In the news
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.
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).
STATUTORY SICK PAY / ESA
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.
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.
LOCAL HOUSING ALLOWANCE
LHA rates have been significantly increased from April 2020 in response to the virus outbreak.
WORKING TAX CREDIT
The Working Tax Credit allowance will go up from £1995 to £3040 per annum.
RECENT CASE LAW
Quick links to selected recent benefits-related case law
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.
Links to recent government guidance and bulletins
COVID-19 related guidance
Guidance for benefits and social security uprating from April 2020 – not including COVID-19 related stipend)
Guidance for local authorities on £500m Council Tax hardship fund
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
Guidance for employers and for employees who have been furloughed by COVID-19 measures following an announcement by the Chancellor on 19/3/20
Local authorities to receive £1.2m to fund the administration of the SDP gateway 2019/20
Guidance for local authorities on allocation of £40m 2020-21 Discretionary Housing Payment
Guidance on the effect on housing benefit claims of removing adult dependency increase from the State Pension
Guidance on the Housing Benefit Award Accuracy Initiative
Guidance on Housing Benefit operational information performance, support & engagement 2020-21
The COVID-19 coronavirus
DID YOU KNOW?
Bitesize links to other benefits-related news:
CPAG says urgent action is needed to prevent rising child poverty from becoming a longer-term public health disaster.
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.
An OBR report on the Economic and Fiscal outlook shows that 24,000 families were underpaid the disabled child element of Child Tax Credit.
Human Rights Committee seeks submissions on human rights issues raised by the EU Withdrawal Bill before 6th May.
There have been over 5,000,000 recorded PIP claims since it started in 2013, with 2m of these disallowed, according to government statistics.
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.
New legislation (plus exceptions and amendments) re uprating of social security benefits from April 2020-03-24
Guidance on Rent Rebate Subsidy Limitation 2020/21 for local authorities in Wales