Coronavirus and benefits - news

News and announcements as it happens

See our other coronavirus and benefits pages:

Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation

Get advice - Benefits and money advice in Newcastle plus details about the Jobcentre and other DWP contacts

Professionals, volunteers and Councillors wanting to keep on top of the latest benefit changes  can sign up to our bi-monthly Benefit Bulletins and advisers can sign up to receive 'coronavirus and benefits' emails once or twice a week. Sign up via our webpage:  Information for professionals and volunteers

Government announcements, press releases and other news (latest at top):

Pinned item: You may be worse off claiming Universal Credit or you may be better off

The DWP are warning people about claiming Universal Credit incase it makes them worse off - via Twitter and their webpage. See an explanation on our coronavirus and benefits page under Universal Credit 

For those who have already claimed Universal Credit and found themselves worse off and can't return to their previous benefits like Working Tax Credit see reports by the BBC and Guardian and of a legal challenge  by CPAG

RECENTLY ADDED

Stayed possession proceedings extended till 30 July 2021

and extends period for filing and service of a 'reactivation notice' to 30 April 2021

 See 29 January 2021 amendments to Practice Direction 55C approved by Master of Rolls and news from Thompson Reuters

Uplift (£20 a week extra Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit) continuing?

3 February 2021, Thérèse Coffey advised the Work and Pensions Committee's evidence session that discussions remain 'ongoing' with the Treasury and no decision has yet been made.

Safeguarding/vulnerable people – DWP processes

3 February 2021. In answer to questions about treatment of vulnerable people and following Philippa Day suicide – at https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1630/html/ minister Peter Schofield: said e.g. “we have strengthened the serious case panel.”

 ‘we make sure that we improve the processes for identifying that someone needs additional support, making sure that we have better additional support markers placed on claims. To give you an example, if a claimant in that initial conversation as they apply for disability benefit says that they have a mental health condition, but they have support from a family member, for example, in making a claim, we would still mark that with an additional support marker. We are making further changes to make it even more visible to an agent that a claimant has additional support needs. That will now, from later this month, become a watermark in the package, in the IT, so that you can see it on the screen very, very clearly.’

 ‘As I talked about last July, we have changed the processes to require an escalation before any decision can be made to withdraw benefits from someone with an additional support marker.’

 ‘We have clearer escalation routes, so every disability benefits centre has a vulnerable customer champion, whom colleagues can approach if they have concerns about a vulnerable customer. We have been talking to Capita and also Atos/IAS about how they are changing some of their processes for revisiting decisions on whether a face-to-face assessment is required.’

 ‘we wanted to reflect the fact that everyone’s needs are different. Instead of that, we have a pin-note approach, which is what we set out to the Committee and the National Audit Office on a number of occasions. That enables agents to have better understanding. Rather than putting people into boxes, we have a full description of what the needs are of claimants who are vulnerable and have additional support needs. The additional support marker, which we have already, is in addition to pin notes, which set out the details of someone’s support needs. So, we have the two together.’

 Debbie Abrahams: ‘My final question, Secretary of State, is about what you said last September—that the Department “does not have a…safeguarding duty” or “a duty of care” for its claimants. It has been pointed out to me that the DWP does have a duty under existing legislation, including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Supplementary Benefits Act 1976 and indeed the Equality Act 2010. Do you finally accept that you have a duty to safeguard vulnerable claimants?’

‘Dr Coffey: We don’t have a statutory duty specifically relating to safeguarding. Wider duties exist, which we already undertake. That is why we have offices around the country that work often with bodies that have statutory duties specifically regarding safeguarding, so that we work together to help people. That might be through local councils. It might be through local medical professionals. That is where we will continue to work in that regard.’

 See again see Conclusion of inquest into death of Philippa Day from leighday.co.uk

Fixed term awards of Personal Independence Payment due to expire

Answer in Parliament. 'The Department has been automatically applying extension of awards ... for all claims due to end between March 2020 and January 2021, except those where a new decision has been made since review and reassessment activity resumed in July. Additionally, a small number of awards have not been extended where action on their case is pending. These are not included in Covid-19 easements and will not be extended as part of this exercise.'

Mr Tomlinon's written answer 21 January 2021 is available from Hansard.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re employed and cannot work

Gov. Guidance for people who are employed and cannot work due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Change made: Updated guidance to include that your employer can furlough you if you’re shielding or have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus (COVID-19). 2 February 2021

Supported living services during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Government guidance for providers of supported living settings. Added a new document: ‘Working with people in supported living this winter’. Time updated: 22 January 2021

Updated factsheet: Supporting EEA nationals who are destitute or at risk of homelessness

Information about the immigration requirements that now apply to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members, and how these affect entitlement to benefits, housing assistance, and social services’ support.

Information about the EU Settlement Scheme to help local authorities to identify and assist residents who need to make an application before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

Extract:

“This factsheet provides information about the immigration requirements that now apply to EEA nationals and their family members, and how these affect entitlement to benefits, housing assistance, and social services’ support. It also includes information about the EU Settlement Scheme to help local authorities identify and assist residents who have not yet applied.”

“It is not known how many people still need to apply. It is likely that many vulnerable people, hard to reach groups, and children are still unaware that they need to apply by the deadline of 30 June 2021. These groups have been identified in a recent report on EU citizens at risk of failing to secure their rights after Brexit by the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.”

Read the factsheet

Care home workers at risk of missing out on EU settled status

 “The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) surveyed 290 care home workers and found that as many as one in three had never heard of the Settlement Scheme…”  From Free Movement 25 Jan 2021

Coronavirus: Withdrawing crisis social security measures

This Commons Library Briefing Paper outlines the social security changes made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and other Government departments, in response to the coronavirus crisis, as well as expectations for their withdrawal and plans for the economic recovery. 28 January 2021

Kickstart Scheme moves up a gear with over 120,000 jobs created so far and government making it even simpler for employers to join

Details from the government press release and guidance

Self Employment Income Support Scheme

If you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19) find out if you can use this scheme to claim a grant.

Claims for the third grant have now closed. The last date for making a claim for the third grant was 29 January 2021. Details about the fourth grant will be announced on 3 March 2021.

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

ADDED 21 January 2021 and earlier

Vote in Parliament to retain the extra £20 a week in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit

18 January 2021. Vote won but not binding. Some ministers have left possibility open for ‘something’. 

Here is a Transcript of debate

New Jobcentre opening times from DWP at 15 January 2021

The DWP say:

“To help keep customers and colleagues as safe as possible in the latest phase of the pandemic, the Department has decided jobcentre opening hours will be 10am to 2pm beginning on Monday the 18th January 2021. This temporary change means we can continue providing safe, essential services for those who need to come into the jobcentre and who are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally. The opening hours of our phone lines remain as they were. In addition, the Relay UK service and the Video relay service are both still available.

Anyone entering a jobcentre will be required to wear a face covering, unless they are in an exempt category. Please remind your audiences to follow the latest government guidance on meeting with others safely and lockdown restrictions and that if we need to make an appointment with a customer, this will be by the phone. We will leave a message in their journal before we call them.”

See also the Press release Jobcentre guidance on new national COVID restrictions

The Trussell Trust have published a report which analyses data on foodbank users debts.

The report finds that:

  • 73% of foodbank users who were in receipt of Universal Credit had a deduction for an advance payment, an increase from 51% prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Almost half of people (43%) had a debt owed to the DWP, this had also increased from 37% prior to the pandemic.

A copy of the report is available here.

What to do when someone dies - advice from the government

"Government Departments and organisations need to be told when someone dies. This can be done using the 'Tell Us Once' service which lets someone report a death to most government departments in one call. Calls to Tell Us Once are free 0800 085 7308 or Textphone 0800 141 2218 for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.  More details.

National Free School Meals Voucher scheme starts this week in England

The launch of the Free School Meals voucher scheme. The scheme runs for four weeks, from 18 January - 12 February.

Each of the UK nations are running similar schemes, but the way these work will differ. Find Covid-19 information across the UK at:

See also from gov. National free school meals voucher scheme opens to orders. Edenred site opens for schools to purchase eGift cards for eligible families to use at their choice of supermarkets. 18 January 2021

DWP minister summarises recent changes to SSP during coronavirus

Mr Tomlinson’s written answer from parliament.uk 11 January 2021

Newcastle Council’s ‘response to the Government’s welfare reforms - the challenges of personal and public debt’

A six monthly report to the Cabinet. Link to the Business Cabinet meeting and the accompanying documents

ADDED 13 January 2021 and earlier

The ban on enforcing evictions is extended

'The government has changed the law in England to ensure bailiffs do not enforce evictions for 6 weeks until 22 February, with no evictions expected to 8 March at the earliest. This will be kept under review.’

Details from the government: Extra covid protections for rough sleepers and renters 8 January 2021 and Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants 11 January 21

Also see this briefing paper by House of Commons library which explains measures taken by the Government during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households in the rented sector to retain their homes. It has been updated in light of the extended ban on enforcing eviction orders after 11 January 2021.

See also this government COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the context of Coronavirus which was updated to reflect 4 January announcement of national lockdown for England.

Carers UK welcomes new JCVI advice which includes unpaid carers in the vaccination priority list

This advice recommends that carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer of  an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer contracted COVID should be included in Priority 6 alongside people with underlying  conditions. 

See Carers UK press release

New appeal form

If you are unhappy with a benefit decision you can ask the DWP to review its decision. If you unhappy with that decision you can appeal to the independent Courts and Tribunal Service, which has updated the appeal form you would use for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC). This links you to this new form.  This links to the appeal form for other benefits.

Jobcentre guidance on new national COVID restrictions

On 4 January 2021, the Prime Minister announced that the government will be introducing new national COVID-19 measures in England to protect the NHS and save lives. Here is new guidance on Jobcentres at 6 January 2021

Meanwhile the Public and Commercial Services union calls for suspension of all conditionality and sanction activity.

 Tax Credit and coronavirus changes

The government have made some changes to Tax Credits mostly in response to coronavirus - from 14 January 2021. For example:

To get Working Tax Credit (WTC) you have to work above a certain number of hours. A reduction in hours when you are not working due to certain coronavirus restrictions are ignored. There are also other WTC easements for those furloughed.

For more information see the legislation making the change and CPAG's explanation of coronavirus and its impact on Tax Credits.

Help with IT equipment and costs

Here is a list of quick links to the help and support young people can get with IT equipment and the costs of internet access

All secondary schools have been invited by the Government to order laptops and tablets through the ‘Get help with technology service’ to support remote education.

These webpages describe the help with getting online through getting internet accessincreasing mobile data allowances on mobile phones and 4G wireless routers.

Support for young people outlined by the Education Secretary

Also see Revised guidance from the Department for Education on Children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings

Also see Get laptops and tablets for children who cannot attend school due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reports:

2.5 million more people will fall into hardship by spring’ say the New Economics Foundation

New year, same arrears: How the pandemic is leaving private renters with unmanageable debt  - report by Citizens Advice

ADDED  6 January 2021 and earlier

SSP legislation amended

From 24 Dec 20, SI.No.1638/2020 - people who have to self-isolate because they have coronavirus symptoms, have tested positive or are a household contact of a person who has coronavirus, are deemed to be incapable of work for the full period for which they have to isolate, and allow notification to be given orally over phone or in person

Also, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is available from the first day of absence to individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to shield, for example where they can’t work from home - from DWP's online information

DWP update for clinically vulnerable individuals on 23 December 2020

If clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) individuals live in an area where shielding is reintroduced, they will receive a notification advising them to shield, such as a letter from their doctor or from the Government.

If someone is CEV, they should not work outside the home while shielding is in place. If they cannot work from home, they should speak to their employer to see if there are any alternative arrangements that can be made e.g. using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. From DWP information

Jobcentre guidance on COVID-19 Local Restriction Tiers

Jobcentres will remain open, as they have throughout the pandemic, to provide essential services to those we cannot help remotely. Change made: 21 Dec 20.  Added jobcentre guidance for Tier 4 (Stay at Home) in England

Poverty:

Also “food banks across the UK recorded a 110 per cent increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed through 2020” See Independent food bank emergency food parcel distribution in the UK - February to November 2019 and 2020

See also Marcus Rashford campaign to retain last year's Universal Credit £20 a week increase in the Guardian 24 Dec 20.

Job Retention (furlough) Scheme extended for a further month

In November the gov announced this would run till the end of March 2021 but on 17 December announced it will continue till the end of April 2021.

Support for employees with health conditions or disabilities – from DWP

'The Access to Work grant scheme provides support to help people with disabilities or health conditions start or stay in work.

The support offered is based on individual needs, and could include a grant to help cover the costs of practical support in the workplace or for those working from home.

An Access to Work grant does not need to be paid back and could pay for a range of different support, including:

  • Support workers
  • Specialist equipment
  • Help with travel costs to work and back
  • Mental health support.

You can find out more about the Access to Work scheme on GOV.UK.

A factsheet explains the support offered, information on eligibility, and how to apply.' 

Email from national DWP stakeholders liaison person to advisers

'Post Office card accounts - Following a pause this year due to COVID-19, we have resumed writing to people who receive their pension and/or benefit payments into a Post Office card account. We are asking that, where possible, customers should receive their payments into a bank, building society or credit union account. The Post Office card account is due to come to an end and we need to prepare customers for this change. For those who are unable to open or use a bank building society or credit union account DWP will continue to provide a payment exception service. Letters will be issued to all Post Office card account customers over the coming months, this will include those who are aged 90 and over. Our customer contact centre team continue to provide support to Post Office card account customers who receive our communications.'

DWP have changed the opening hours of the Jobcentre Plus helpline to 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

As shown on these two webpages for example:

New Style Employment and Support Allowance: detailed guide

Employment and Support Allowance

Personal Independence Payment form change

On 11 January 2020, the Personal Independence Payment change of circumstances form PIP2(UI) (How your disability affects you) will be replaced with a new form called the AR1UI (How your disability affects you).

'The new form aligns the change of circumstances process with the award review process, providing a consistent approach when customers report changes in their needs.

Our aim is to reduce the time it takes for customers to complete the form, so we have made it shorter, requiring them to provide less information

Customers should continue to return any outstanding PIP2(UI) forms as directed in their letter.'

Further Information can be found here

WARNING! DWP re-introducing Failure to Attend

This update on PIP telephone assessments - from DWP | PIP Stakeholders to advisers

'I’d like to give you an update on PIP telephone assessments.

Now that telephone assessments are more established, we are re-introducing Failure to Attend (FTA). From week commencing 14th December 2020, letters inviting claimants for an assessment will make it clear that it is necessary to attend a telephone assessment.  PIP claimants who fail to attend a consultation with an Assessment Provider without good reason will have their claim disallowed. A disallowance decision is subject to the usual process of Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal. Claimants can also submit a new claim if they wish.

A range of factors, including people’s physical and mental health, are always taken into full consideration when deciding good reason and the assessment providers and our decision makers have been provided with additional guidance on the kinds of issues that are particular to telephone assessments – including consideration of technical issues (e.g. mobile phone battery/signal) and environmental factors (e.g. caring responsibilities and noisy home environments). I can assure you that we will always contact anyone who does not attend a telephone assessment and that people’s support will continue wherever there is a good reason for not attending.

Since the introduction of Telephone Assessments in March 2020, we have been taking a different approach whereby Assessment Providers rearranged the first FTA appointment and then referred the claim back to DWP on the second FTA.  DWP made every effort to engage with claimants and allowed a longer period to do this.  Where claimants engaged, they did not need to show good cause but were returned to the Provider for another telephone assessment. We introduced this temporary change to take into account the challenges presented by Covid-19 and the realisation that claimants possibly had a harder time accessing their normal support networks.  We have now introduced ways for a third party to join a telephone assessment so that claimants can have the support they need. 

PIP, like other benefits, has always had a FTA policy.  As for most benefits, there is a requirement to engage in the process of making a claim for PIP, including providing information and attending appointments when asked to do so.  It is very important that we are able to assess a claimant’s needs against a set of assessment criteria and an assessment can play a crucial role in gathering the necessary evidence. This return to a business-as-usual policy will align PIP with other benefits, including Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit.'

The DWP also gave this information:

When telephone health assessments were introduced for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) earlier this year, an easement was put in place so that Failure to Attend (FTA) actions did not take place as a result of someone not attending a scheduled telephone assessment.

This was necessary in light of the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic. However, we know it is very important that we are able to correctly assess a claimant’s needs against a set of criteria and a telephone assessment plays a crucial role in gathering the evidence to do this.

From week commencing 14 December, PIP telephone assessment appointment letters will make it clear that claimants must attend their telephone appointment. FTA action will apply, e.g. benefit may be stopped for those who have been issued with this letter and fail to attend without good reason.

No one will have their support stopped without being contacted first. People will be contacted to ask them to explain why they did not, or could not attend or participate in the assessment and where good cause is provided and accepted, support will continue.

More information can be found on GOV.UK

Benefit rates 2021-22

e.g. PIP standard daily living up 30p, enhanced daily living up 45p.

See Benefit and pension rates 2021 to 2022 from gov.uk

Coronavirus (COVID-19): EU Settlement Scheme – guidance for applicants

15 December 2020. Guidance for EUSS applicants in or outside the UK who have been affected by restrictions associated with coronavirus.

COVID-19: guidance for providers of accommodation for asylum seekers

15 December 2020. Guidance aimed at all staff involved in the support of asylum seekers in all accommodation settings.

COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

10 December 2020. Non-statutory guidance (from gov) for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Landlord and tenant guidance updated to provide further information on communal lounges in specialist sheltered and retirement housing and on canteens in extra-care housing.

More info about the stay on evictions due to expire 11 Jan 2021

letter to the Chair of the Justice Committee from the Lord Chancellor from parliament.uk

EARLIER

Major report

Build Back Fairer: The COVID-19 Marmot Review

 from instituteofhealthequity.org 15 December 2020

 Disability benefits face to face assessments, reviews and reassessments

 On 19 October 2020 and 9 November 2020, the DWP confirmed that “face to face reviews and reassessments remain suspended”.

As previously announced reviews and reassessments for PIP and DLA have gradually restarted by phone or paper based. Awards due to expire are extended for possibly 6 months.

The DWP have confirmed a similar process is taking place for those receiving Attendance Allowance and for children receiving DLA who are approaching 16 years old and need to claim PIP.

 The DWP have told advisers regarding Attendance Allowance: “The first customers to be affected will be those whose Attendance Allowance awards expire on or after the 8 March 2021. These customers will be receiving renewal packs in the coming weeks and will have the normal 20 week period to complete and return their packs prior to their award expiring.

 Awards that were due to expire before 8 March 2021 have been automatically extended and will remain in payment until they are subject to a review at a later date. Customers should be reminded that they are still required to inform the department if their circumstances change.”

Potential for confusion:

Normally the DWP send DLA or PIP claimants a renewal form six months before the awards are due to end. Claimant should usually return the completed form as soon as possible and before the award ends. However, as mentioned above, the DWP are also telling people that their award has been extended and they don’t need to return the renewal form. In which case, they should contact DLA or PIP to double check. Err on the side of caution.

DLA claimants who have been told to claim PIP

If this is the case, you should claim PIP by the date on the letter. If you need more time, you can contact the PIP helpline to ask for an extension.

Emergency payments

When notified by the DWP, the Post Office can make an urgent cash delivery payment to those who are shielding because of the risk of infection should they leave their home.

Carers Allowance

Carer’s Allowance can continue if there is a temporary break in care because they or the person they’re caring for have coronavirus or are self-isolating. This will apply until 13 May 2021.

Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit £20 a week extra

No news on whether the government will maintain the extra £20 a week beyond March 2021. See Coalition warns it would be a terrible mistake to cut the £20 uplift to Universal Credit from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

ESA - seven waiting days exemption to continue

In March 2020, regulations meant that the seven ‘waiting days’ for ESA for new claimants do not apply if they are affected by coronavirus, meaning that it will be payable from day one, and they don’t have to provide a fit note. Regulations in October 2020 extended the period this would apply to 12 May 2021.

Limited capability for work for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC)

Being treated as having limited capability for work (LCW) if you are ‘affected by coronavirus’ was extended to 12 May 2021 but only for ESA. For UC that ended in November. However, there are other ways to be treated as having LCW for UC, such as being at substantial risk due to a physical or mental health problem. More details on Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

 Warning: Claimants may be contacted at regular intervals to check if they are still affected by coronavirus and if no other health conditions exist, the DWP may decide they no longer have ‘limited capability for work’ and may terminate the award.

 Where to Get Advice in Newcastle - updated again

Like other services, most of Newcastle’s advice services changed from face-to-face to mainly phone advice with some exceptions.  

The latest details are in our December version of Where to get advice in Newcastle, which can be found on the Newcastle City Council website page: Benefit advice services in Newcastle and benefit offices.

Jobcentre plus office extended opening and opening and benefit payments over Christmas and New Year

We have been told by the DWP that Jobcentre Plus offices are to extend their opening hours to 6.30pm weekdays and Saturday is going ahead from December in selected sites.

The DWP have provided details about Jobcentre Plus office opening and benefit payments over Christmas and New Year on GOV.UK.

Help with mortgages

On 31 October 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority said “borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file”. This extends some of the support for those with mortgages that was introduced in March 2020.

New regulations reintroduce a stay on bailiff enforcement from 17 Nov 2020 until 11 Jan 2021.

Except in specified circumstances, they prevent a bailiff's attendance at a dwelling house for the purpose of executing a writ or warrant of possession, executing a writ or warrant of restitution or delivering a notice of eviction.

the regulations also introduce a nationwide prohibition on bailiffs taking control of goods inside residential properties until the expiry of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.4) Regulations 2020 (that provide for the current lockdown in England that is due to run until 2 December 2020).  SI.No.1290/2020 is available from gov.uk.

See also this updated guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities and Understanding the possession action process: guidance for landlords and tenants

Tribunal service

From March 2020, the HM Courts & Tribunals Service began to hear appeals over the telephone. In November 2020 limited optional video hearings were introduced. More information is available on GOV.UK

Prisoners

The law that allowed prisoners on temporary release due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to claim certain benefits and for others to claim for them has been extended by regulation to 13 May 2021. It was due to end 12 November 2020

Office for National Statistics publish ‘Coronavirus and the Social Impacts on Disabled People in Great Britain: October 2020’

 This report contains indicators from the ‘Opinions and Lifestyle’ survey on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on disabled people in Great Britain. The big headline from the ONS research is that disabled people have been disproportionately affected by reductions and cancellations to NHS treatments. You can read the full report at Disability Right UK website

Lockdown hit children, disabled and BAME people – Lords committee 

In the first comprehensive analysis of how public services have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Lords Public Services Committee says “fundamental weaknesses” must be addressed to make services resilient enough to withstand future crises.  

Hundreds of thousands of "invisible" children are falling through gaps between social and education services across England, the committee has warned in a new report - A critical juncture for public services: lessons from COVID-19. The report found:

  • Just one in 10 vulnerable children went to school during  lockdown
  • Not enough support for prevention and early intervention services 
  • Fight against health inequality should be Government priority  
  • Good work and innovation “will be lost” without reform  

You can read the report by visiting Disability Rights UK website

A review of the COVID-19 temporary measures

18 November 2020. A study by the Social Security Advisory Committee

PREVIOUSLY ADDED

New winter package to provide further support for children and families

Announced on 8 November 2020. Children and families will get extra support this winter, with councils given new funding to ensure vulnerable households do not go hungry or without essential items.

  • is ring-fenced, with at least 80% for support with food and bills;

  • is for period to the end of March 2021; and

  • Is to enable councils to provide food for children who need it over the school holidays, while schools will continue to provide meals for disadvantaged children during term-time.

    In addition, the winter package includes - 

  • £220 million to cover a Holiday Activities and Food programme across England during Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021;

  • an increase to Healthy Start scheme payments (England and Wales), from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021; and

  • a pledge of an additional £16 million of funding for food distribution charities.

More details from the government announcement

Jobcentre guidance on new national Covid restrictions

Announced 9 November 2020

From 5 November 2020 until 2 December 2020 in England, the following updated jobcentre guidance will apply to customers, and will ensure essential support is provided whilst keeping colleagues and customers safe.

  • Jobcentres will remain open, to provide essential services and support to those whom we cannot help in any other way.

  • We will ensure that this support continues to be delivered in line with the latest government and PHE guidance – such as maintaining social distancing and rigorous cleaning regimes - keeping our colleagues and customers safe.

  • Customers will continue to be supported by Work Coaches online and over the phone, with jobcentres remaining open to help those who need extra support and are unable to interact with us on the phone or digitally.

  • Our Work Coaches will continue to deliver employment support programmes such as Kickstart and JETS, by phone or through online channels.

  • Face-to-face assessments for disability benefits remain suspended.

  • If you think you might be entitled to a health and disability benefit, you should contact us as soon as possible to make a claim in the usual way.

  • For existing customers, payments will continue as normal. Anyone who has a change in their needs should contact us immediately so we can ensure they are receiving the correct level of support.

  • On 3 November 2020, we also confirmed that the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor - for self-employed customers claiming Universal Credit in England, Scotland, and Wales - has been extended to the end of April 2021. This means that self-employed customers on Universal Credit will receive a payment that reflects their earnings at this difficult time.

More details on the government announcement

NB. Jobcentre opening to 8pm and weekends put on hold.

11 Nov 20. DWP Safety Dispute in Jobcentres and UC Service Centres - PCS wins further concessions from pcs.org.uk

Social Security Appeal Tribunal arrangements under Covid - latest news

In a letter to advisers representatives on 9 November 2020, the regional Judge said for example:

'As the crisis and local restrictions unfortunately remain, the majority of appeals will continue to be listed via a remote telephone hearing.

...we have recently conducted a successful pilot in relation to video hearings. The feedback from the Tribunal users that took part in this pilot has been extremely positive and we will therefore soon be offering video hearings as an option for some appellants.

If a judge determines that it would not be fair and just to determine an oral appeal by way of a remote telephone hearing, he/she will then determine whether the case is suitable to be heard via a video hearing.'

DWP Video Relay Service for BSL users – ‘now available across all service lines’

 App is available. Details from DWP Touchbase (6 November 2020)

Claimants must attend telephone health assessments - otherwise benefit may be affected

'From Monday 2 November, ESA and UC telephone assessment appointment letters will make it clear that claimants must attend their telephone appointment. ... Benefit may be stopped (ESA) or entitlement change (UC), for those who have been issued with this letter and fail to attend or participate in their appointments without good reason.

No one will have their support stopped without being contacted first. People will be contacted to ask them to explain why they did not, or could not attend or participate in the assessment and where good cause is provided and accepted, support will continue.'

More details from DWP Touchbase (6 November 2020)

First 6 months of pandemic saw 47% increase in Trussell Trust foodbank use

see '2,600 food parcels provided for children every day in first six months of the pandemic' from trusselltrust.org

RECENTLY ADDED

5 November 2020, new announcement on self employed and furlough schemes

 The furlough scheme that was extended from 1 November for 4 weeks will now continue till 31 March 2021, and be reviewed in January.

 NB the “As part of the revised scheme, anyone made redundant after 23 September can be rehired and put back on furlough.”

The Self Employed Income Support Scheme is increased “with the third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500.”

 See the BBC news, the Government news story and the government page which will be updated

 Citizens Advice Newcastle - temporary closure

 “..  we have decided to close to the public at City Library from 5 November until 2 December 2020.  We will all be working from home,  providing advice by phone, e-mail and video links.”  CAN website

New or increased support measures following the 4 week lockdown from 5 November 2020

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 'Extended' from 1 November 2020

Due to the increased Covid 19 restrictions from 5 November  2020,  this furlough scheme has been introduced from 1 November 2020 to last, initially, till December (extended to 31 March 2021 -  see above announcement on 5 November). The rules are similar to the previous scheme except employees must have been on an employer’s PAYE payroll by 23:59 on 30 October 2020 but they don't need to have been furloughed before. Although '... government expects that publicly funded organisations will not use the scheme ... partially publicly funded organisations may be eligible where their private revenues have been disrupted.'

The Job Support Scheme that was to replace the furlough scheme on 1 November has been postponed until this furlough scheme ends.

More details on the extended scheme from the BBC and government

Mortgage holidays

These were due to end on 31 October but will continue

'Borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.'

More details on the mortgage holidays from the Financial Conduct Authority.

For more details on the announcement, see  'Furlough Scheme Extended and Further Economic Support announced' by the government on 31 October 2020

Increased support for the self-employed

- Support through the SEISS scheme will be doubled from 40% to 80% of trading profits and people will be able to apply earlier, from 30 November rather than 14 December.

More details from Government increases support for self-employed across the UK from government on 2 November 2020

- The Minimum Income Floor (MIF) suspension is extended

Statement by Therese Coffey in Parliament 3 October 2020

“After careful consideration of the ongoing public health situation and the national working environment, the current easement of the suspension of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit that was due to expire on 12 November 2020 will be extended to the end of April 2021. Regulations will be laid and made prior to 12 November 2020.”

The MIF is normally where Universal Credit assumes a certain level of self employed earnings, whether it is being earned or not. This rule was temporarily removed in March and was due to return 12 November.

Courts and tribunals will continue to operate during the new lockdown from 5 November 2020

The Message from the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals confirms remote attendance system will continue as described on our Coronavirus and benefits page.

Jobcentres to remain open during the lockdown from 5 November 2020

Confirmed by the government but existing restrictions for visiting remain as described on our Coronavirus and benefits page

Details of the national restrictions from 5 November 2020

By the government

Child on DLA approaching 16 - process during COVID

Here are replies by national DWP to an adviser's questions:

"Question 1 - When a child is on DLA and is approaching 16 they would normally be invited to claim PIP, is the award being extended and if so for how long?

Answer - The Rising 16 process is in now back to business as usual. We are now inviting claims to PIP from Rising 16s

Question 2 - What happens if they have already received the invitation but not yet claimed?

Answer - We are now able to take new claims to PIP. Yes, you will need to claim PIP, please call the new claims number. The number is 0800 917 2222. If you make a claim for PIP your DLA payments will continue until we have made a decision on your PIP claim. If you do not contact us to claim PIP your DLA may stop.

Question 3 - what happens if they have already submitted the claim (presuming here that the claimant has already returned the ‘How your Disability affects you’ form?)?

Answer - We are now processing claims to PIP again so we will look at the information you provided in your form to make a decision. We may need you to attend an assessment, if so, the Assessment Provider will contact with you to invite you to an assessment. If you are asked to attend an assessment, it is important that you take part as this helps us to make a decision on your claim.

We will write to you once we have made a decision on your claim”

Extended debt and mortgage help proposals

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have proposed for another ‘up to 6 months’ payment deferral for consumer credit debts (so means if you took advantage of the last one and this one then in total you could have up to 12 months deferred).

See FCA announces further proposals to support mortgage borrowers impacted by coronavirus and

Stepchange’s press release on it - 2 November 2020.

Also on 2 November, the FCA announced further proposals to support mortgage borrowers impacted by coronavirus

For the latest news on the above see the FCA news page

Government fails to commit to eviction ban extension

News from Inside Housing 3 November 2020
 

EARLIER NEWS

Changes due to take place on 31 October 2020

The Job retention Scheme (‘furlough’) was due to end 31 October and be replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November, which was ‘extended/upgraded’ by the government on 22 October from the original plan.  However, as detailed above, the furlough scheme continues and the JSS is delayed.

The details of the Job Support Scheme are retained here for future reference: Briefly, there are two kinds of Job Support Scheme depending on whether your employed by a business which is open ('JSS Open’) or has been forced to close due to coronavirus (‘JSS Closed’). Both initially run for 6 months. See information from the government and MSE

The Self Employed Scheme is also extended from 1 November but less generous than previous versions. See the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Grant Extension goverment guidance and the extension announcement. See also 23 October Commons Library info on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme including ‘..the extension to the SEISS to be introduced in November, to cover the six months up to the end of April 2021.’

Mortgage ‘payment holidays’ were due to end 31 October but were extended - as described above.

Working Tax Credit (WTC) special Covid19 rules to be extended

In light of the fact that many employees on WTC may see their hours drop below the WTC limits due to Covid19, the government said in May they will treat customers as working their normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme close, even if they are not using either scheme.  

This guidance shows it will continue during the Job Support Scheme too (if and when it is introduced).

Employees whose hours reduce due to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to have access to Working Tax Credit and its childcare element for the duration of the JSS scheme.’

UC Minimum Income Floor (MIF) rules suspension still due to end 12 November 2020 - but see above

For the first 12 months of self-employment, the Universal Credit calculation takes actual income into account. After 12 months a rule called ‘minimum income floor’ (MIF) is usually applied, where a minimum income from the self-employment is assumed, whether you are earning it or not, which is usually the national minimum wage for the number of hours you are expected to work for, usually 35 hours a week. For some this means they are assumed to be earning more than they actually are and get less Universal Credit.

From 13 March, the MIF rules were suspended till 12 November for those who were ill or self-isolating due to coronavirus and from 6 April it was suspended for all self-employed people – for the duration of the outbreak.

The The Mirror has recently reported no word from government if this is to be extended. Chair of W&PC writes to Therese Coffey

UC ‘don’t call us’ is still in place

 From 9 April people making new claims for Universal Credit no longer needed to call the DWP as part of the process. This is called ‘Don’t call us we’ll call you’. People just need to make the claim online and they will be contacted by the Jobcentre. This will include checking what has been said in the claim form and helping with verification. We have been told by the Jobcentre this still applies.

Newcastle unites to ensure children don’t go hungry over school holidays

 23 October 2020. See this information by Newcastle Council on help with school meals following Parliament’s  decision on free school meals.

Details of other support can also be found at www.kidsmealmap.co.uk . Details of organisations offering emergency, free or low cost food are also listed on Information Now  www.informationnow.org.uk.

It is also worth knowing about Healthy Start where you get "free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, and infant formula milk. You can also get free vitamins.

Pregnant or have children under the age of four? You could qualify if you're on benefits, or if you're pregnant and under 18.”

And: “Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic we’ve temporarily extended the validity of the Healthy Start vouchers by 4 weeks, giving you 12 weeks to use your entitlement, we will keep this under review.”

Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?

14 October 2020. This briefing paper by House of commons library, considers evidence of private landlords' reluctance to let to prospective tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit/Universal Credit. The paper looks at the reasons behind this reluctance and action being taken to challenge landlords/agents who operate a "no DSS" policy.

EARLIER NEWS

Improvements to Job Support Scheme and Self Employment Income Support Scheme

22 October 2020. See the announcement

Removal of ESA waiting days extended till 12 May 2021

13 October 2020. In March 2020,  the need to serve seven waiting days before ESA entitlement begins was waived and a person who was affected by coronavirus was accepted as being incapable of work for ESA and UC.  This was introduced for a limited period but this has been extended a further six months till 12 May 2021 in these regulations SI 2020 No.1097  and this DWP guidance ADM Memo 25/20

New Test and Trace Support Payment from 12 October 2020 - and new self isolation duty

From (12 October), people on low incomes who cannot work from home and will lose income as a result, can apply for a payment of £500 by completing an online form.

“Test and trace support payments are part of a new legal duty for people to self-isolate, which came into force on 28 September, and ensures that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worrying about their finances. Government has asked local authorities to administer the payments.

The payment scheme came into effect at the same time as tougher new sanctions for people who fail to self-isolate could be fined £1,000, with fines rising to £10,000 for multiple breaches.

… The scheme is set to be in place until 31 January 2021."

 Details of scheme, the rules and how to apply from Newcastle Council

Details  from gov.uk

Q&A from LITRG “…covering what we know about the new payment, and what we don’t.”

 Briefing and Q&A for LA’s from the Local Government Association

NHS Test and Trace: how it works from gov.uk

Commons Library Briefing Paper on the Test and Trace Support Payment

Job Support Scheme expansion

Announced 9 October 2020. Employers who have to shut down for a period over winter as part of the coronavirus restrictions can get government support of two thirds of each employee’s wages up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. It lasts from 1 November 2020 for six months. More details from gov.uk

This sits alongside the original Job Support Scheme and the £1,000 Job Retention Bonus

DWP approach to vulnerable claimants and related issues including revised ‘safeguarding guidance’

9 October 2020. Theresa Coffey’s reply to the Work and Pensions Committee explains what happens when the DWP are considering stopping a vulnerable claimant’s benefit and includes the updated ‘safeguarding guidance’. She also answers the committee’s other questions about how they treat vulnerable claimants, Jobcentre ‘complex needs toolkit’ and so on.

Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS)

Announced 8 Oct 2020. A new government scheme – JETS has been launched, backed by a £238 million investment fund to help those left without jobs due to the pandemic. The government will be working with the Shaw Trust to deliver the scheme in England.

Read more on Disability Rights website.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant is being extended from 1 Nov 2020

Announced 7 October 2020. The extension will provide two grants and will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period.

Find out if you're eligible and how much you can get from gov.uk

Package of support for students who have to defer their studies

5 Oct 2020. Updated information on details on a range of opportunities to gain new skills, undertake work placements, additional learning and career development support. More details from gov.uk

Over 50 charities urge Chancellor to keep and expand the £20 week Universal Credit lifeline

Read more on Disability Rights UK’s website

Briefing on foodbanks in the UK

By the House of Commons library

Winter Economy Plan announces new Job Support Scheme

24 September 2020. Chancellor announces:

 New Job Support Scheme for six months from 1 November 2020, rather than extending with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough scheme).

 The Self Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended until 30 April 2021

 See Chancellor outlines Winter Economy Plan from gov.uk

Stay on evictions ended 20 September 2020

Shelter recommendations 22 September.

Comprehensive measures’ to support renters affected by coronavirus e.g. increasing notice period to 6 months “meaning renters now served notice can stay in their homes over winter, with time to find alternative support or accommodation”. Announced by the government 10 September 2020.

New Kickstart scheme from 1 September 2020

The Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds.

Apprenticeships during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

1 September 2020. This government information sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and so on. Added resources about redundancy for employers and apprentices and information on the use of face coverings.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers – change from 1 September 2020

This government guidance explains the information that employers need to provide to claim for their employees’ wages.  The guide has been updated to reflect changes to the scheme from Tuesday 1 September.

New payment for people on low incomes who have to self-isolate in highest risk areas

Details from the government include:

  • Payments of up to £182 to be made to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts
  • Scheme to start first in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham
  • Starting Tuesday 1 September
  • Available to people currently receiving either Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit
  • It will not reduce any other benefits that they receive.

TUC response: £13 a day isn’t enough - isolating workers need proper sick pay

Various related government guidance - recently released

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re employed and cannot work

Published updated guidance on when you must stay at home and may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to the Care Act 2014

Change made 1 September 2020. ‘Care Act easements: guidance for local authorities’ has been updated to include reference to advocates, introduce the Care Act easements notification form and reflect changes to other published guidance. The Care Act easements notification form and ‘Care Act easements: supporting guidance’ have been added to the page.

COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities

Non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). 29 August 2020. Updated to reflect amended regulations and wider government public health advice.

Providing school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

28 August 2020. Updated information on school food from September 2020, universal infant free school meals, additional costs incurred before summer 2020, school food contracts and free school meals eligibility. Also includes guidance on providing water in school and support for pupils who have to stay at home due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Government has changed the law so most renters have a 6 month notice period

28 August 2020. Landlords must provide at least 6 months’ notice period prior to seeking possession through the courts in most cases.

SSP extended for those self-isolating prior to going into hospital for surgery

New regulation: No.892/2020 – in force from 26 Aug 2020

Housing: eviction ban extended until 20 September

21 August 2020. The ban on evictions was extended for another 4 weeks and a new 6 month notice periods to be in place until at least 31 March 2021. Government news. see also Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers by the House of Commons library

‘UK families bereaved by Covid-19 lose eligibility for welfare benefits’

Guardian report - Government’s Covid-19 £60,000 compensation payment breaches capital limits rules

Million of self employed to benefit from second stage of support scheme

17 August 2020. Government announcement: 'Millions of self-employed people whose livelihoods have been affected by coronavirus will be able to claim a second payment of up to £6,570 from today'.

Also see: How different circumstances affect the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

And: The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme claim service is now open.

How the deductions from benefit scheme works: guidance for creditors or suppliers

19 August 2020. Government guidance for current creditors or suppliers, for example, utility suppliers and landlords, on how the deductions from benefit scheme works. Updated the Third Party Payment enquiry form.

Coronavirus: Withdrawing crisis social security measures

This 13 August 2020 Commons Library briefing paper outlines the changes made by the Department for Work and Pensions in response to the coronavirus crisis, expectations for their withdrawal and the wider plans for recovery. 

Coronavirus and the social impacts on disabled people in Great Britain

20 August 2020. Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey on the social impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on disabled people in Great Britain. This release uses two waves of survey results covering 9 July to 19 July 2020 and includes indicators broken down by impairment type.

New help on offer for disabled people working from home during the pandemic

18 August 2020. Disabled people can now benefit from financial support to work from home, thanks to an extension to the Access to Work scheme.

Other related and useful information

Young carers and young adult carers: providing care during coronavirus

13 August 2020. Guidance and information for people under the age of 25 who are providing care for someone during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Check if you can get Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Find out about temporary changes that may affect you if you’re applying for, or already getting, Tax-Free Childcare or 30 hours free childcare.

14 August 2020. Updated to say – eligibility for Tax Free Childcare for those who don’t meet the minimum requirements has been extended to October 31 2020.

Roundup of recent DWP announcements on Coronavirus at 7 August 2020

By Disability Rights UK. Please visit www.disabilityrightsuk.org/coronavirus.

Benefit capped almost doubled since last quarter

6 August 2020. CPAG: – “The number of households affected by the benefit cap (up to May 2020) has almost doubled when compared to the previous quarter… Of the total number of households affected, the vast majority are families with children (87 per cent) with single parent families disproportionately affected (62 per cent). From govt: Benefit cap: number of households capped to May 2020 and Benefit cap statistics: background information and methodology

DWP’s Video Relay Service (VERS)

VRS enables British Sign Language (BSL) users to contact DWP via a BSL interpreter. Details of what it is and how to use it is attached. More on: Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

SSP extended for people self-isolating

In force from 5 August 2020. NHS guidance tells people to self-isolate for 10 days so SSP is extended from seven to 10 days. See the regulation SI.No.829/2020

From JRF on a new report by social metrics confirms the economic impact of COVID-19 will hit people living in poverty the hardest.

5 August 2020. The research, based on a survey of 80,000 people from across the UK, shows that people living in the deepest forms of poverty are more likely to have faced furlough, reduced hours and wages or lost their job.

TUC report: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed our benefits system to be unfit for purpose. It now needs a radical transformation.’

3 August 2020. Our social security net is failing during the Covid-19 crisis.

Government report

31 July 2020. Coronavirus Act report: July 2020

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee publishes its report: 'Universal Credit isn't working: proposals for reform'

31 July 2020. ‘Substantial reform of Universal Credit needed to protect the most vulnerable’

See the report by this cross-party House of Lords committee. Reported in the Guardian and BBC

After the ban: what will happen after the government has lifted the eviction moratorium?

29 July 2020. Report by Inside Housing

Government guidance released around 30 July 2020:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Local authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for people receiving direct payments

Ethnic minority employment bulletins (These bulletins provide information about ethnic minority employment, including research, case studies and strategic and practical advice. Change made. Added ethnic minority employment bulletin for July 2020).

Job Retention Bonus (Find out more information about the eligibility requirements and what employers need to do now to claim the bonus. Full guidance will be published by the end of September).

COVID-19: guidance for commissioners and providers of services for people who use drugs or alcohol

COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19: guidance for care of the deceased

Providing apprenticeships during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

ADDED EARLIER

Requirement to provide medical evidence to support ESA claims reintroduced

This was deferred but now reintroduced on a phased basis (new claims) from 10 July

Details 24 July 2020 DWP Touchbase

Changes to the furlough scheme from 1 August, 1 September and 1 October

From 1 August, employers will need to start paying the employer's national insurance and pension contributions.

More details from ACAS

DWP’s Work and Health programme

Launched in November 2017 the Work and Health Programme is DWP’s new contracted employment provision that will help persons who have a disability, the long-term unemployed (LTU) and specified disadvantaged groups to find sustained work. The Work and Health Programme will target those who are most likely to benefit from the additional support of the programme.

Loads of guidance and COVID-19 update

CPAG’s latest Mind the Gap briefing

Is available here: https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/mind-gaps-briefing-10 and covers:

  • EU nationals facing right to reside issues
  • Women who experience domestic violence being denied access to benefits
  • Problems retaining ‘worker’ status
  • Problems with DWP administration and appeal processes causing further delays

Work and Pensions Committee: 'Observations and recommendations on the department’s emergency response to COVID-19'

28 July 2020. The Secretary of State’s response to the SSAC COVID-19 measures letter has been added committee's website

What if I’ve had too much from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme?

28 July 2020. Government guidance updated with: What to do if you were not eligible for the grant or have been overpaid has been added.

See also this Self-employment guide by LITRG

Information for people who are caring, unpaid, for friends or family during the coronavirus outbreak.

28 July 2020. Updated guidance on face coverings, face masks and protective clothing. The following information has been added: examples of essential care under ‘Caring for someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable’; guidance on how to get tested; and contact details for NHS Volunteer Responders.

Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers

27 July 2020. This briefing paper by the House of Commons library explains measures the Government put in place during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households to retain their homes and enable local authorities to tackle the specific challenges faced by rough sleepers. The paper covers subsequent measures taken in light of the courts starting to consider possession claims again from 23 August and to prevent rough sleepers from returning to the streets. The paper is being updated regularly to take account of new developments. …

Changes to the 30 hours free entitlement to childcare

27 July 2020. Government guidance on what childcare services early years settings, childminders and local authorities need to provide during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Updated to reflect changes in legislation to the 30 hours free entitlement

Legacy Benefit Run-On from 22 July – but not for Tax Credits!

If someone’s existing claim of income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Income Support ends due to them applying for Universal Credit they will, from Wednesday, receive a new, additional payment, worth up to two weeks of their legacy award. This is similar to the existing Housing Benefit run on rules.

The one-time run-on payment does not need to be paid back, and will be paid automatically to eligible claimants when they claim Universal Credit for the first time. It will not affect the amount of Universal Credit they receive.

Run-on payments will also be made for other premiums claimants have been receiving prior to moving over to Universal Credit, including Enhanced Disability Premium, carer premium or ESA work-related activity component.

More information from Understanding Universal Credit from gov.uk

Link to the Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019

See the guidance ADM Memo 15/20 (which also covers how the run-on applies to managed migration onto UC)

But it will not apply to Tax Credits said minister to Parliament committee on 15.7.20

House of Commons library briefing – on the government’s withdrawal of benefit support

Coronavirus: Withdrawing crisis social security measures

22 July 20. Lists the changes made by the DWP in response to the coronavirus crisis, expectations for their withdrawal and the wider plans for recovery.…

SSP may no longer be available to people on the basis of shielding from 1 August 2020

We await more details on this: From LITRG.org.uk:As a result of the easing of lockdown measures, it would appear that SSP may no longer be available to people on the basis of shielding from 1 August as from this date, the guidance is that you can go to work, if you cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe.’ So they will then have to get a sick note from their GP instead. See also this guidance from the LGA

In this press release Plans to ease guidance for over 2 million shielding the government said that from 6 July, those who have been shielding will be able to spend time outdoors etc. The press release also said that ‘From Saturday 1 August, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield,’ but can still get support…

High Court ruling: Irrational to subject working mothers to the benefit cap solely because their pay comes 4-weekly not calendar monthly.

21 July 2020. Guardian: Universal credit earnings calculations unlawful, judge says  “The ruling – the second in less than a month in which the DWP’s guidelines for assessing universal credit earnings have been ruled unlawful – found the system was unreasonable and placed absurd conditions on benefit claimants who fell foul of it.” See an  explanation from CPAG and the  Judgment 

Some new briefings from the commons library

Coronavirus: Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

Details on this scheme

Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers

This briefing paper explains measures the Government has put in place during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households to retain their homes and to enable local authorities to tackle the specific challenges faced by rough sleepers. The paper is being updated regularly to take account of new developments …

Providing free school meals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

15 July 2020. Government guidance for schools and local authorities on free school meals arrangements during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Change made: Updated guidance and application form for the temporary extension of free school meals eligibility to NRPF groups. This includes the increase in the income threshold from £16,190 per annum to £31,500 per annum for London and £28,200 for areas outside of London.

Newcastle City library re-opens for some services 22 July 2020

With some access to computers - very important for those claiming Universal Credit and do not have access to their own computer. More details

Latest Universal Credit figures in Newcastle

At 11 June 2020, there were 33,328 people on UC in Newcastle. An increase of 417% since April 2017 (39 months). A 45% increase in three months since March 2020.

A COVID-19 conundrum: why are nearly half a million ‘employees’ not being paid?

16 July 20. Report by ONS

Legal claim by disabled people who were wrongly moved onto UC and didn't get protection

15 July 20. More than 300 severely disabled people, represented by firm Leigh Day, have issued a claim in the High Court for lost income under the universal credit system. All of the group were moved on to the system before January, 2019 and lost the severe disability premium which they had previously claimed, which left them worse off. However, severely disabled people who have been moved on to universal credit since January 2019 have not missed out on the severe disability premium”

NB: if you know someone in this situation then get an appeal in as a look-alike case. If you don’t then – if this case is won, and then the person ‘claims’ it may only be paid from then!

Utilita’s Warm Home Discount scheme

Not strictly benefit but related and useful!

15 July 20. From our council’s Energy Officer: Utilita’s Warm Home Discount scheme will be open for applications for 1 week only between 5th-12th August 2020. Eligible Utilita customer in who meet the ‘broader group’ criteria & apply may be able to get £140 credited to their electricity account to help with costs over winter, full details on eligibility and applications on:

Other suppliers who participate in the Warm Home Discount scheme are expected to announce their ‘broader group’ qualifying criteria and open their schemes later in the year, usually around September/October.

ADDED EVEN EARLIER

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

14 July 20. Government guidance updated to confirm that the online service for the first grant is closed. Included further information about the second and final grant.

Latest announcement about Jobcentres and Claimant Commitment interviews by government minister in Parliament

13 July 20: ‘As we re-introduce claimant commitments we are initially conducting these interviews by phone and testing a 30-minute commitment appointment. We will evaluate this testing and as with all policies we will keep this continually under review. Jobcentre Plus offices continue to remain open to help vulnerable claimants who may not be able to access support through the phone or their journal. The work search reviews will continue with the timings of the existing intervention regime where work coaches have the option to pick from a range of appointment lengths. The Department is continually assessing the service being offered to customers and we continue to keep staff numbers under review as part of our response to the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market. We are rapidly making provisions to return to face-to-face appointments with work coaches to support jobseekers as part of our reopening on jobcentre’s in line with public health guidance across the country.

We have already committed to increasing the number of Work Coaches and Case Managers and recruitment is already underway.’

See other news below

COVID-19 Summer Food Fund

13 July 20. Guidance for schools and local authorities on providing vouchers to support pupils eligible for free school meals over the summer holiday period during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

See also: free healthy meals and enriching activities throughout the summerStreetGames is the coordinator in Newcastle, and Gateshead Council is the coordinator in Gateshead.      

Financial assistance abroad

13 July 20.Guidance on what you can do and who you can contact if you need financial help abroad, including during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Updated to reflect changes in how to apply for an emergency loan if you’re abroad and in need due to coronavirus restrictions

Coming to the UK for seasonal agricultural work on English farms

13 July 20. Advice for seasonal agricultural workers coming to England to pick fruit and vegetables on farms, and their employers. Updated with further information on providing food parcels and free meals in further education.

Government plans for Britain to bounce back

13 July 20. Brief details:

  • Doubling the number of frontline Work Coaches to 27,000 by March 2021 to support people looking for work including helping them pivot into new sectors and making sure they access any additional support they need including training and work experience.
  • A £2 billion Kickstart Scheme will provide high quality, 6 month placements from Autumn this year. Funding available for each six-month job placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week – and employers will be able to top this wage up. The scheme will be focused on supporting young people who are on Universal Credit and at risk of long term unemployment.
  • An Expanded Youth Offer to support 18 to 24 year olds, this will include a 13 week programme and once completed participants will be encouraged to take up work related training or an apprenticeship and further support will be provided through Youth Employment Coaches and Youth Hubs based in the community.
  • Expanding the Work and Health programme to provide personalised, light touch support for up to 6 months for those who have been unemployed for three months.  
  • We’re increasing participation in our sector-based work academies programmes, aiming to support 40,000 jobseekers to get the right skills for the roles that are on offer.
  • £150 million to boost the flexible support fund and allow jobcentres to put in place the right support for their community and to increase capacity of the rapid response service that can be deployed for large local redundancies.
  • Job finding support service The government will provide £40 million to fund external capacity to introduce a job finding support service in Great Britain.
  • We are developing a new large-scale support offer, targeted at those who are out of work for longer periods and in need of support.

Response from Disability Rights UK

How to join telephone and video hearings during coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

10 July 20. Use this guide if you’ve been asked to join a hearing by telephone or video using BT MeetMe, Skype for Business or Cloud Video Platform (CVP) during the coronavirus outbreak

New improved Universal Credit change for social landlords to be introduced next month

10 July 20. By Inside Housing. Universal Credit systems will be changed so that social landlords receive direct rent payments on the same day that tenants are paid the rest of their benefits from next month, the government has announced. More details from National Housing Federation including letter from Neil Couling - 'head' of Universal Credit

DWP: Improved complaints handling

From 9 July 2020 a new centralised team, made up of experienced complaint handlers, will triage the complaints and prioritise those that are the most serious or from vulnerable claimants. More information about this new process can be found on the complaints procedure page.

Universal Credit: getting to first payment. Major Nat Audit Office report

10 July 20 e.g. explains how the process of getting to first payment works for Universal Credit, and consider its impact on claimants

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prisons

9 July 20. This page provides guidance for families and friends of those in prison in England and Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.

The impact of COVID19 on Caring

9 July 20. On carer and care for.

Pension Credit: technical guidance

8 July 20. A detailed guide to Pension Credit for advisers and others

House of Commons library briefing papers

Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?

This briefing paper considers evidence of private landlords' reluctance to let to prospective tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit/Universal Credit. The paper looks at the reasons behind this reluctance and action being taken to challenge landlords/agents who operate a "no DSS" policy.  

NB see the 'landmark ruling',  No DSS: Landmark court ruling declares housing benefit discrimination is unlawful from shelter

Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers

This briefing paper explains measures the Government has put in place during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households to retain their homes and to enable local authorities to tackle the specific challenges faced by rough sleepers. The paper is being updated regularly to take account of new developments.

Food Banks in the UK

Please note: for information on accessing food banks and food parcels during the pandemic please see our briefing Coronavirus: Support for household finances. For an account of developments in food bank activity over the crisis period see section 7 of this paper, Food Banks in the UK. Recent research means we have increasing amounts of data on food banks, giving us a fuller picture of their provision across the UK, and providing a more detailed picture of the characteristics of food bank users. …

Recovery of benefit overpayments are restarting

7 July 2020. Government press release. These were suspended in March 2020.

New Benefit Bulletin

6 July 2020. New Benefit Bulletin for professionals and volunteers - with the latest on coronavirus and benefits, other benefit changes, news, issues and top tips.

Sign up to receive it on our webpage: Information for professionals and volunteers - financial inclusion

Health and disability benefit face to face assessments, reviews and reassessments

In March these were suspended for three months. On 6 July, the government announced face to face assessments would remain suspended, but some review and reassessment activity would gradually resume from July for PIP and DLA - with the DWP starting to contact people. People are also encouraged not to delay making a claim and they too will be contacted. For more details see the government press release

Work related activity and jobcentres opening - moving to a new normal?

In March, work search and availability for work requirements were suspended. The Claimant Commitment was relatively cursory, requirements to attend the jobcentre and other activities were largely dropped and sanctions were minimal, although claimants were expected to respond to questions and check any UC ‘to do’s’ and recovery of overpayments was suspended.

Recently, there have been government announcements about reintroducing some work related requirements, sanctions and the re-opening of Jobcentres. We await more detail but in the meantime, here are those announcements:

29 June 2020 Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Therese Coffey announcement to Parliament

Around the same time, the government removed the wording from their various UC guidance e.g. Universal Credit and your Claimant Commitment: “You will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment because of coronavirus (COVID-19)” and added the words to their New Style Jobseeker's Allowance “you need to take reasonable steps to look for work while following the guidance on working safely during coronavirus”.

More details in the DWP guidance Coronavirus Touchbase Special such as no sanctions will be used until claimants have an up-to-date claimant commitment and “After that, a sanction will only be used where a claimant has not provided good reason for meeting the agreed requirements in the claimant commitment. Claimants who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc. will have their claimant commitment tailored to reflect their circumstances and will not be asked to do anything unreasonable” and “We are working with local managers to start expanding our service offer in jobcentres to help get Britain back into work. Work Coaches are calling claimants – no one needs to contact us.”

Our local Jobcentre Partnership Manager has advised that the details of this is being worked through and will provide more details as soon as possible.

Various sets new and updated guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re self-employed and getting less work or no work

2 July 2020. Guidance for people who are self-employed and getting less work or no work because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Added that interviews and assessments will be done by telephone. You should only go to a jobcentre when asked to do so.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you were employed and have lost your job

As above

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re employed and cannot work

As above

Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re already getting benefits

As above

Universal Credit and childcare

2 July 2020. This guide explains more about Universal Credit and childcare. Guidance updated to provide more information on paying for childcare and claiming the costs back through Universal Credit.

Wrongly advised to claim Universal Credit and find you are worse off? Court of Appeal ruling

Universal Credit is replacing six other means-tested benefits like Tax Credits, which are referred to as ‘legacy benefits.’ Sometimes people on those benefits have been advised to claim Universal Credit and found they are worse off. For these people there is no present rule to top them up, called ‘transitional protection’, but there are some developments on this issue.

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the failure to provide transitional protection for claimants who transferred to Universal Credit following an incorrect legacy benefit decision was unlawful. CPAG said “In this case, our clients (including a single mother with a disabled daughter) had no choice but to claim Universal Credit when their previous benefits had been wrongly stopped. When it was then found that their benefits shouldn’t have been stopped in the first place, they were stuck on Universal Credit with less support”. For more details see the CPAG press release and a link to the case.  

NB. On 5 May the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey MP, told Parliament the Government is “actively looking” at what can be done for Tax Credit claimants who have lost entitlement due to applying for Universal Credit”.

This issue was reported by the BBC with news of further legal action in the Guardian and from Leigh Day solicitors.

We await news from the Government on this.

Disabled man dies due to lack of food during lockdown

25 June 2020 report by Disability Rights UK. See also ‘Abandoned, forgotten and ignored’ – report shows Coronavirus' impact on disabled people, by Inclusion London

Extra funding for service charities as veterans’ support is stepped up

25 June 2020. Today the Office for Veterans’ Affairs (OVA) and the MOD have announced that 100 Armed Forces charities will benefit from nearly £6million of extra funding to support serving personnel, veterans and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) and prisons

23 June 2020. This page provides guidance for families and friends of those in prison in England and Wales during the coronavirus pandemic. - restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic remain in place.

Disability and health benefits processes - suspensions to continue

In March the Government suspended, for three months, face-to-face assessments and award reviews and reassessments. On 22 June the Government told Parliament “Reviews and reassessments remain suspended while we review what activity we can gradually start reintroducing in line with the latest public health advice”.

Speaking to the DWP on the claimant's behalf is possible

It is possible to ring the DWP on behalf of someone via a three-way or conference call and other methods. For details see the June 2020 Benefit Bulletin.

Free school meals - reminder to claim and help over summer

A reminder that some families need to claim free school meals and that schools will be giving free school lunch vouchers over the summer. See this government guidance and details on the COVID Summer Food Fund

Scams Awareness Fortnight

Advice by Citizens Advice

Tax Credit renewals - most will be automatic - but check

From 'revenuebenefits' 15 April. 'This year, HMRC will automatically renew all tax credits claims apart from a small number they have identified as needing some more information from. This means that around 3.9 million customers will have their claim auto renewed. These customers will receive an auto renewal pack and they will only need to contact HMRC if their details differ from those quoted in the renewals pack.

Approximately 150,000 customers who HMRC need some more information from will be sent a reply required renewal pack. These people will need to complete their renewal by 31 July 2020 in the normal way (online, using HMRC's app, by telephone or by post).

More guidance, including renewing tax credits on-line, is available on the GOV.UK website

WARNING: Please be aware that anyone who currently claims tax credits and makes a claim for Universal Credit, their tax credit award will be closed from the day before their Universal Credit claim is made. Once they have made a Universal Credit claim it is not possible to go back to tax credits for most people.'

British Sign Language (BSL) benefit videos and 'video relay service' for contacting DWP

DWP have produced a range of BSL videos on coronavirus and benefit changes and the Video Relay Service is now available to assist people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired for calls to the DWP helplines and services. For details see the June 2020 Benefit Bulletin.

COVID-19: understanding the impact on BAME communities

16 June 2020. Govt summary of stakeholder insights into factors affecting the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

How the deductions from benefit scheme works: guidance for creditors or suppliers

16 June 2020. Gov guidance for current creditors or suppliers, for example, utility suppliers and landlords, on how the deductions from benefit scheme works. Change made: You now need to contact the Third Party Payments call centre by phone. 9 June change: DWP is able to accept new requests again for creditors and suppliers to receive payment schedules electronically.

Vulnerable Children National Charities Strategic Relief Fund

16 June 2020. Details of the £7.6 million Vulnerable Children National Charities Strategic Relief Fund and how to apply.

Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (extension)

12 June 2020. New government guidance and the extension of this scheme

How different circumstances affect the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

12 June 2020. Updated guidance including the scheme extension

Councils call for suspension of 'No Recourse to Public Funds' rule during COVID-19 crisis

 12 June 2020. ‘The No Recourse to Public Funds condition needs to be suspended by government so that all vulnerable individuals are entitled to receive support during the coronavirus crisis, councils urge today.’

Benefit claims under terminal illness rules and the form DS1500 - process

11 June 2020. Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Justin Tomlinson answer in Parliament:

“DS1500 forms have never been a requirement for a claim under the terminal illness rules but remain the quickest and most appropriate route to gather evidence to support entitlement in these cases."

"Where it is not possible to supply a DS1500 in support of a terminal illness claim we will continue to consider alternative evidence and work flexibly and quickly with the claimant and/or their clinician(s) to make a quick determination. Supporting people who are terminally ill is an absolute priority for the Department and we will continue to process claims as quickly as possible.”

ONS survey on the impacts of Coronavirus on disabled people

11 June 2020.

CPAG's latest Mind the Gaps briefing

11 June 2020. CPAG’s latest 'Mind the Gaps' briefings which highlight some of the gaps in support that exist for children and families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. This edition covers:

  • Ill and disabled claimants losing out due to delays in work capability assessments
  • Claimants left without any income while the DWP investigates cases of fraud

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: people receiving direct payments

10 June 2020. How the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) can be used by direct payment holders who employ people for their care. Some changes

Genuine HMRC contact and recognising phishing emails and texts

9 June 202. Government guidance. Find out how to recognise when contact from HMRC is genuine, and how to recognise phishing or bogus emails and text messages. Information added about SMS text messages for Tax credit.

Parents returning to work after extended leave eligible for furlough

9 June 2020. HM Treasury announcement. People on paternity and maternity leave who return to work in the coming months will be eligible for the government’s furlough scheme

Moratorium on evictions in England and Wales extended until 23 August

6 June 2020. Government announcement - with tenants expected to pay off arrears built up during the crisis later.

Government minister: ‘We are suspending evictions from social & private rented accommodation by a further two months. Eviction hearings will not be heard in courts until the end of August and no-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus.’

HB entitlement can continue for those stuck outside country due to travel restrictions

5 June 2020. Government guidance LA Welfare Direct 6/2020

Food Banks in the UK

4 June 2020. Report by Parliament's commons library. An account of developments in food bank activity over the crisis period. Recent research means we have increasing amounts of data on food banks, giving us a fuller picture of their provision across the UK, and providing a more detailed picture of the characteristics of food bank users.

See also the various House of Commons guides to coronavirus and ... benefits, redundancy, Job Retention Scheme, returning to work, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, rough sleepers, no recourse to public funds and a lot more

Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Gov guidance updated 4 June 2020

Extensive legal guidance on returning to work including for disabled people

Updated. By a team of barristers - Cloisters Chambers. Link added to Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation page

Joint call to Government for a Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme that can help us all weather this storm

3 June 2020. By anti-poverty charities (Trussell Trust, CPAG, Independent Food Aid Network, The Children’s Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, StepChange and Turn2us). Trussell Trust: “food banks in our network had seen an 81% increase in the last two weeks of March. We expect to see an overall 20% year on year rise, so this is still a significant increase. Notably, the increase of support provided to children was 122%.”

  • Also around 70 organisations have written to the Treasury asking for a £10 increase to child benefit
  • CPAG and the Church of England have produced a new report on the impact of the two-child limit after three years: No one knows what the future can hold, and
  • University of York have carried out a statistical analysis of the impact on child and household poverty of the £20 UC/WTC top up and modelled the impact of extending it to JSA/ ESA recipients and increasing child benefit.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme  (SEISS) and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to be extended

Press release 29 May 2020

See  coronavirus and benefits page for more details

Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

29 May 2020. Indicators from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering the period 21 May to 24 May 2020 to understand the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on people, households and communities in Great Britain.

Universal Credit 'surplus earnings' rule

29 May 2020. DWP reply to Social Security Advisory Committee about this problematic rule. More details on our page Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you under Universal Credit

Work and Pension Committee urge PM to lift NRPF conditions during pandemic

28 May 2020. Generally, if a person’s immigration status includes ‘no recourse to public funds’ it usually means they cannot claim or receive most benefits. Parliament’s Work and Pension Committee urged PM to lift NRPF conditions during pandemic

Recently, the High Court found that the government’s ‘no recourse to public funds’ policy breaches human rights law.

We await the government's response

UC Childcare Guide

28 May 2020. This guide has been updated to include information on what childcare costs can be claimed during the Coronavirus outbreak

New legislation. Deemed to be sick for SSP if been in contact with a person with coronavirus…

28 May 2020. For more details see our page Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation

New legislation clarifying how Universal treats income from the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

From 21 May 2020. For more details see our page Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation

Mortgage 'holiday' extended

22 May 2020.

The Financial Conduct Authority has published new guidance which enables home owners to:

  • Extend a mortgage holiday for a further 3 months
  • Extend the application deadline for a mortgage holiday until 31 October 

Customers will also be able request reduced payments or switch to interest only mortgages and extend their mortgage terms to enable them to pay similar instalments to before the coronavirus outbreak. The new guidance also states “Firms should not commence or continue repossession proceedings against customers before 31 October 2020”

New legislation changes regarding Tax Credits and coronavirus

22 May 2020. More details on Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation page

Free train travel for those fleeing domestic abuse

Any woman who needs to travel to find refuge from domestic violence can do so for free on any UK train. The cost of the ticket will be covered by the relevant train operator.

Universal Credit surplus earnings rule – auto reclaim

21 May 2020. The UC surplus earnings rule generally means that after UC is refused due to too much income, some ‘surplus earnings’ are carried over to the next UC monthly assessment period and the claimant usually has to keep applying for UC each month until the surplus earnings have ‘worn out’ or reduced enough for UC to be payable again. From 21 May 2020, those on Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or Self Employment Income Support Scheme where this happens an automatic reclaim will take place, where UC claim is automatically considered.

See the guidance Memo ADM 10/20

Updated guidance on disability benefit reviews and assessments easements

15 May 2020. The government continues to clarify suspensions of assessments and extended awards. Details on our page Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

DWP is arranging for all customers in shielded cohort and hold a Post Office card account, who are living alone to receive contact from a Visiting Officer or their local authority

15 May 2020. Statement in Parliament by Minister for Financial Inclusion Guy Oppenheim

New Style Employment and Support Allowance - updated guidance

15 May 2020. Updated guidance on claiming this contributory benefit including advice to claim by phone

Free School Meals - updated guidance on claiming for additional costs, providing meals or food parcels through your food provider and ordering vouchers to cover multiple weeks

15 May 2020. Changes made to guidance for schools and local authorities on free school meals arrangements during the coronavirus outbreak.

latest Mind the Gaps briefing  from CPAG’s Early Warning System

15 May 2020. This week's briefing focuses on the benefit cap and in particular:

  • those who miss out on the increases to universal credit and local housing allowance because of the cap
  • families who were previously on benefits but are now not deemed to be working enough
  • families claiming benefits for the first time 

Landlord request for a managed payment or rent arrears deduction (from their tenant's Universal Credit)

13 May 2020. Form UC47 is now online

If a tenant is having difficulty paying their rent, landlords can apply for a 'Managed Payment to Landlord' using the 'Apply for a Direct Rent Payment' service to request payment of rent from a tenant’s Universal Credit.

See also government guidance: Universal Credit and landlords and Universal Credit: Alternative Payment Arrangements

Problems with Self Employed Income Support Scheme

12 May 2020, LITRG identify some issues with the process which might mean self employed missing out on the grant:

  • some people not getting letter from HMRC – possibly because they don’t have the person’s up to date information
  • the online checker only checks some of the eligibility conditions and may give an incorrect result

And recommends people read the government guidance and their guidance

Furlough scheme extended till the end of October

12 May 2020. The government's Job Retention Scheme remains open till then.

Recognising a call from the DWP

11 May 2020. DWP informs claimants they will ring them with a recognisable number (0800 023 2635) rather than 'number withheld'. More details in Coronavirus and benefits webpage

Can now claim Pension Credit online

7 May 2020. As well as other usual methods

Mind the gap

7 May 2020. CPAG highlighting gaps in support for various groups - briefing 4

Social Security and Child Support Appeals (deals with benefit appeals) 

7 May 2020. 'If you have a hearing listed, we will contact you and anyone else involved to discuss any changes, you do not need to contact us.

If you have an enquiry: Email contactsscs@justice.gov.uk. We will respond to all emails as soon as possible.

Further Information: Visit www.gov.uk/appeal-benefit-decision/submit-appeal to appeal a benefit decision online.'

Unpaid carers now added to list of essential workers

6 May 2020. News items from Contact. The government has now included unpaid carers, like parents with disabled children, to its list of essential workers and those prioritised for coronavirus testing in England. You can find out more about who is eligible for testing, how to get tested and the different types of test available at gov.uk.

Eligibility for government childcare offers protected

Press release 5 May 2020

Parents who are normally eligible for the government’s childcare offers will continue receiving the entitlements during the summer term if their income levels fall due to the impact of coronavirus. The government has announced that any working parent usually eligible for 30 hours free childcare or tax-free childcare will remain eligible if they fall below the minimum income requirement due to COVID-19. Subject to Parliamentary approval, parents who are critical workers will also remain eligible for these entitlements if their income has increased over the maximum threshold during the COVID-19 pandemic

See also New guidance from HMRC gov.uk on Tax Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare during the coronavirus pandemic

DWP add Video Relay Service to their complaints procedure

5 May 2020. Contact options added for deaf people using BSL sign language 

The Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions statement to Parliament on the DWP's response to coronavirus

4 May 2020. Lists previously introduced changes, which are described in the coronavirus and benefits webpages

New or noteworthy items:

We’ve created a new website to guide people. It’s called jobhelp.dwp.gov.uk and we have 58,200 vacancies advertised.

'...DWP will stop any new benefit and pension claimants from using the Post Office Card Account (POCA) from 11 May. Current customers who currently receive payment through a Post Office card account will see no change and will continue to receive payment into their accounts for the remainder of the contract period. We can use the HMG Payment Exception Service for people who cannot access any bank account.'

Working Tax Credit can continue longer if you drop your hours

News story 4 May 2020 

You have to work a certain number of hours a week to get Working Tax Credit but the time you can continue to get it despite a drop in hours has been extended. 'We will treat customers as working their normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme close, even if they are not using either scheme.' See our other page on coronavirus and benefits for more details

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

Guidance 4 May 2020. HMRC will this week start to contact people who may be eligible for the COVID-19 Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and has launched a checker to find out if you can make a claim

Anti-poverty charities call for new emergency income support scheme and benefit improvements

1 May 2020. Food banks record spike in need as coalition of anti-poverty charities call for strong lifeline to be thrown to anyone who needs it from trusselltrust.org. Includes, lifting the cap and 2 child policy, increase benefits for children

Aldi and McColl's added to the supermarkets taking part in the free school meals voucher scheme

Updated guidance 29.4.20

Tool to help you find what financial support is available to you if you are or were recently, in work

By Child Poverty Action Group

See also their second briefing highlighting the gaps in support and also the Work and Pensions Committee's gathering of over 6,000 people's experiences in claiming benefit during the pandemic

Furloughed workers to receive full parental leave entitlement

Press release 24 April 2020

Furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings rather than a furloughed pay rate. For example, Statutory maternity pay, adoption, shared parental pay and so on.

This is brought in by legislation SI.No.450/2020 from 25 April 2015

Work and pensions Committee hearing

On 23 April 2020

Disability benefit awards to be extended by six months if due for reassessment in next three months

And, “For those new claimants, the terminally ill, and for those who ask for it, we are seeking to do it by telephone, by paper based reviews adopting a very sympathetic, claimant supportive view of this because we recognise that there are increasing challenges to be able to get adequate medical evidence so we are relying very much on the claimant’s case as they explain it.”

Claimants can still request reassessment if their health deteriorated and claimant thinks entitled. But note that your award can go up or down if you ask the DWP to look at your award.

How Universal Credit treats payments under the self employed income support scheme is clarified

'We only take into account income received in the month in which it's received. My understanding of the SEISS is that payments will not be paid until June at the earliest ... If self-employed people need support now and claim universal credit, they'll get two months of universal credit without the SEISS payments being taken into account and we won't go back so there's no attribution ...

My advice to self-employed people with no other means of support ... is claim universal credit.'

Support for the bereaved

23 April 2020

New or amended government guidance

Free school meals guidance updated

- to include help for those with no recourse to public funds and changed criteria

Aldi joins the list of stores that will take the vouchers

National Insurance numbers allocated to adult overseas nationals to September 2019

Post Office launches new cash delivery option to help the most vulnerable

Post office press release 22 April 2020

"Cash delivery payments are now available for the most vulnerable individuals thanks to the Post Office in partnership with the DWP.

The cash payments are available to the DWP to use to support their most vulnerable customers, initially in England, who are shielding because of the risk of infection should they leave their home.

When notified by DWP of those individuals who require a cash delivery, the Post Office will ensure cash is sent to their home using Royal Mail Special Delivery and that it arrives by 9pm the following day. This means that those individuals who must avoid leaving the home because of the risk of infection receive the cash that they need."

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme up and running

Announcement 20 April 2020

Reminder that it also applies to employees who are unable to come to work due to caring responsibilities resulting from Covid-19 - from Contact

New video service for deaf claimants accessing Universal Credit

Press release 20 April 2020

See also new DWP web page for those who have accessibility difficulties - and a summary on our what the changes mean for you webpage

New Style Employment and Support Allowance

News 20 April 2020:

You may be able to claim New Style Employment and Support Allowance with, or instead of Universal Credit, depending on your National Insurance record.

Guidance updated with link to new service to apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance online and for new eligibility conditions introduced because of coronavirus

What parents and carers need to know about schools and education during the coronavirus outbreak

Guidance for parents and carers on educational provision, free school meals and so on. Updated information on support for parents, online resources. 17 April 2020

Universal Credit claimants to verify identity through Government Gateway

"People applying for Universal Credit will now be able to use their existing Government Gateway account to confirm their identity, helping to speed up their claim.

The move ... will be available to those who have used the Government Gateway in the last 12 months to access their Personal Tax Accounts, including to check their tax credits, send a personal tax return, or check their state pension.

Others applying for the benefit can continue to confirm their identity using GOV.UK Verify.”

Note 1: The 'Government Gateway' was replaced by a several services for different purposes. The link to this one is https://www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account

Note 2: See also 'Don't call us - we'll call you' below

'What to do if you were employed and have lost your job' Updated guidance:

Changed Job Retention Scheme cut off date (to be on pay roll and notified to HMRC by) to 19 March 2020 (from 28 February) 

Don’t call us – we’ll call you

Press release 9 April 2020

People making new claims for Universal Credit will no longer need to call the DWP as part of the process “although anyone who is unable to get online can still call the department as normal.”

Along with this, their twitter feed animation says:

“Want to claim UC – no longer have to ring them

Make claim online

Rest assured we have received your claim. We will call you if we need to check any of the info you have given us

Keep checking online journal in case we have messaged you”

Once you’ve completed your online application, you can rest assured we have received your claim and we will call you if we need to check any of the information you’ve given us.”

I.e. this will release the line for people whom are unable to claim on- line: “although anyone who is unable to get online can still call the department as normal.”

Support towards funeral expenses to increase

From 8th April, help to meet the costs of funeral expenses such as coffins and funeral directors’ fees will increase from £700 to £1,000

Don’t miss out, claim Child Benefit by phone or post, HMRC tells new parents

Press release 7 April 2020

Recovery of benefit overpayment suspended

Press release 3 April 2020

Temporarily pause of the recovery of benefit overpayments, for three months. So some benefits will go up

Deductions for the recovery of Universal Credit and legacy benefit overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit debts will be paused.

The majority of deductions will be suspended automatically, however if you currently make repayments through a Bank Standing Order, Bank Giro Credit or through online banking, please contact your bank to cancel your arrangement.

The recovery of advances by deduction from Universal Credit payments will continue.

Also

  • Local Authorities will suspend referral of Housing Benefit overpayments.
  • The transfer of Tax Credit debt from HMRC has already been suspended.
  • We are stopping debt recovery activity as soon as possible. This includes all benefit-related overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit debts. Many activities will cease immediately but others may take longer to implement.
  • For citizens who are not on benefits, we have directed private sector debt collection agencies to stop their activity for Debt Management customers.
  • We are also suspending voluntary debt repayments and recovery by Direct Earnings Attachments.”

Voucher scheme launches for schools providing free school meals

Press release 31 March 2020

Weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus

Government support for landlords and tenants

New guidance webpage - gets updated

"...no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home."

Work and Pensions Committee questions Secretary of State on DWP response to coronavirus

Wed 25 March 2020

Government confirms £500 million hardship fund will provide council tax relief for vulnerable households

Press release 24 March 2020

£500 million Hardship Fund will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus.

Claimants are asked to apply online as jobcentres limit access

Press release 23 March 2020

People are being urged to use online services before turning to the telephone for help with their benefit claim

Coronavirus update – benefit reviews and reassessments suspended

Press release 23 March 2020

Reviews and reassessments for disability benefits are being suspended for the next three months

Chancellor announces worker's support package

Press release 20 March 2020

Includes:

  • Job retention scheme for furloughed workers (sent home but kept on payroll with 80% of pay)
  • Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits will be increased by £20 a week from 6 April 2020
  • Local Housing Allowance (Housing Benefit for private tenants) to be increased.

Government agrees measures with energy industry to support vulnerable people through COVID-19

Press release 19 March 2020

Proposals agreed to ensure vulnerable customers who may fall into debt remain supplied with energy while in self isolation - plus other help

Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

Press release 18 March 2020

Payment Holidays offered to Help to Buy homeowners affected by Covid-19

Press release 18 March 2020

Face to face health assessments suspended for those on disability and sickness benefits

Press release 16 March 2020

This includes Personal Independence Payment and the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance and some on Universal Credit, including face to face assessments for new claims. See also statement in Parliament: "Claimants do not need to take any action, we will be contacting claimants to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements as soon as possible. This may involve either telephone or paper-based assessments."

Benefits claimants and employee support

Press release 13 March 2020

An early announcement describing the range of extra support and measures "being put in place to help workers, benefit claimants and businesses affected by coronavirus."

Claimants will not be sanctioned if they can't make an appointment due to self isolating and let their work coach know

Parliamentary statement 9 March 2020

Statutory Sick Pay will be made available from day one when self-isolating, instead of day four

Press release 4 March 2020

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