Welfare Benefits

Find a summary of the temporary changes to Welfare Benefits and support for self-employed people in light of the Coronavirus outbreak here.

For information about help that may be available if you are subject to a “No Recourse to Public Funds” Immigration control click here.

The information below has also been prepared in light of the current Coronavirus outbreak.

You are ill with coronavirus or self-isolating 

If you become ill with coronavirus or are self-isolating in line with Government advice, Statutory Sick Pay will be payable from day one of your illness (rather than from day four). The Government intends to legislate to make this apply retroactively from 13 March 2020. If your employer requires a sick note you can get this from the NHS 111 online service. You can also get Statutory Sick Pay if you are caring for someone in your household with Coronavirus symptoms and who is having to self-isolate.

If you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay you can still apply for Universal Credit and/or New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you are eligible for ESA this will be paid from day one of your illness, you don’t need to produce a “fit note”.

Practical tip: There has been a surge in benefits claims so you may experience long delays if you are trying to claim by phone. Don’t give up, keep trying or make your claim online if you can: https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit (you can apply for ESA through your online Universal Credit journal), you may also want to avoid submitting your application during peak times.

For more information see:

https://www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/

Your income has dropped due to Coronavirus measures, what help is there available?

Firstly, it is worth checking if you are eligible for Universal Credit, if you are self-employed see below for specific information regarding the removal of the minimum income floor.

New claimants for Universal Credit normally need to attend an interview, during the Coronavirus outbreak these interviews will take place by telephone on appointment.

New claimants also normally have to wait for 5 weeks before they start receiving payments of Universal Credit. You can ask for an advance payment.

Practical tip:

There has been a surge in benefits claims so you may experience long delays if you are trying to claim by phone. Don’t give up, keep trying or make your claim online if you can: https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

If you are struggling to pay for your energy bills, contact your supplier to ask them if they can help you with a payment plan or by giving you credit.

If you are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage, see our Housing page for more information and advice.

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, don’t forget to inform your Local Council of any change in your income.

For more information: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit

You are already claiming benefits: Changes during Coronavirus measures

All face-to-face benefits assessments at Jobcentre Plus have been suspended until at least 19 June 2020. This means that you don’t need to attend appointments, which should be rescheduled to take place over the phone. No new reassessments should be announced but if you are in the process of being reassessed, you should continue to receive payments while your assessment is rearranged to take place by phone.

Practical tips:

If you have coronavirus or you are self-isolating, tell the DWP and ask for your claimant commitment and any mandatory requirements to be reviewed to take account of this. If you are claiming Universal Credit you don’t have to comply with work search or work-related activity requirements during the period of self-isolation, but it is important to tell the DWP via your journal about this.

If you do not have coronavirus and are respecting Government advice on social distancing, there may still be some work-related activity requirements for claimants in receipt of Universal Credit but the types of activities you are expected to do should be limited in accordance with Government advice.

If you are subject to a reassessment during the outbreak you won’t be subject to a face-to-face assessment, even so, you could submit additional evidence of your health condition in writing or over the phone. If you are unable to submit evidence because you don’t have a scanner or a laptop it is worth mentioning this in your journal or to the person who is interviewing you by phone and then giving the evidence once the outbreak is over.

You are self-employed

Self-employed people who claim Universal Credit are normally treated as earning an assumed level of income from their self-employment, this is known as the minimum income floor. The minimum income floor has been temporarily removed for a period of time for self-employed people who are directly affected by Coronavirus or who are self-isolating according to Government advice.

Practical tips:

The minimum income floor will be relaxed from 6 April 2020. If you are self-employed and you had previously applied for Universal Credit but your application was rejected because of the minimum income floor, it is worth reapplying or asking for your claim to be reassessed in light of these new rules.

It is also worth being aware that the Government has introduced a self-employment income support scheme in the form of grants that will be payable from June onwards. This will be treated as earnings in a Universal Credit claim, it is unclear whether this will affect Universal Credit payments in the run up to June or only future payments.

For more information see:

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-self-employment-quick-guide/universal-credit-and-self-employment-quick-guide

A detailed summary of the legal changes can be found on the commons library page here.

In any case:

If you are facing severe hardship you should contact your local council to ask for information about emergency help they can provide. Harrow Council has announced a range of support measures for residents including as regards Council Tax support and a Corona Virus Hardship Scheme.

For more information: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/coronavirus-Coronavirus/support-residents

If you are a vulnerable resident in Harrow you can call the Coronavirus Hotline on: 0208 901 2698.

Remember that you need to report changes in circumstances to avoid problems with your benefits payments in the future. Changes in circumstances include if you become ill with coronavirus, when you recover from coronavirus, if you start self-isolating, if you stop self-isolating and return to work, changes in your income or earnings, or if you go into hospital. This is not an exhaustive list.

How can Harrow Law Centre help you?

We have a dedicated team specialised in Welfare Benefits who can provide information, advice and representation in the area of Welfare Benefits.

If you receive a decision that you think is wrong or if you are being prevented from applying for benefits we may be able to help you challenge the situation. You can contact us by email at info@harrowlawcentre.org.uk or phone between 10am and 4pm on 0208 863 4355 to see if we can take your case on.

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