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A-Z of changes to benefits, assessments and support – COVID-19


Last updated: 24 September 2020 11.51

This directory has been designed to help you keep track of new changes being introduced to the benefits system as a result of the coronavirus.

We hope that this summary of the latest updates provides a useful source of reference. For further guidance relating to COVID-19, visit this page.

 

Accessible information

If you have accessibility needs or care for someone who has, you can get support with claiming benefits and pensions. Please see this guidance for further information.


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Assessments

Face-to-face assessments for disability benefits have been put on hold (from 17 March) and all appointments at benefits offices and job centres have temporarily been suspended due to COVID-19. Whilst under review, they will continue to be suspended. You can read more here.

You will be contacted if you have an existing appointment and you will not be penalised if it has been postponed. Assessments will be arranged by phone or will be paper-based instead.

Benefit reviews and reassessments were also put on hold from 24 March 2020. They were originally suspended for three months - this period of time has been extended and the situation will be kept under review. Read more here.

 

What are the new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020?

The government has introduced some changes to the Care Act (2014) on a temporary basis and only to be applied when absolutely essential. They are designed to help local authorities if their workforce is significantly reduced or the demand on social care increases to the point where they are forced to alter or prioritise their services.

For carers, this still means that local authorities must respond to requests for care and support, but if your local authority has decided to “switch on” these easements, detailed assessments may not be carried out as before. If you’re asking for a Needs Assessment for the person you care for or a Carer's Assessment for yourself, we would suggest asking if there are any delays or additional information you need to be aware of, and discussing any concerns you have.

All assessments and reviews must be followed up and completed in full once the easements end. People will not currently have to undergo a financial assessment but may be charged retrospectively for any care and support received during this period.

For more details, refer to the government’s guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to the Care Act 2014.
 


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Attendance Allowance

If you are already receiving Attendance Allowance, you will continue to do so throughout the COVID-19 period. Note that if you are due to be reassessed for the benefit in the three-month period from 23 April 2020, your award will be automatically extended by six months.

You can still apply if you’re eligible for the benefit. For information about the rates and criteria to apply, see our Attendance Allowance page

Since 24 March, the government has temporarily suspended reviews or reassessments of Attendance Allowance. Whilst under review, they will continue to be suspended. You can read more here. However if your circumstances have changed (for example your condition has deteriorated and you believe you're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post. 


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Benefits review?

Because of the Covid-19 outbreak It's possible that your household income might have decreased or changed, and now may be a good time to have a benefit check. For example, you may have become entitled to financial assistance through welfare benefits.

You could contact our Helpline to request a review at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or perhaps try out the online benefits calculator provided by the financial assistance charity, Turn2Us: carersuk.org/help-and-advice/financial-support/help-with-benefits/turn2us-benefits-calculator


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Carer's Allowance

You will continue to receive Carer’s Allowance if you are already claiming this. For details of rates and to find out whether you’re eligible to claim, see our Carer’s Allowance page

Note that you can only claim this benefit if someone you’re looking after is already receiving a qualifying disability benefit. Find out more on our main page.

COVID-19 related changes

You will still be entitled to receive Carer's Allowance if you have a temporary break from caring because you, or those you care for, get coronavirus or you have to self-isolate because of it. This applies for a period of eight months from 13.3.20.

In addition, the government has confirmed that providing ‘emotional support’ will count towards the 35 hours needed to claim the benefit. This also applies to carers who live in a different household from someone they care for, where contact is only possible through the form of emotional support provided via the telephone and social media.

These measures (introduced on 30 March) apply whether or not you’re making a new claim or already claiming Carer’s Allowance.

In Scotland
In addition to the Carer’s Allowance Supplement, there will be an additional one-off payment of £230.10, the ‘Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement’, paid if you were receiving Carer’s Allowance on 13 April 2020 in Scotland. You can read more about this here.


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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/ Job Support Scheme

If you're working for an organisation as well as caring, it is important to know that the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme also applies to you. For more information, see our What does it mean to be furloughed? section on our working and caring page.

This source of support is available until the end of October, but your employer would need to start making contributions from August if they decide to enter the scheme and choose to furlough you. 

A similar scheme has been introduced for those who are self-employed. You can find out more about the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) under Self-employment in the list below.

Job Support Scheme

On 24 September, the UK government announced that they will be introducing a new support scheme for employees for when the coronavirus job retention scheme ends at the end of October. It is designed to particularly help those who are not able to work their full quota of hours with the cost of any hours not worked split between the government and the employer. The replacement scheme, starting from 1 November, means that:

  • the government will be able to cover 22% of employees' salaries for six months
  • the organisation or company will need to cover 55% of their salaries during this time.

For the first three months of the scheme, the employee must work at least 33% of their usual hours. The government will review whether to increase the threshold after three months. The scheme is open to all companies adversely affected by the coronavirus. To find out more, see this page


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Council Tax/rate relief

Help with your Council Tax bill

In England, the government has pledged support for Council Tax payers who are on a low income and has announced the Council Tax COVID-19 hardship fund 2020-21.

If you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill, you could get in touch with your local authority or trust (in Northern Ireland) to see if they can allow you to defer payments or to see if they can offer any form of discount or support to help.

See our main Help with Council Tax/ rate relief page to find out about your rights and for more ideas for saving money.

In light of COVID-19, the government has pledged support for renters through increases in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. See ‘Housing Support’.


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Debt worries

(UK wide) If you are experiencing difficulties paying back loans or credit card bills because of COVID-19, you should talk to your lender. If you agree a payment holiday with your lender, they should record these in such a way that will not impact on your credit score. See our Help with debt page for other useful sources of support.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

In England, people on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with high incidence of COVID-19 will benefit from a new payment scheme. For more details, see our frequently asked questions. If you think you may need financial support from your local authority in England, you may also be entitled to support from the £500 million Hardship Fund. Most of this funding will be used to provide more Council Tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through similar measures.

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities has put in place a non-repayable grant payment programme to assist those in financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic with short-term living expenses where a person, or a member of their immediate family, has been infected by COVID-19 or told to self-isolate. Read more on the nidirect.gov.uk page. 

In Scotland, families and individuals in Scotland facing emergency situations can apply for a Crisis Grant from their local authority through the Scottish Welfare Fund. An additional £45 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund has been announced, which more than doubles the current £35.5m Fund. To find out more about the Scottish Welfare Fund and how you might apply visit here. For details of other forms of financial assistance, see this page.


test-and-trace-support-scheme-england-faqs.pdf
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Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

If you’re already receiving DLA, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Disability Living Allowance page. You can still apply if you think you’re eligible.

Face-to-face assessments were suspended from 17 March and reviews and reassessments were also put on hold. Whilst under review, they will continue to be suspended. You can read more here. However if your circumstances have changed (for example your child's condition has deteriorated and you believe they're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post.

If you are looking after a child who is receiving DLA, and this benefit is due to be reassessed in the three-month period from 23 April 2020, their award will be extended by six months automatically.


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Employment and Support Allowance (New Style)

This is a type of benefit that you may be able to apply for if you are ill or have a disability that affects your ability to work. To find out if you are eligible, visit this Gov.uk page.

New style Employment and Support Allowance is a fortnightly payment and for eligible claimants who are directly affected by COVID-19, it is payable from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance.

Phone interviews are being carried out currently in place of face-to-face interviews and assessments. If you are eligible and affected by COVID-19, you can also be paid from day one rather than day eight of sickness.


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End of life planning/bereavement

We have brought together some guidance to help you get through difficult times and prepare for the loss of someone close to you, especially during this challenging period when many services are not operating as before. 

Understanding that there is a lot to take on board, both emotionally and on a practical level, we have tried to break down our guidance by suggesting some steps to follow. 

What is advance care planning? Read our guidance.

I need to find out more about how to deal with grief. See our guidance.

Practical matters – what needs to be done following a death? Read our guidance.

Registering the death – what happens now? Read our guidance.

What needs to be considered when arranging a funeral? See our guidance.


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Hospitals - preparing and leaving

You may have been rapidly thrown into the role of caring for someone and feel underprepared. Or perhaps the needs of someone you have cared for over time, have suddenly changed. Uncertainty about what to do and how to cope can be a big source of anxiety.

Our planning for emergencies page offers tips on how to relieve these worries by preparing for the unexpected, such as a sudden visit to hospital. Once there, the ward staff should help patients communicate with those they are close to by phone or video, where possible. Providing permission and related information as part of a documented plan in advance may be useful. For example, you could indicate who you would like to be kept informed as key contacts.

Our guidance can also help you prepare for someone you care for coming out of hospital. Knowing what questions to ask and what to expect can help you both cope with any change of circumstances. 

Face coverings – mandatory in hospitals

In England and Scotland, use of face coverings has become compulsory for all hospital staff and visitors.

Hospital discharge to care homes

All care home residents and social care staff with COVID-19 symptoms are now being tested, the government announced on 15 April. This also means that all patients who are discharged from hospital will be tested, as a matter of course, before going into care homes. The government’s COVID-19 social care action plan (released 15 April) provides more details. Also see our response.


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Housing support

Housing Benefit will be increased from 6 April. From April, an extra £1 billion over one year across the UK is to be allocated to help private renters, increasing Local Housing Allowance rates (to pay for at least 30% of average rents in all areas of the UK). See the latest government guidance.

Renting

If you are a tenant, you are still liable for your rent and should pay this as usual. If you are struggling to pay this, support is available and new measures mean that any landlord must provide three months’ notice if they wish to end the tenancy. For more details see this Gov.uk page.

Mortgages

If you are experiencing financial difficulties meeting your mortgage repayments because of COVID-19, you may be entitled to a mortgage holiday for three months. See this Gov.uk page for more details.

Also see ‘Council Tax/ Rate Relief’ in this directory.


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Other benefits (incl. legacy benefits)

Legacy benefits (being gradually replaced by Universal Credit) include Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit. These should continue to be paid during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Interviews for these benefits will not be carried out at job centres face-to-face; instead they are currently being conducted over the phone.

Housing Benefit has been increased. In addition, Working Tax Credit has been increased by £1,040 (from 6 April 2020) for 12 months.

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance. See Employment and Support Allowance (new style) above for more information about the benefit.


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Overpayments

The government took the decision to stop recovering overpayments for three months during the COVID-19 pandemic from 4 April 2020. This included benefit overpayments, tax credit debts and social fund loans.

However repayments that were temporarily stopped because of the coronavirus are starting again. If money is usually taken from your benefits or pay, or you previously repaid them by Direct Debit, you do not need to do anything. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) (or DfC in Northern Ireland) will write to you when repayments restart.


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Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

If you’re already receiving PIP, you should continue to be paid this as before. For details about the benefit and rates, see our Personal Independence Payment page.

Face-to-face assessments were suspended from 17 March. Reviews and reassessments were also put on hold from 24 March. Whilst under review, they will continue to be suspended. You can read more here.

However if your circumstances have changed (for example your condition has deteriorated and you believe you're entitled to a higher amount), you can still request a review by phone or by post.


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Self-employment

Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

If you’re self-employed, you may be able to apply for a taxable grant that will cover 80% of your self-employment trading profit – up to £2500 per month. This only relates to those who are self-employed whose trading profits are less than £50,000 and who make more than half of their total income from self-employment. You can continue to apply until 13 July and then the opportunity to apply for a second grant will be available in August. See this Gov.uk page for more details.

Other sources of support

New style Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day, according to recent government guidance.

If you currently claim Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or need to make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak. See 'Universal Credit' in this index for more details.

TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People have launched a new coronavirus support service to help those who are vulnerable and struggling with tax problems to claim the support they are now entitled to. Their helpline is available Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm: 0345 120 3779. YouTube tutorials are also available to help.

In Scotland
The Scottish government has set up a Newly Self-employed Hardship Fund. This is for those who are facing financial hardship because they became self-employed during the year 2019-20. Find out more


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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

As of 13 March 2020, you can be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, if:

  • you have the coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • you have been asked 'to shield' because of an underlying health condition or
  • you have to self-isolate (either because you have symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has).

Note that you can also apply for SSP if you cannot work and have to self-isolate because you live in the same household as someone who has displayed coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms.

You can read more about this here. See our Working and caring section for more guidance if you are balancing work with caring.


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Universal Credit

You will continue to receive Universal Credit if already claiming this benefit. Find out more about the benefit and its rates on our Universal Credit page.

If you’re claiming this for the first time, you will have to wait at least five weeks for the first payment, so don’t delay making a claim. You can make a claim for an advance payment while you are waiting for your Universal Credit payment. 

The standard rate in Universal Credit and Tax Credits has been increased by £20 a week for one year from 6 April 2020. This means you could be up to £1,040 better off. For further details, see the Gov.uk website.

If you currently claim Universal Credit as a self-employed person, or make a new claim (as someone who is self-employed), the rules around the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily removed for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

If you are eligible, we recommend claiming online as it is very difficult to get through to an adviser on the phone line owing to the large numbers making claims at this time. Find out more about the process here.

You do not need to attend an appointment at a Jobcentre Plus and any interviews will be carried out over the phone. The need to attend an interview in person has been removed for at least three months (from 13 March 2020) and this period may be extended if necessary. For more information, see this Gov.uk page.


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