Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

The aim of this page is to provide you with useful information and advice on coronavirus and benefits and other related changes and how they affect you. It does not give advice on the virus itself. Also see the City Council information above

We will try to keep it as up to date as we possibly can

Please also see these related pages:

Coronavirus and benefits - guidance and legislation

Coronavirus and benefits - news

Get advice - Benefits and money advice services in Newcastle. These services have changed their services due to coronavirus

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'

Coronavirus and benefits - what the changes mean for you

This relates to the special benefit rules for coronavirus. Don't forget there are other benefits you may be entitled to, so check our other pages such as benefit information and Universal Credit.

Changes are regularly made so keep checking back and also see our page Coronavirus and benefits - news

A, description on the support measures and a withdrawal of those measures by the House of Commons library

Contents

Self Employed
- Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and it's extension
- Self employment and Universal Credit

Employed and employment
- Job Support Scheme expansion
- Job Support Scheme
- Job Retention Bonus
- Job Retention Scheme - 'furloughed'
- Kickstart Scheme
- Working Tax Credit
- Statutory Sick Pay

Test and Trace Payment - and new self isolation duty

Help with rent
- Housing Benefit
- Local Housing Allowance
- Discretionary Housing Payments

Council Tax help

Employment and Support Allowance

Jobseekers Allowance

Universal Credit

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other disability and sickness benefits
- Reviews, reassessments, telephone interviews and making a claim
- Telephone health and work capability assessments. Internal guidance at October 2020

Carers

Older people

Having a baby
- Grants, Child Benefit and so on

Funeral costs and support for the bereaved

Prisoners 

Get help with benefits if you have accessibility needs

Deaf people

Contact with the DWP and Jobcentres, exceptions, recognising a call from DWP and speaking to the DWP on the claimant's behalf 

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

Work search requirements and sanctions - restarted from July 2020

Payment of benefit
- Cash delivery payments by post office for those shielding

Deductions from benefits paused then restarted from July 2020

Tribunal service changes

Other related issues and help
- Free school meals
- Free food and foodbanks
- Emergency help
- Employment
  - Including support in Newcastle
- Housing
  - Hostels
  - Residential care
  - Housing advice and support in Newcastle
  - Mortgage holidays
- Debt and money advice
- Domestic violence
- Energy, fuel and water
- People from abroad
- Childcare
- Students

Self-employed

- Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and it's extension

Initially, the SEISS allowed the self-employed to claim a taxable grant covering March, April and May, worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month (capped at £7,500 in total), where they had lost trading/partnership trading profits due to coronavirus. They must have submitted a tax return for 2018/19 by 23 April 2020. This scheme was extended to include a second grant covering June, July and August worth 70% of trading profits (capped at £6,570 in total). The closing date for applications is 19 October 2020.

SEISS extension:

Announced 7 October 2020. The extension will provide two grants and will last for six months, from 1 November 2020 to 30 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

More details from government guidance, the Commons Library and the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG)

- Self employment and Universal Credit

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 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.

Note.

See 'warning' and more information about claiming Universal Credit below

If you are sick or affected by coronavirus, you may be entitled to claim the sickness benefit - New Style Employment and Support Allowance or if unemployed - New Style Jobseekers Allowance. Both depend on your national insurance contributions. Details below. Statutory Sick Pay is not available for the self employed.

These 'contributory' benefits can be ‘topped up’ by means tested benefits. This could involve claiming Universal Credit from the DWP and Council Tax reduction from your local council. Many self-employed are already on benefits like Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If income goes down, or if the Income Support scheme doesn’t apply, you should tell those benefit offices. 

More details from the ’Further Measures’ regulations SI 371/2020 which introduced this and other measures and government Universal Credit guidance.

Employed and employment

- Job Support Scheme expansion

Announced 9 October 2020. Employees whose employer has to shut down by law because of coronavirus for a period, can get two thirds of their wages up to a maximum of £2,100 a month. It lasts from 1 November 2020 for six months. More details from gov.uk. 

Cash grants for businesses required to close in local lockdowns also increased to up to £3,000 per month

More details from the Local Government Association and the BBC.

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

Job Support Scheme

Announced 24 September 2020. The Job Support Scheme replaces the furlough scheme below. From 1 November 2020 for six months, the government and employers can continue to top up three quarters of an employees' wages if they are they are working less due to coronavirus.

'The company will continue to pay its employee for time worked, but the cost of hours not worked will be split between the employer, the Government (through wage support) and the employee (through a wage reduction), and the employee will keep their job. The Government will pay a third of hours not worked up to a cap, with the employer also contributing a third.

Employers using the Job Support Scheme will also be able to claim the Job Retention Bonus if they meet the eligibility criteria.'

More details from the government  and the BBC

- Job Retention Bonus

This scheme is to encourage employers to keep on furloughed workers by paying them £1,000 for every employee they keep on until at least January 2021.  More details from gov.uk

- 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 UK's website.

- Job Retention Scheme – ‘furloughed’

If a business has had to close or scale back due to coronavirus this scheme helps employers keep staff on the payroll until the pandemic passes, rather than lay them off, and pay 80% of their wages of up to £2,500 a month. The scheme was extended to 31 October 2020 with some changes, such as allowing some furloughed workers to return part time from August. The deadline for employers to claim was 30 June 2020 (except for military reservists or those returning from statutory parental leave).

This furlough scheme is replaced by the Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020. See above.

Note. If this happens to you as an employee and are on a means tested benefit, you should notify the benefit office as changes in income may affect your benefit. Also, drops in income may mean other means tested benefits could be claimed such as Universal Credit or Council Tax Reduction.

For changes to the furlough scheme from 1 August, 1 September and 1 October see ACAS and more details from government guidance, LITRG and below

New HMRC coronavirus contact details and guidance on the extension

- Kickstart Scheme

From  2 September 2020, provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds.  Details from gov.uk

Details on these and other measures from the government announcement and responses from TUC and Disability Rights UK

- Working Tax Credit (WTC)

The basic amount of WTC was increased by £20 a week from 6 April 2020. See also Housing Benefit below.

To get Working Tax Credit you have to work a certain number of hours. A temporary drop below those hours are ignored for four weeks. This is extended. The government press release 4 May 2020 says:  '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.'

More details about Working Tax Credit and also see Universal Credit below

- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Employees who go on the sick and earn a certain amount (£120 a week or more from 6 April 2020) may be able to get SSP from their employer. If you think you have coronavirus or are self-isolating in line with government guidance then you can claim SSP and have it paid from day one, rather than day four - and after seven days of self certifying, you would then use an 'isolation note' - see below. 

On 1 August 2020 the rules changed for clinically vulnerable people who were told they were no longer required to shield and could return to work - as long as it is Covid secure - so were no longer entitled to SSP on that basis, unless they are self-isolating under government guidance. The guidance may be different for those in local lockdown arrangements.  They should get a letter from the government.

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 26 August 2020, SSP was extended for those self-isolating prior to going into hospital for surgery - see regulation SI.No.892/2020

If your employer tells you that you are not entitled to SSP because for example you do not earn enough, or your SSP has run out, then you may be able to claim the contribution based Employment and Support Allowance – also known as ‘New Style ESA’ – see below. Or, you may also be entitled to claim New Style Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) - see below. SSP, New Style ESA or New Style JSA can be ‘topped up’ by means tested benefits. This may involve claiming Universal Credit from the DWP (if not already on 'legacy benefits' - see below) and Council Tax reduction from your local council.

Many employees are already on benefits like Working Tax Credit, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit. If wages go down, you should tell those benefit offices. 

See 'warning' about Universal Credit below

More details about SSP and getting an 'isolation note'. See also guidance from ACAS and the guide from LITRG. See Employment and Support Allowance below.

See also Coronavirus (COVID-19): what to do if you’re employed and cannot work from the government

Test and Trace Payment - 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 the scheme 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

Help with rent

- Housing Benefit

To take into account the above WTC increase, from 6 April 2020, the Housing Benefit disregard of WTC is increased from £17.10 to £37.10 a week. This should be applied automatically by the local authority.

- Local Housing Allowance (LHA)

LHA is Housing Benefit for private tenants.

The maximum rent that is eligible for LHA is ‘capped’ at the 30th ‘percentile’ of local area market levels. This was frozen by the Budget 2015 but has been ‘reset’ - in other words increased, so that more Housing Benefit will be payable from 6 April 2020. The amount various for each area. If it applies, this increase should be applied automatically by the local authority.

- Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP)

If you receive Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and are finding it difficult to pay your rent you can apply for a DHP.

More details about Housing Benefit from Shelter

See more details and other help with housing including mortgage 'holidays' and ban on evictions below

Council Tax help

The government granted £500 million to councils to provide up to £150 help towards residents annual council tax bills during the pandemic. More details on the council's Council Tax Reduction Scheme

This is in addition to any 'normal' Council Tax Reduction you may be entitled to - which is based on your income.  

Also you may be entitled to a Council Tax Discount for being classed as living alone and so on. 

More details in government guidance (PDF)

Employment and support Allowance (ESA)

ESA is a benefit for those who are ‘unfit for work’. ESA has two parts. One is ‘means tested’ which tops you up if you have no or low income and is called ‘Income related ESA’. This is one of the six means tested benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit. Many people still receive it. The other kind is Contribution based ESA, called ‘New Style ESA’ which depends on your national insurance record. Make sure you call it ‘New Style ESA’ when you claim it. There have been several relaxations.

Requirement to provide medical evidence to support ESA claims was deferred but now reintroduced on a phased basis (new claims initially) from 10 July 2020.

However, 'you do not need to send a fit note if you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of coronavirus or because you or your child has coronavirus symptoms or self isolating because you or your child's come into contact with someone who might have coronavirus' - from the regulation S.I. 2020 No. 289 and government guidance here and here

For those affected by coronavirus, ESA is payable from day one rather than the normal 7 waiting days. More details. This removal of the 'waiting days' was extended to 12 May 2021 by this regulation.

More details 24 July 2020 DWP Touchbase and government webpage

The New Style ESA claim form can now be claimed online or by ringing the DWP.

Normally claiming ESA would often include a 'Work Capability Assessment' and ongoing reviews. Reviews and reassessments and face to face assessments for disability and sickness benefits like ESA were suspended in March 2020, with some of it taking place over the phone. From July 2020, some of this is reintroduced. Keep an eye out for correspondence from the DWP. More details on government guidance New Style Employment and Support Allowance: detailed guide and the Capability for work questionnaire.

See below about contact with the DWP and Jobcentres and work search requirements and also Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other disability and sickness benefits.

Note.

For details on the usual ESA criteria and how to get an extra amount, see our 'Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit work capability assessment' factsheet on our benefit information page.

New Style ESA can be topped up by means tested benefits such as income related ESA and Housing Benefit, or you can claim instead Universal Credit from the DWP and also Council Tax Benefit from the council.

See 'warning' about Universal Credit below

More details about ESA from the government and Citizens Advice   

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) 

Jobseekers Allowance is a benefit for those who are fit for work. As described under ESA above, there are two kinds of Jobseekers Allowance. One is ‘means tested’ which tops you up if you have no or low income and is called ‘Income Based JSA’. This is one of the six means tested benefits that are being replaced by Universal Credit. Many people still receive it. The other kind is Contribution based ESA, called ‘New Style JSA which depends on your national insurance record. There have been several relaxations.

If you or children of yours have or may have coronavirus, you can still get JSA. Explained in DWP guidance ADM Memo 04/20 and DMG Memo 06/20

In March 2020, work search and availability for work requirements were suspended but reintroduced in July 2020.

See more details below about contact with the DWP and Jobcentres and work related requirements.

Note. New Style JSA can be topped up by means tested benefits such as income based JSA and Housing Benefit, or you can claim instead Universal Credit from the DWP and also Council Tax Benefit from the council.

More details about JSA, including the section 'If you cannot work because of coronavirus'

Universal Credit

See 'warning' about claiming Universal Credit below

Universal Credit is replacing six means tested ‘legacy’ benefits. Claiming it involves setting up an online Universal Credit account. More details about Universal Credit.

The basic amount increased by £20 a week from 6 April 2020. This increase also applies to WTC. The increase should happen automatically. It is uncertain if this extra will continue from April 2021, although many organisations like CPAG are calling for it.

From 9 April people making new claims for Universal Credit no longer need 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. See also Contact with the DWP and Jobcentres below

However, anyone who cannot get online can ring the UC helpline 0800 328 5644, or Citizens Advice Help to Claim service 0800 144 8 444. See also 'Extra help and support under Universal Credit in Newcastle' on our more detailed guide to Universal Credit webpage

Verification of identity is usually done through certain services. This has been expanded to include Government Gateway.

Like ESA and disability benefits, reassessments of incapacity for work in UC were suspended in March 2020, but from July 2020, some of this was re-introduced - see Contact with the DWP and Jobcentres and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other disability and sickness benefits below. And, keep an eye out for correspondence from the DWP

See also above the change in Self employed and Universal Credit.

If you are sick and claiming UC this usually involves a similar process of proving you are incapable of work as for ESA above

Childcare and UC

The government UC Childcare Guide has been updated to include information on what childcare costs can be claimed during the Coronavirus outbreak

'Legacy benefit' run-on for those who claim Universal Credit

From 22 July 2020, 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 receive an additional payment, worth up to two weeks of their legacy award. This is similar to the existing Housing Benefit run-on rules. This does not apply to Tax Credits. See the government guidance ADM Memo 15/20 

Note

The benefit cap has not been removed so many won’t see the benefit of the £20 increase as their UC cannot go any higher than the cap. This increase does not apply to other legacy benefits apart from WTC. See CPAG's description of the gaps in support.

There are many reasons why you may need to claim Universal Credit. For example, you have not managed to get help from the self-employed Income Support scheme or the employee’s job retention scheme or been made redundant, or your income has reduced as a result of coronavirus – or for any other reason for that matter. 

Always remember that Universal Credit does not replace Council Tax Benefit, so you should always claim that as well from your local council. See Council Tax help on this page.

Watch out for the Universal Credit 'surplus earnings rule' where fluctuating earnings may take you above UC entitlement (by over £2,500) and prevent future UC entitlement for a period. The benefits calculator by 'entitledto' allows you to estimate the effects of surplus earnings and get more details from Revenuebenefits. There have been court cases about this and we await the government's response.

Warning about Universal Credit 

There are reasons why you should not claim Universal Credit and why you should - as follows:

If you receive one or more of the ‘legacy’ benefits that Universal Credit is replacing, they will stop when you or your partner claim Universal Credit – and you may either be worse or better off. Once you have claimed UC, you cannot normally return to those legacy benefits. The DWP include this warning on their Universal Credit webpages. NB. In June 2020 the Court of Appeal ruled that the failure to provide transitional protection for claimants who were worse off when they transferred to Universal Credit was unlawful.

Sometimes you may be better off on UC rather than on 'legacy' benefits. For example, the extra you can get in UC for having extra health problems is not replicated in 'legacy' benefits. This is the ‘Limited Capability for Work Related Activity’ element and is described in our factsheet: 'Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit work capability assessment' on our benefit information page.

In addition, if you are on a 'legacy' benefit and your circumstances change you may have to claim UC but you may not. Please check our table which lists some of the main changes in circumstances which may lead to a claim for Universal Credit and when it may not 

So, if you have a choice you should first find out if you are better off remaining on 'legacy' benefits or claiming UC. This usually involves what is called a ‘better off’ calculation - comparing what you may get under Universal Credit or your legacy benefits. You can ask one of the advice services in Newcastle to do this, or you may be able to do it yourself via an online calculator.

More details about Universal Credit

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and other disability and sickness benefits

Reviews, reassessments, telephone interviews and making a claim

Disability benefits and the incapacity for work test in ESA or UC involve making a claim and regularly having to prove you satisfy the health conditions with regular reviews, reassessments and appointments with health professionals.

Reviews and reassessments - gradually resumed 

For Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA), ESA, UC and Industrial Injuries benefit reviews and reassessments were suspended for three months from 24 March 2020. 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”. On 6 July 2020, the government announced some review and reassessment activity would gradually resume from then 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.

Face to face assessments still suspended - assessments over the phone 

On 6 July 2020, the government announced that face to face activity would remain suspended and be carried out over the phone. See below. See also Independent Assessment Services who carry out PIP assessments in the North East and provide more advice about telephone consultations.

Telephone health and work capability assessments. Internal guidance at October 2020.  The DWP have provided their internal guidance on how contracted healthcare professionals should correctly carry out assessments without a face to face assessment. See the DWP list of documents at the bottom of this Freedom of Information request.

Failure to participate in an arranged phone call may lead to benefit being stopped. If you cannot make a date, contact them as soon as possible.

If an assessment has already taken place it will continue to be processed

If in doubt, contact the DWP disability benefits helplines

Note.

If you have a change in needs and you think you are entitled to a higher amount of for example PIP, you can still contact the DWP - but do be certain you are entitled to the higher amount as the DWP can relook at the whole award. I if you are not getting a disability benefit and think you are entitled you can still claim them.

For ESA and UC the assessment could also include getting a higher amount. For details on the usual ESA criteria and how to get this extra amount, see our 'Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit work capability assessment' factsheet on our benefit information page.

Make sure you provide information when asked and in time, for example you have a month to return the PIP2 form ('How your disability affects you’). If you do not, benefit may stop. NB that time limit was initially extended to three months in March but that is not now the case. The month time limit applies. Read the letters from the DWP. However, you can ask for deadlines to be extended.

For more details see  'Disability benefits and coronavirus' by CPAG.

For advice on disability benefits see Disability Rights UK and see our benefits information page

Electronic PIP2 form

After the initial phone call to register a PIP claim, a PIP2 form ('How your disability affects you’) is sent to the claimant, which allows them to explain their care and mobility needs. The DWP are piloting an electronic version which can be emailed. We await it's national roll out.

See this form which "... allows you to type up a PIP application and then print it in a format for submission to DWP."

Carers

This relates to unpaid, informal carers – who are caring for family member or friend.

Carers Allowance is paid to those who earn below a set weekly amount and provide at least 35 hours a week care to people on the highest two levels of Disability Living Allowance care component, either rate of the Personal Independence Payment daily living component or Attendance Allowance.

Carers can retain their Carers Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring. This applies to breaks in caring due to the carer or cared for person getting coronavirus or being isolated due to coronavirus. The government has also confirmed that emotional support counts for Carers Allowance.

Note. Receiving Carers Allowance can sometimes stop the higher amount of benefit the disabled person is getting (called the Severe Disability Premium'). If in doubt seek advice

More details from Carersuk

Changes to the Care Act 2014 to help local authorities prioritise care and support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

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.

Older people

Can now claim Pension Credit online as well as other usual methods
 

Having a baby, grants, Child Benefit and so on

DWP advice for those wanting to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant. More details 

You do not have to register a birth for Child Benefit but still need to complete the form or phone 0300 200 3100. See Register a birth from gov.uk. See also DWP press release

From 25 April 2020, furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave are 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. See the government press release and the regulation that brought this in.   See also FAQ's in this government guidance

See below re help with childcare costs under Other related issues and help

Funeral costs and support for the bereaved

On 8th April, help to meet the costs of funeral expenses from the social fund such as coffins and funeral directors’ fees increased from £700 to £1,000

See also the government webpage Support for the bereaved

Prisoners

The law is amended to allow prisoners on temporary release due to coronavirus to claim certain benefits and for others to claim for them. Applies till 12 November 2020.

See DWP guidance A8/2020, DMG Memo 07/20 and ADM Memo 05/20

See also prisoners released early due to coronavirus and benefits by CPAG 

Get help with benefits if you have accessibility needs

New DWP web page for those who have difficulty with:

  • using the phone (advice on relay UK, Textphone, Video Relay Service for BSL, alternatives to the phone including a link to ‘home visits’)
  • using a computer,
  • reading letters or filling in forms,
  • attending face to face meetings
  • managing you own affairs

And how to complain

Deaf people

Making contact with the DWP and getting advice and information can be difficult for deaf people. The government have announced Universal Credit claimants can now access British Sign Language interpreters as part of a free video relay service.

More details: DWP advice for deaf people who use BSL and the Video Relay Service

Also see this BSL signed information about coronavirus

See also details in the June 2020 Benefit Bulletin

Contact with the DWP and Jobcentres, exceptions, recognising a call from the DWP and speaking to the DWP on someone's behalf

Attending Jobcentres

From 23 March all requirements to attend jobcentres were suspended for three months. Most contact being via phone or the Universal Credit online journal. Visits can be arranged for exceptional purposes: "If you cannot get online, phone us for help and we will only see people face to face in our jobcentres if invited". More details in the press release

In early July the government announced that from July 2020 Jobcentres will begin to re-open, but probably initially for vulnerable people who have IT problems. For details see DWP Touchbase and announcement in Parliament. This government webpage says: "You do not need to attend the jobcentre unless we ask you to do so. If you need to contact us the quickest way to do this is online or by phone. If you need to attend a jobcentre, they are open and one of our colleagues will be able to assist you. Please wear a face covering when entering a jobcentre." We will provide more details as soon as we get them.

See also this internal guidance to Jobcentre staff on the 9 October 2020 in answer to a  Freedom of Information request (in a pdf at the bottom of the webpage)

Recognising a call from the DWP.  A message from the DWP to claimants 11 May 2020

"As you are aware, all Jobcentres have had to close their doors during the coronavirus pandemic and we have been contacting you via Journal Message or phone call and this has been from a private or withheld number.

We know that many people are cautious of answering these calls for security purposes. To assist you in recognising a call from Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) either the Jobcentre or Service Centre, a new telephone number will appear on your phone from 06/05/2020 when we call you. It is 0800 023 2635.

For ease, we suggest you add this number to your contacts and rename it to ensure you recognise when we are calling. You will not be able to call us on this number; it is an automated message only.

The contact number to call Universal Credit has not changed, it is 0800 328 5644."

Speaking to the DWP on the claimant's behalf

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.

Work search and other requirements and sanctions - restarted from  from July 2020

Those claiming new style Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit who are fit and able to work usually have work search requirements which includes being 'able and willing to immediately take up a job'. Those on old style JSA have to be 'available for work' and 'actively seeking work'. These requirements were suspended for three months from 30 March 2020 and claimants would be contacted by the jobcentre instead. This avoids such people being sanctioned for those reasons. If those with existing/open ended sanctions, make contact with DWP (for example, via their Universal Credit journal) for any reason, that contact can be treated as the claimant meeting the compliance condition and the sanction can be ended.

In early July 2020, the government announced that from July 2020 some work related activity and sanctions would be reintroduced. For details see DWP Touchbase and announcement in Parliament. See also the government guidance which have reintroduced these measures, such as Universal Credit and your Claimant Commitment and New Style Jobseeker's Allowance. Also see this government advice

Claimant Commitment interviews will restart but only for 30 minutes and over the phone. This will initially be for new Universal Credit claimants but after a while, existing claimants would be contacted. See the latest announcement about Jobcentres and Claimant Commitment interviews by government minister in Parliament 13 July 2020.

More details and advice on UC, work requirements and sanctions by the Public Law Project and a House of Commons document

Payment of benefit

When notified by the DWP, the Post Office will make an urgent cash delivery payment for those shielding and vulnerable. PO press release 22 April 2020

NB. DWP will stop new benefit and pension claimants from using the Post Office Card Account from 11 May. See more details on our news webpage and the statement to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions .

Post Office payments to existing claimants will stop on 30 November 2021 - more details and what to do instead from gov.uk

Deductions from benefits paused then restarted from July 2020

In March 2020, deductions for the recovery of Universal Credit and legacy benefit overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit debts were paused and Local Authorities suspended referral of Housing Benefit overpayments, although recovery of UC advance payments continued. See government press release announcing the change. The government also temporarily suspended direct deductions from benefits to pay 'third parties' for things like rent and fuel arears until 10 May 2020, which some organisations had concerns about, such as Inside Housing

From July 2020, recovery of overpayments, social fund loan repayments and so on will recommence. This change is found in various government guidance such as Benefit overpayment recovery: staff guide, Eligible Loan Deduction Scheme and Direct Earnings Attachment - and employer's guide. More details from Disability Rights UK

Advice on deductions from benefits from Shelter

Note: The DWP say that those who are experiencing 'real financial hardship' can request deferral of repayments by contacting the Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647

Tribunal service changes

You can appeal most benefit decisions to an independent tribunal service, who are now using telephone and video to conduct appeals. Where possible appeals can be decided without a hearing and ‘triaged’ where a successful outcome for the applicant is highly likely. See this government guidance here and here and tribunals guidance from Courts and Tribunals Judiciary 

Other related issues and help

Free school meals and education

Government guidance on:

  • Support for pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) who have to stay at home e.g. meals, food parcels or vouchers
  • How those with 'no recourse to public funds' can also now get help with FSM

See also guidance about coronavirus and education and this government guidance  

Free food and foodbanks

Food banks and free emergency food in Newcastle from InformationNOW

Emergency help

There are several places to go for one off and emergency help:

- See free food and foodbanks above
- See Discretionary Housing Payments - above
- The council's Crisis Support Scheme     
- Support workers can apply to the council's Supporting Independence Scheme
- The VRF Emergency Fund - applications from frontline workers
- Charities and more help is listed on the council's Debt and money advice page      

See also If you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus from Citizens Advice

Employment

COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses

Government guidance for employees, employers and businesses, including SSP, proof of sickness, self employed, furloughed workers, benefits and help with rent. Gets updated

Coronavirus: apprenticeship programme response

Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus. New information on continuing training and end point assessment for furloughed apprentices, and pausing new funding audits

Advice for employers and employees from ACAS

Financial support for businesses from gov.uk

Including:

  • Paying your employees
  • Paying sick pay
  • Support for the self employed

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) relief for small and medium sized enterprises

To allow them to reclaim up to two weeks SSP paid to employees due to coronavirus.

Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Advice for employees

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers

Advice for employers

How to calculate the 80% of wages for furloughed staff

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

See also Employment support in Newcastle:

- Newcastle City Council’s Supported Employment team provide telephone and email advice for residents they are already working with
- The Skills Hub normally based at City Library
- Newcastle Futures are still delivering their service to help residents to access key sector jobs now, as well as helping residents to prepare for when employers are fully open for business. This includes Tyne Online
- Routine appointments at Jobcentres have been temporarily suspended, with Work Coaches communicating with residents via their online journals. More details above. 

Housing

21 August 2020. The government ban on evictions was further extended for another 4 weeks and new 6 month notice periods to be in place until at least 31 March 2021. See ‘Comprehensive measures’ announced by the government 10 September 2020, to support renters affected by coronavirus over the winter.

Earlier announcement on the evictions ban: 6 June 2020 Moratorium on evictions in England and Wales extended until 23 August 2020 and 27 July 2020. Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers - a briefing paper by the House of Commons library September 2020.

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

Guidance for hostel or day centres for people rough sleeping

Guidance on residential care, supported living and home care provision

Independent information from Crisis Skylight and Shelter North East

Housing advice and support in Newcastle: See Newcastle City Council's Housing advice service and Private rented service 

Mortgage holidays

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”

Earlier announcements in March 2020: Government support for landlords and tenants "...no renter in either social or private accommodation will be forced out of their home." Protection for tenants and home owners e.g. suspending evictions, no new possession proceedings and mortgage holiday 

See also If you can’t pay your mortgage because of coronavirus from Citizens Advice

Debt and money advice

See Newcastle Council's webpage on debt advice, budgeting and other help if worried about money.

- Includes information sheet on 'coronavirus and paying your bills and managing debts'

Domestic Violence

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. Email railtorefuge@womensaid.org.uk. Find out more on Womens Aid webpage

Energy, fuel and water

Utility suppliers have agreed with the government to help customers in financial distress and suspend disconnection from supply

Also see help for residents from Newcastle City Council's Energy Service

Northumberland Water offer a payment break - but note those missed payments will be collected later

People from abroad

House of Commons briefing on those with no recourse to public funds and coronavirus and state support from April 2020.

Guidance on immigration provisions made by the Home Office for individuals affected by travel restrictions associated with coronavirus

Financial assistance abroad

Guidance on what you can do and who you can contact if you need financial help abroad, including during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Financial support for when you are waiting to return to the UK during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance on the financial support from the government available for British people who are unable to return home due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Childcare

The UC Childcare Guide has been updated to include information on what childcare costs can be claimed during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Students

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

Disclaimer

Every effort is made to make this information as accurate as possible but changes are happening quite quickly and information about benefits must be seen alongside their other rules. That is why we link to the government guidance and other benefit information. Please let us know if you spot an error.

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