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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 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.

  • 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 rebate 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.

  • 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.

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 £123 a week (from April 2022). 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 support payment in Scotland (£500) or Wales (£750). The payment is no longer available if you live in England and help is provided by Discretionary Support in Northern Ireland.

See our Self-isolating if you are on a low income help page for further details.

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.

  • Tax credits: 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. 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, and your Universal Credit payment (or part  of it) will stop, if you don't follow it.

    It’s also worth adding, from 1 August 2021 the minimum income floor (MIF) restarted for self-employed people 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 further 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 shouldn't 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.

  • 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 is paid twice a year.

    If you live in Wales you will receive a £500 one-off payment if you were in receipt of Carer's Allowance on 31 March 2022. Further details on how and when to register for the payment will be available shortly.

Neither claiming benefits nor working as an employee

This includes people who are self-employed or who earn below the lower earnings limit (£123 a week from April 2022) 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): The amount you may be eligible for depends on your circumstances - use the calculator to find this out.

    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 for self-employed people 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’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.

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.

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 and the extra months needed for landlords to start proceedings ended on 1 October 2021. The Understanding the possession action process guidance on gov.uk provides more information on previous protections and what to expect but please seek advice if you are worried about being evicted.

    A support package to help low-income earners who are in rent arrears was launched in October 2021 to cover the winter months and a Homelessness Prevention Grant was launched in December 2021, which will run until until 2023. Both are provided by local authorities so, if you are at risk of eviction or homelessness, get in touch with your council to ask what help is available.

  • Wales: The ban on eviction proceedings was lifted in Wales on 1 July 2021 and the extra months needed for landlords to start proceedings ended on 24 March 2022. The Understanding the possession action process guidance on gov.uk provides more information on previous protections and what to expect but please seek advice if you are worried about being evicted. A Tenancy Hardship Grant was launched in July 2021 to help private tenants who are in rent arrears due to the pandemic. Contact your local council to apply.
  • Scotland: The ban on eviction proceedings and the extra months needed for landlords to start proceeding was lifted in Scotland on 31 March 2022. Your local council may have funds to help if you are at risk 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 will be in place until 4 May 2022.

More information

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

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