I am newly injured and don’t know when or if I will be able to return to work

You could be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you are employed and have been earning at least £120 per week.  You won’t get it for the first three days you’re off sick and the maximum it can be paid for is 28 weeks. However, if you have had a previous period of sickness within eight weeks of your injury and were paid SSP you will not have to serve the three waiting days. That period of sickness will count towards the 28 weeks maximum that SSP can be paid for.

Your employer might pay you more than the statutory amount via contractual or company sick pay. You might get this from your first day off sick. It is important that you follow your employer’s rules about reporting sickness as if you don’t your employer can refuse to pay you SSP. As soon as you can, talk to your employer about your situation, or ask a friend or family member to do that for you – most employers will be very understanding and will make sure everything is done correctly.

Agency workers or casual workers could be entitled to SSP if you are working when injured. If you are self-employed you will not be entitled to SSP. 

Other benefits may be available if you are paid on SSP or not entitled to claim. 

Citizens Advice informationa bout sick pay

My employer has told me that I am not entitled to SSP or sick pay

Depending on your National Insurance Contributions record over the last two or three years you may be entitled to New Style Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  You cannot claim ESA whilst SSP is in payment, but it can be paid in addition to contractual or occupational sick pay.  It is not a means tested benefit so is not affected by savings and most other income that you or your partner have.

You will need a ‘fit note’ from your doctor or the hospital to confirm the period you will not be able to work for. If there has been a delay in you being able to claim – as is perfectly normal when you are first injured - you can request backdating of up to three months.  As part of the claim you will need to go through a work capability assessment. This involves having to complete a questionnaire and, in most cases, an assessment. The outcome will determine if you can continue receiving the benefit and at which rate.

ESA information on the government's website

My income has reduced since I was injured and I am struggling to pay bills. 

Universal Credit (UC) could help. It is a means-tested benefit for those on low incomes and depending on their circumstances. The amount you will be paid depends on factors such as if you are single or in a couple, have children, disability, rental liability, your income and savings.  However, if you are in receipt of the certain other benefits (known as legacy benefits) you cannot be paid both.

The legacy benefits are housing benefit, tax credits, income support, income related employment support allowance and income related jobseeker’s allowance. If you are in receipt of one of these then you should request a benefits check as you could be financially worse off by claiming UC. Contact the Aspire Welfare Benefits Team if you need a benefits check.

Citizens Advice information about Universal Credit

Universal Credit information on the government's website

I have been told that I am entitled to disability benefits. What are they and how do I claim?

There are three main disability benefits – Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance Allowance (AA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA). They are based on long term difficulties due to an illness or disability and are not affected by earnings, most other benefits, income or savings. These benefits cannot be claimed or paid at the same time.

Prior to PIP being introduced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was the main disability benefit. It is not possible to make a claim for DLA now unless you are under 16. Most people who were on DLA have had to claim PIP instead.  However, some adults are still on DLA, so if you are and your needs have changed due to a spinal cord injury you should seek advice before claiming PIP.

PIP can be claimed by those who are under state pension age. If you are awarded it then you can continue being paid even after pension age.  You must have had care and/or mobility issues for a least three months before a claim is made. Therefore, unless you had these needs before your injury you will need to be three months post injury-before making a claim.

If you are over state pension age and not already in receipt of PIP, you will need to consider making a claim for Attendance Allowance. There is a qualifying period of six months which means you must have the needs for at least that time. 

Whilst claims can be made if you are an inpatient, you will not receive a payment whilst in hospital or in some cases a care/nursing home. If you are on any of these benefits already it is important to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of the start date of your admission as this will avoid any overpayment issues in the future.

PIP information on the government's website

Attendance allowance information on the government's website

It can sometimes be overwhelming when it comes to knowing which welfare benefits you’re entitled to, and how best to go about claiming them. Our free, dedicated Welfare Benefits Advice Service is here to help, wherever you are in the UK. Our service is tailored to provide the appropriate advice and support for people with Spinal Cord Injury, to ensure you’re getting all of the help you’re entitled to.  You can contact us via email on [email protected] or call us on 0208 420 6711. 

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