phone assessments are being done. These are just as important as face-to-face assessments. If you miss a phone assessment it could lead to your payment stopping.  If you're not comfortable speaking on the phone you can let the DWP know - they may agree to assess you by looking at your application and medical evidence. If you have evidence about your health condition which wasn’t in your application, offer to send this additional evidence to the decision maker to help with your assessment.

My ESA has stopped and I am told this is because I didn’t ‘attend my work capability assessment’. What can I do?

As with PIP, these assessments have started again and are being done over the phone.  If an assessment is arranged and you cannot make the date appointment you can re-schedule once. However if you do not do this then you will be noted down as ‘did not attend’ and this will mean your payment is suspended.  Unless exceptional circumstances can be evidenced and it is accepted that you had good cause it could lead to your claim being closed.  If you are not comfortable or find it hard speaking over the phone you can ask the decision to be made without an assessment (please see the previous question).

I am on Universal Credit and prior to Covid-19 had to attend interviews at the job centre with my work coach. Do I have to attend again?

When the pandemic started the DWP had decided there was no requirement to attend the job centre appointments. In addition to this there were no job search or training requirements. Whilst the job centres remained closed except to vulnerable clients, other activity has resumed. Work coaches are conducting phone interviews. 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 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 the 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 from future payments.  Universal Credit is means tested therefore income from other sources (including some benefits) and savings affect entitlement, however rules are complex.  If you are in receipt of benefits, please seek advice before claiming.

I am self-employed and my earnings have been affected by the pandemic – what help can I get?

In the Budget it was confirmed that support for those who are self-employed has been extended via a forth grant. To be eligible you must be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership. The grant will be set at 80% of three months average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500.

Your eligibility for the scheme will be based on your submitted 2019-2020 tax return. Your trading profits should be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to your non-trading income. If you’re not eligible based on your 2019-2020 Self Assessment tax return, ask HMRC to consider any one tax year between 2016-2019.

Currently you must be trading but there is reduced demand  or you have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus. Furthermore your intention is to continue to trade and you reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits due to coronavirus.  If you are eligible, HMRC should contact you in mid-April to give you your personal claim date. This will be the date that you can make your claim from. Keep an eye out for updates on www.gov.uk.

Further help

https://www.turn2us.org.uk/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-employment-income-support-scheme-grant-extension/self-employment-income-support-scheme-grant-extension

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/employment-and-benefits-support/

Aspire's 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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