In the news

APRIL 2020

Our bitesize news page includes the latest benefits news, guidance, training updates & case law. Please let us know what news or advice area you'd like us to include next month.

How COVID-19 is affecting the benefits system

The impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak is being increasingly felt in the UK, with enforced social distancing meaning the Government has had to offer additional financial and practical support to employees, businesses, the self employed, vulnerable groups and the newly unemployed. 


The effect on benefits is very fast moving and changing daily. Information on this page was correct as of 28th March 2020. We will post any urgent COVID-19 updates between that date and our May newsletter via Twitter.


An emergency bill,  now the Coronavirus  Act  2020  has been  passed through Parliament to give the Government additional powers, should it need them, during this crisis.



UC and Tax Credits will be increased by £20 per week from 6 April but many claimants won't see this until May/June due to the way assessment periods work. All work search & availability requirements for UC and JSA have been suspended for 3 months from 30/3/20. Claimants have been told to avoid jobcentres, as 10,000 staff are redeployed to prioritise new claims online.


In the first 9 days since social distancing was advised, nearly half a million new Universal Credit claims were made and the DWP has already admitted struggling to cope with the verification process. Giving evidence to the Work & Pensions Select Committee, Therese Coffey also responded to requests for UC advances to be non-recoverable saying that it would not be 'operationally feasible'.For more on the impact of COVID-19 on UC,  see information on our forthcoming  free webinar Universal Credit & the coronavirus (below).


People who self isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms are deemed to be incapable of work for SSP purposes. Waiting days for SSP/ESA have been suspended so employees are paid from the first day of self isolation.

For those who need to self-isolate for 7 days (individual) or 14 days (household) due to virus symptoms, self certification is possible, and still applies for the first 7 days  Online Isolation Notes for employees can be downloaded for proof of COVID-19 related absence from work.

See also DMG 04/20 and ADM 02/20 in LATEST GUIDANCE.


All face to face sickness & disability benefits assessments suspended for 3 months. New claims will use online documentation, paperwork or a telephone call for assessment. All face to face sickness & disability benefits reviews and reassessments have been suspended for 3 months.



First tier tribunal decisions will be made without hearings based on  paperwork only for 6 months. The work of  the Upper Tribunal has been put on stay for 21 days.


Announcement of Coronavirus job retention package for furloughed employees (see also LATEST GUIDANCE). Employers will be able to apply to HMRC to cover up to 80% of their employees' salaries (up to £2,500 a month).



Most self employed people who earn an average of less than £50,000 a year will be able to  access the new Self Employed Income Support Scheme, providing a grant for up to £2500 a month of lost earnings after June 2020.


LHA rates have been significantly increased from April 2020 in response to the virus outbreak.


The Working Tax Credit allowance will go up from £1995 to £3040 per annum.


Quick links to selected recent  benefits-related case law


Tribunal errs by considering issues that were not raised in appeal


Published 3rd March 2020



Eating sufficiently for Activity 2 and needing assistance for therapy (Activity 3)


Published 3rd March 2020


UC & the coronavirus

To help you understand how the new COVID-19 related changes affect Universal Credit claims, we are running a free online webinar (see recording here) for a limited number of participants at 12.30pm on Wednesday 1st April 2020.

The 45 minute webinar will include contributions from three trainers with essential information on:

  • changes to the UC claims process

  • new guidance on Limited Capability for Work

  • suspension of the Minimum Income Floor

  • the effect of increases to the Local Housing Allowance

  • a live Q&A chat session with the opportunity to post questions to three benefits experts throughout the session.

Here is a link to the webinar recording. Any problems accessing, contact Ali.


Links to recent government guidance and bulletins

COVID-19 related guidance

ADM 03/20 and DMG 05/20

Guidance for benefits and social security uprating from April 2020 – not including COVID-19 related stipend)


Council Tax Hardship Fund

Guidance for local authorities on £500m Council Tax hardship fund


DMG 04/20 and ADM 02/20

Guidance on ESA and UC in response to COVID19 including no more waiting days for ESA, expansion of limited capability for work rules and suspension of the MIF

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Guidance for employers and for employees who have been furloughed by COVID-19 measures following an announcement by the Chancellor on 19/3/20


Other guidance

HB Circular S4/2020

Local authorities to receive £1.2m to fund the administration of the SDP gateway 2019/20

HB Circular S2/2020

Guidance for local authorities on allocation of £40m 2020-21 Discretionary Housing Payment

HB Circular A6/2020

Guidance on the effect on housing benefit claims of removing adult dependency increase from the State Pension

HB Circular A5.2020

Guidance on the Housing Benefit Award Accuracy Initiative

HB Circular A4/2020

Guidance on Housing Benefit operational information performance, support & engagement 2020-21


The COVID-19 coronavirus


Bitesize links to other  benefits-related news:

Child poverty fears

CPAG says urgent action is needed to prevent rising child poverty from becoming a longer-term public health disaster.

Call for COVID-19 related benefits uprating

A report by the Resolution Foundation is calling on the government to raise contributory JSA and ESA rates and reform UC capital limits in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

24k families underpaid Child Tax Credit

An OBR report on the Economic and Fiscal outlook shows that 24,000 families were underpaid the disabled child element of Child Tax Credit.

How has Brexit affected human rights?

Human Rights Committee seeks submissions on human rights issues raised by the EU Withdrawal Bill before 6th May.

5m PIP claims since 2013

There have been over 5,000,000 recorded PIP claims since it started in 2013, with 2m of these disallowed, according to government statistics.

Letter for those unlikely to need PIP review

The DWP will be sending a letter to those PIP claimants who are unlikely to be eligible for reassessment following MH & RJ review.

Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales

We link briefly to articles and guidance which separately affect benefits in Scotland, Wales and/or Northern Ireland only when they differ significantly to those in England or the rest of the UK.


Scottish Welfare Fund more than doubled as part of Scottish government’s £350m emergency funding package


Uprating and amendments to funeral expense assistance and Young Carers Grant.

Amendments to procedure & allocations of function of First Tier Tribunals


Enhanced Discretionary Support Fund announced and then further COVID-19 related DSF enhancements


New legislation (plus exceptions and amendments) re uprating of social security benefits from April 2020-03-24


HB Circular S3/2020

Guidance on Rent Rebate Subsidy Limitation 2020/21 for local authorities in Wales