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What to do if you are affected by coronavirus

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 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 / Reduction: All age groups and work types may also be eligible for help in paying council tax (rate relief in Northern Ireland). Some councils are also offering payment holidays and further discretionary help may be available. Check your council’s website for more information.

    If you live in Scotland and you received Council Tax Reduction in April 2021 (or you are exempt from Council Tax or have no liability to pay it) you are also elegible for a one-off £130 Low Income Pandemic Payment. Your local council will make the payment if you are eligible by at least the 31 October 2021. Check with them 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: Until 30 Septmeber 2021 the government put in place several measures to help employed people affected by coronavirus. See our Schemes for employed people help page for more details.

  • Self-employment Income Support Scheme: Until 30 Septmeber 2021 measures were also available 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 and your employer does not offer paid sick leave you will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer as long as you earn above £120 a week (from April 2021). The SSP payment will last for the full amount of time you are required to self-isolate. 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.

If you are a worker on a low income, you have been asked to self-isolate to avoid spreading coronavirus and you cannot work from home (and have lost income as a result) you may also be able to claim a one-off £500 support payment in England, Scotland or Wales. See our Self-isolating if you are on a low income help page for further details. Help is provided by Discretionary Support in Northern Ireland.

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.

  • Tax credits: In April 2020 the basic element of Working Tax Credit was temporarily increased by £20 a week to help boost people’s income if they need to claim income-based benefits. In March 2021 this became a one-off £500 payment that was intended to cover six months of extra support for existing claimants.

    You will have automatically received the £500 if you were in receipt of Working Tax Credit on 2 March 2021 (or you were eligible on this date but did not get a payment because your income was too high). The payment appeared in your bank account with the reference ‘HMRC C19 Support’. If you didn't receive the payment, but you believe you were eligible, contact HMRC on 0345 300 3900.

    The government also said "Customers will not need to pay Income Tax or National Insurance on the amount of this one-off payment and it does not need to be declared in a Self-Assessment return. Customers also do not need to declare the payment for tax credit claims or renewals. It will not affect any other benefits, such as Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, that they may receive."

    UPDATED Until 25 November 2021, if you claim Working Tax Credit and your work hours have reduced as a result of coronavirus, and 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. After this date you should update HMRC with your working hours if they have reduced.

    HRMC has said "Customers do not need to tell HMRC if they re-establish their normal working hours before 25 November 2021, but from then, they must do within the usual one-month window if they are not back to working their normal hours shown in their working tax credit claim."

    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: In April 2020 the standard allowance in Universal Credit was temporarily increased by £20 a week to help boost people’s income if they need to claim income-based benefits. In March 2021 this extra £20 a week was extended to 6 October 2021 when it was withdrawn.

    If you are in work and already claiming Universal Credit report any changes to the hours you have worked in your online journal. If you need to self-isolate relevant changes may be temporarily applied to your claimant commitment.

    If required, your work coach may 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 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, from 1 August 2021 the minimum income floor (MIF) is restarting after being paused over the pandemic. From this date the MIF rules vary depending on when you started your Universal Credit claim. See the help page above for futher details.

    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 (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance and the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

    Attendance Allowance claimants with renewals after 8 March 2021 started to receive renewal packs in December 2020. However, awards that were due to expire before 8 March 2021 were automatically extended, and claimants will continue to receive payments until their award is subject to a review at a later date.

    Industrial injuries disablement benefit assessments started to be provided face-to-face from 12 April in England and from 26 April in Scotland and Wales.

    From May 2021 assessments for PIP, work capability assessments for Universal Credit and ESA started to be face-to-face. This was initially for those who the DWP were unable to fully assess by other channels.

  • Carer's Allowance: If you are eligible for Carer's Allowance and you live in Scotland you will receive an extra benefit called the Carer's Allowance Supplement. The additional payment of £231.40 is paid twice a year.

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 2021) 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. You may also be eligible for extra support if you are self-isolating and on a low income.

  • Universal Credit (UC): In April 2020 the standard allowance in Universal Credit was temporarily increased by £20 a week to help boost people’s income if they need to claim income-based benefits. In March 2021 this extra £20 a week was extended to 6 October 2021 when it was withdrawn. These amounts were to help with basic living costs. If you needed help with housing or you have children and/or caring responsibilities you may be entitled to more.

    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 don't 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 24 months if you applied for the advance on or after 12 April 2021 (it was 12 months before this date). 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. If you ask for an advance because of a change of circumstances during your UC claim you can delay repaying for one month and you need to repay the amount over a six month period.

    It’s also worth adding, from 1 August 2021 the minimum income floor (MIF) restarted after being paused over the pandemic. From this date the MIF rules vary depending on when you started your Universal Credit claim. See the help page above for futher details.

  • 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.

    If you’re claiming ESA because of coronavirus, you’ll need to give evidence to support your claim. Once you’ve applied, you’ll be contacted and told when to give the evidence and where to send it. The gov.uk website has examples of the evidence you may be asked to supply.

    Since 26 April 2021 claimants have been invited to an appointment to agree their claimant commitments with a work coach before they receive New Style ESA. If you claimed before this date your claimant commitment (or action plan for legacy claimants) was introduced gradually from 28 June 2021, again after an appointment with your work coach.

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 help with meals. The help available varies in different parts of the UK, see our Free school meals guide for more info.

If you live in Scotland and have children aged 6 to 16 you are claiming free school meals for you are also eligible for the Scottish child bridging payment which will be in place until the end of 2022.

If you are finding it difficult to make ends meet due to Coronavirus a research team from the universities of York and Birmingham would like 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 information 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 struggling to pay your rent your local council may be able to award you a Discretionary Housing Payment.

Other protections depend on where you live, as below:

  • England: The ban on eviction proceedings was lifted in England on 1 June 2021. The notice period required for landlords to start proceedings also dropped to four months from the same date (it had been six months temporarily during the rest of the pandemic). There are exemptions for the most serious cases including anti-social behaviour and fraud.

    Notice periods for cases where there are less than 4 months of unpaid rent reduced to 2 months’ notice from 1 August 2021. The Understanding the possession action process guidance on gov.uk provides more information on the notice periods and what to expect but please seek advice if you are worried about being evicted.

  • Wales: Evictions will not be enforced by bailiffs until at least 31 December 2021. This is except in the most serious circumstances such as anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse or illegal occupation.

    In most cases the notice period a landlord needs to give before they start eviction proceedings has also changed to six months. The Understanding the possession action process guidance on gov.uk provides more information on the notice periods and what to expect but please seek advice if you are worried about being evicted.

    A Tenancy Hardship Grant was also launched on 15 July 2021 to help private tenants who are in rent arrears due to the pandemic. Contact your local council to apply.

  • Scotland: The Scottish government has extended its ban on evictions until 31 March 2022, unless serious anti-social behaviour is involved, including domestic abuse. Before a landlord can start legal proceedings to evict you they must give you notice. In most cases, the temporary law means landlords must give you at least 6 months' notice to end a tenancy.

    A Tenant Hardship Loan Fund also launched in December 2020 to offer interest-free loans to social and private tenants who are struggling with rent arrears and who aren’t able to get housing support elsewhere. This means you could be eligible if you aren’t claiming benefits. Loans can cover up to 9 month rent, either arrears arisen since 1 January 2020, 3 months of future rent, or a mixture of the two. Repayments will start after six months and will be repaid over a five-year period.  Apply via the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund page on gov.scot.

    Your local council may also have extra funds until March 2022 to help if you are at rick of being evicted due to the pandemic. There is no application process for this, and your council can look at your individual circumstances, so get in touch with it to check.  

  • Northern Ireland: 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. The protections for private tenants will be in place until 4 May 2022 (this has been extended three times, most recently from 30 September 2021).

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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