Coronavirus and your income
If your income is affected
If you are unwell or self-isolating, you are not eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay unless you are employed. Instead, you may be able to claim Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.
If you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, you may also be entitled to help from the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme.
Making a claim for Universal Credit may mean that you lose other benefits you currently get, such as tax credits.
Once you make a Universal Credit claim, your tax credit claim will stop and you cannot go back to tax credits. Before you apply for Universal Credit, try to get advice from a benefits adviser to check if you will be better off claiming Universal Credit. You can look for a local benefits adviser on the Turn2us website.
- Universal Credit is based on your household situation, so your or your partner’s income and savings may affect how much you get.
- If you are making a new claim for Universal Credit, you do not need to call anyone. Claims can be made online. If any information needs checking, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will call you back.
- There is a five week wait to receive your first Universal Credit payment. You can get a month’s advance payment, which you then pay back.
- The Government has temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. Call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.
- Eligibility for New Style Employment and Support Allowance will depend on whether you have paid enough National Insurance contributions during the last two to three years.
- Income and savings that you or your partner have will not affect your claim.
- New Style Employment and Support Allowance can now be claimed from day one of illness, rather than the usual day eight.
- You can now claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance online.
If you are employed, you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay more quickly than usual.
Test and Trace Support Payment scheme
If you are on a low income and are asked to self-isolate you may receive a payment of £500. Payment can be backdated from:
- 28 September 2020 if you live in England; and
- 23 October 2020 if you live in Wales.
You will be eligible for the payment if you live in England and Wales and meet the following criteria:
- you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and have a unique ID number;
- you are employed and your employer can confirm you are unable to work from home, or you are self-employed and you can show that you are unable to run your business without social contact;
- you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.
In Wales, from 14 December 2020, you can also claim the payment if you need to take time off work to look after a child who has been formally told to self-isolate. More information can be found on the GOV.Wales website.
To make a claim, contact your local authority. The payment won’t affect any other benefits and you can make further claims if you meet the criteria.
If you don’t receive one of the qualifying benefits, your local authority may still be able to make a payment to you if you are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship from not being able to work.
Already claiming benefits?
If you are claiming Universal Credit or Job Seeker's Allowance, you may need to meet certain requirements to continue to receive the benefit. This could be job searching, periods of time at work or attending regular meetings or assessments. Due to coronavirus, these requirements were temporarily suspended, but they have now restarted. Call the Jobcentre Plus if you're worried about going to an appointment in person due to coronavirus.
If coronavirus means you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal Credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.
The Government has confirmed that if you are claiming sickness and disability benefits you will no longer need to attend face-to-face assessments until further notice. This will apply if you receive Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Industrial Injuries Disability Benefit and possibly Universal Credit.
You will keep getting ESA until you have a medical assessment. The DWP may try to assess you by looking at medical records and speaking to you on the phone.
You can find more details on GOV.UK.
The Government has also temporarily changed the way they work out Universal Credit for self-employed people on low incomes. You can contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644 for more information.
If you are already getting Universal Credit
Make sure you explain in your online journal why you haven’t been able to attend as expected.
If coronavirus means that you are unable to carry out a task, you should phone the office paying the benefit to explain why. If you are claiming Universal credit, inform your work coach and explain what has happened in your online journal.
More information can be found on the GOV.UK website.
From 6 April 2020, the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit will be increased by £20 per week. This will apply to new and existing claimants. The exact amount you will receive will depend on your situation.
If you rent privately, the maximum amount of help that you can get towards your rent through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit depends on several factors, such as the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate for the area you live in and the type of accommodation that you need. LHA rates have been increased across the UK. To find the rate that applies to your area, go to the Directgov website.
To find out more about how these changes may help you, visit Turn2us. They have a benefit calculator to help you find out if and how much you may be able to claim.
Post Office Card Accounts - cash delivery of some benefit payments
You may be able to have your Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefit payments delivered in cash to your home by Royal Mail Special Delivery if:
- you have a Post Office Card Account;
- live in England; and
- cannot leave your home because of shielding reasons.
The National Shielding Service and DWP will decide whether this is suitable. If you haven’t already been contacted but feel that this service would help you, contact the DWP and ask whether you can be included in this scheme.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) temporarily stopped taking action to recover:
- DWP benefit overpayments;
- tax credit debts being managed by the DWP; and
- social fund loans.
These overpayments started to be collected again from July 2020.
If you previously repaid by direct debit, you will receive a letter from the DWP before repayments start again. If you stopped the repayment with your bank, you may need to set up the repayments again from July 2020. Speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647 if you are unsure.
If you previously repaid through your wages, the DWP will write to you to see if an alternative repayment plan can be set up. If you previously repaid through your benefits, you will be notified of repayments starting again by a letter or Universal Credit journal entries.
The DWP will also restart other methods of recovery such as using debt collectors.
If you are experiencing financial hardship and think you will struggle to afford the repayments you were previously making, speak to the DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.
Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme
The DWP also paused deductions from benefits for loans taken out using the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme. These loans are usually through credit unions or other not-for-profit organisations.
Repayments to the Eligible Loan Reduction Scheme also started again in July 2020. You should be notified by letter and don’t need to do anything.