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 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 - 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 (see 'wrongly advised...' below)

RECENTLY ADDED

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.

EARLIER NEWS

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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