Coronavirus

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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 including details about the Jobcentre and other DWP contacts

Note. If you are you a professional or volunteer and want to keep on top of the latest benefit changes sign up to our bi-monthly 'Benefit Bulletin'

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

Pinned item: You could be better off claiming Universal Credit but you may also be worse off

The DWP are warning people about claiming Universal Credit incase it makes them worse off - via Twitter and Facebook. 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 - Therese Coffey - Minister for Work and Pensions told Parliament that she is ‘actively looking’ to see what could be done. Details in reports by the BBC , Guardian and news of a legal challenge

NEWLY ADDED

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

Universal Credit 'surplus earnings' rule

18 May 2020. Advisory Committee writes to head of DWP about this problematic rule. More details on our page Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you under Universal Credit

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.

Updated guidance on disability benefit reviews and assessments easements

The government continue 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

EARLIER

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

Maternity Allowance changed to allow furloughed women to satisfy earnings rule - during coronavirus

7 May 2020. New DWP staff guidance

Change to earnings condition so that a furloughed woman is treated as if her average earnings were what she would have been paid (had she not been furloughed)

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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