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What to do if you are affected by Coronavirus

Read our guide to find out what benefits may be available to you

What help is available from benefits if you are affected by coronavirus

If your income has changed or you need to self-isolate due to coronavirus – whether you have the illness yourself or you need to care for someone else as a result – the benefits that may be available to you depend on your situation.

The current guidance that we are aware of is covered below, but this help page, and ones linked from it, will be updated when new details become available.

Please also take these suggestions on board:

In most cases, where you plan to start a new claim for benefits we recommend you start it as soon as you are eligible. Check our new claim for benefits section below.

If you already claim benefits and the impact of coronavirus means your circumstances have changed, our guidance varies depending on what benefits you are already claiming. This particularly applies to anyone claiming Working Tax Credit but in all cases check our existing benefits claimant section below.

Use these links to jump to the relevant section of the guide for your situation

Your income has changed

Depending on the circumstances of your household there are a few potential sources of help if your income has changed due to coronavirus.

Changes in income may be due to self-employed earnings being reduced or your employer asking you to reduce your hours or take unpaid leave. Either of these could be due to changing business needs or taking time off to care for children at home.

  • Means-tested benefits: You may be entitled to income-based benefits such as Universal Credit (if you are under pension age) or Pension Credit (if you are over pension age). Also see the new claim for benefits section below.

  • Council Tax Support: All age groups and work types may also be eligible for help in paying council tax (rate relief in Northern Ireland).

    Plus, anyone in England who is working age and eligible for this help will be given an extra one-off reduction to their council tax bill of up to £150 this year. Some councils are also offering payment holidays and further discretionary help may be available. Check your council’s website for more information.

  • Contributory benefits: These are available to help people who have paid enough national insurance contributions over a certain period of time. They are not means tested so there are no income and savings rules that need to be met. The main route if your income is affected will be Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA), which is for people looking for work. We cover other contributory benefits for people who are ill below.

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: The government has put in place a new set of measures to help employed people affected by coronavirus. See our Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme help page for more details.

  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme: New measures have also been announced to help self-employed people affected by coronavirus. See our Self-employment Income Support Scheme help page for more details.

To find out what help you may be eligible for, enter the details of your circumstances into the benefits calculator and we will work out your entitlements. If you are not reading this help page when doing a benefits check click the 'Start calculation' button at the top of the page to use the calculator.

Working as an employee and self-isolating

If you need to self-isolate or shield and your employer does not offer paid sick leave you will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay from your employer as long as you earn above £120 a week (from April 2020). Read Statutory Sick Pay for more information.

See the 'If you are not claiming benefits or working as an employee' section below if you earn below this amount.

Already claiming benefits when you become affected

If you've had a change of circumstances due to coronavirus guidance varies depending of what benefits you are already claiming.

For all benefits, if you have online or phone access you should use these to contact the DWP where possible but, from the start of July, you can make an appointment at a jobcentre if you can’t get the help you need online or over the phone.

NEW If you need to make any repayments for benefit overpayments, social fund loans, tax credit debts or other loan repayments from your benefits these were placed on hold between March and 6 July 2020, but they have now restarted. You will be notified by letter or you Universal Credit journal before any money is taken and if you are experiencing financial hardship you can request a deferral by contacting the Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.

  • Tax credits: Renewals for tax credit claimants (which usually needs to be done each year by 31 July) will be different this year. Packs were sent in May and HMRC said most claims will be auto-renewed. If you received a 'reply required renewal pack' you should follow the instructions on the pack, otherwise you only need to contact HMRC to renew if your details differ from what is written in your pack.

    NEW Please check your renewal details carefully as HMRC has announced it sent out around a million renewals that did not include some or all of the income information used to calculate the award. This was mainly income from self-employment, taxable social security benefits or other income (for instance shares and dividends).

    If you receive Working Tax Credit and your work hours have reduced as a result of coronavirus (including your role being furloughed) and your new hours are below those needed to still be eligible for WTC (16, 24 or 30 depending on your circumstances), you do not need to report your change to HMRC.

    The government has announced that those working reduced hours due to coronavirus will not have their tax credits payments affected if they are still employed or self-employed. If this applies to you, you do not need to contact HMRC as you will be treated as working your normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme close, even if you are not using either scheme.

    If you have stopped working, your self-employed business has ceased trading, your hours or earnings have increased, or your childcare has stopped, reduced or increased, you should report these changes in the normal way.

    If you decide to make a new claim for Universal Credit instead of waiting on WTC, once you make a claim you will not be able to move back, and it may not be in your long term interest to be in receipt of Universal Credit. This is one of the more complicated scenarios for coronavirus benefits advice so we suggest contacting a benefits advice service to discuss your options, see the links at the bottom of this help page.

  • Universal Credit: If you are in work and already claiming Universal Credit report any changes to the hours you have worked in your online journal.

    NEW If you need to self-isolate relevant changes may be temporarily applied to your claimant commitment but, from the start of July, the government has said the usual claimant commitment process is gradually being reinstated for most people.

    Your work coach will contact you to set up a new claimant commitment that will reflect the ‘new normal’ acknowledging the reality of your local job market and personal circumstances (such as if you are shielding or have childcare responsibilities because of covid restrictions), to prepare you for getting back into work or increasing your hours.

    Once you have a new claimant commitment in place you could be sanctioned if you don't follow it, although the government has said a sanction will only be used where a claimant has not provided good reason for meeting the agreed requirements in their claimant commitment.

    It’s also worth adding, if you are self-employed you will not be assessed using the minimum income floor as it has been suspended in Universal Credit for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

    If in any doubt contact your work coach via your online journal.

  • Jobseeker's Allowance: If you need to self-isolate you should contact your work coach to let them know and this will not count towards a period of sickness that could lead to you losing entitlement to your benefit.

  • Sickness benefits: You will continue to receive your payments until your next reassessment takes place. This includes Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

    NEW From July some PIP and DLA claimants will start receiving requests to complete paperwork to resume their reviews, reassessments and renewals.

  • Carer's Allowance: You will continue to receive this benefit if you need to take a temporary break in caring. This may be due to either you or the person you care for needing to self-isolate. You are also able to include hours spent providing emotional support towards your threshold of 35 hours of care a week. If the person you care for dies, you can continue to receive Carer's Allowance for a further eight weeks.

    If you are eligible for Carer's Allowance and you live in Scotland you will also receive an extra benefit called the Carer's Allowance Supplement. The additional payment of £230.10 covers the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020.

  • Housing Benefit: You will continue to receive your existing Housing Benefit award if you are temporarily outside of the UK and you intend to return but are unable to get home due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

Neither claiming benefits nor working as an employee

This includes people who are self-employed or who earn below the lower earnings limit (£120 a week from April 2020) to be eligible for statutory sick pay.

If you need to self-isolate you can claim Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

During your application you may be asked to verify your identity. This video from the DWP explains how the verify system works, collect any relevant documents together before you apply to speed up your claim.

  • Universal Credit (UC): The Chancellor announced an increase of some benefit rates to help boost people’s income if they need to claim income-based benefits. The standard allowance in Universal Credit was increased by £1,000 a year for a period of 12 months from 6 April 2020. These amounts are to help with basic living costs. If you need help with housing or you have children and/or caring responsibilities you may be entitled to more. The new rates have been added to our calculator for the 2020/21 year.

    If you are about to receive a final salary payment from your employer you may be best to wait until after you have received it before starting your UC claim. This is because your final payment will be counted as income during your first assessment period and this may mean you receive no UC (or a reduced amount) for your first month. If this does happen your second month’s payment will be back to normal.

    If your final salary payment isn’t going to affect your UC payment by much or you can’t afford to wait you can start your claim straight away.

    If you do not have enough money to live on while you wait for your first UC payment you can ask for an advance payment. This is a loan that needs to be paid back from your future UC payments over 12 months. These repayments can be delayed for up to three months if you can't afford them, speak to your job coach if this applies to you.

    It’s also worth adding, if you are self-employed you will not be assessed using the minimum income floor as it has been suspended in Universal Credit for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

  • New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): You should apply for ESA online as soon as you are affected by coronavirus. If you make a new claim for ESA you will get help from day one of your claim, as the usual eight waiting days have been removed.

    You will also not need to supply medical evidence, such as a Fit Note, or have to take a work capability assessment. Instead you can apply for an isolation note to say you have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus via the NHS 111 coronavirus service.

These new rules apply from 13 March and currently last for eight months but this will be reviewed if needed.

Eligible for a means-tested benefit and have children

As well as the benefits above if you have children of school age you could be eligible for Free school meals if your children can no longer attend school due to coronavirus measures.

From 31 March schools in England have been able to offer a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 per eligible child to spend at a range or food stores. The vouchers will be sent by your child's school - they may sent by email, to be redeemed online via a code, or sent to your house as a gift card. These vouchers will also carry on during the six week summer holiday period.

In Northern Ireland, for each child you will receive a fortnightly payment of £27 until 30 June or until your child’s school reopened if sooner. Payments will begin in the week commencing 30 March and will be paid directly into your last known bank account (you can update your account details via the eani website if you have changed accounts in the last 12 months).

In Scotland or Wales, contact your school or local authority for more details on the help available in your area. Meals may be issued as food (for collection or delivery), or schools may choose to issue vouchers or cash payments. The free meals will also carry on during the six week summer holiday period.

NEW If you are finding it difficult to make ends meet due to Coronavirus a research team from the universities of York and Birmingham would love to hear from you. They are working with the Child Poverty Action Group to collect real life stories from families and carers with children under the age of 19 so they can both understand the challenges you face AND try and encourage policymakers to make better informed decisions on ways things could be improved for you and your family.

See the https://covidrealities.org/ site for more info on how to send in your short messages about your day to day life at the moment. They won’t use your real name in any way but your stories will help them collect real evidence of the impact of COVID-19 on families around the UK.

Renting your home

If you are claiming (or start to claim) Universal Credit or Housing Benefit to help pay for your housing costs the Chancellor announced in March that the Local Housing Allowance amounts across the UK will be increased for the 2020/21 financial year. This is the maximum amount of benefit you are able to receive to help with your rent if you live in private rented accommodation. The new rates have been added to our calculator for the 2020/21 year.

If you are struggling to pay your rent your local council may be able to award you a Discretionary Housing Payment.

The government has also said that social and private renters in England and Wales will be protected from eviction until 23 August (this has been extended from the end of June) if they have been affected by coronavirus.

The Scottish government has introduced similar legislation for tenants in the private and social rented sector to ensure there are no evictions as a result of coronavirus until a minimum of 30 September 2020. In most cases the protection here lasts for six months, except in certain cases such as antisocial behaviour, criminal behaviour or where the landlord requires the property to live in, where it will be three months.

The Communities Minister has said no social housing tenant in Northern Ireland will be evicted for non-payment of rent during the coronavirus outbreak. While private tenants must be given a 12 week notice to quit period by landlords before they are able to seek a court order to begin proceedings to evict.

More information

Visit this government page about coronavirus and benefits for more information.

One of the advice agencies listed in our further advice help page may also be able to help you.

For more information on mortgages, employment, energy and travel rights if you are affected by coronavirus MoneySavingExert.com has a range of useful guides - Finance & Bills Help, Life-in-Lockdown Help, Travel Rights

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