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Coronavirus - benefits update

Benefits update in relation to Coronavirus 1 April 2020.

Benefits for people in work

Benefits for people who are looking for work

Benefits for people who are sick

Disability benefits

Child benefit

Word Document Coronavirus: Sources of Advice and Support (Word, 53KB)Opens new window

 

Benefits for people in work

For the first 7 days of sickness employees can self-certify.  After this period of time you usually have to provide a fit note from your GP.  If you are displaying symptoms of Coronavirus and those who or have been told to self-isolate because of this disease a self-isolation note can be obtained: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/

Employers are asked to use discretion on the evidence they require. Those who choose to self-isolate in case they come in to contact with the virus would not be considered sick.  It would be good practice for employers to facilitate homeworking for these people.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-guidance-for-employees#furloughed-workers

If you're off sick for any other reason, you can get a fit note from your GP or hospital doctor. If your employer agrees, a similar document can be provided by a physiotherapist, podiatrist or occupational therapist instead. This is called an Allied Health Professional (AHP) Health and Work Report.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is £94.25 until it rises to £95.85 from 6 April 2020

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/

You must be an employee to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, you do not have to have a written contract of employment.  SSP is paid for the first 28 weeks of sickness or until your contract of employment ends; claimants will then have to claim a sickness benefit.  Two or more periods of sickness that are separated by eight weeks or less are linked and treated as one single period.  Your employer cannot dismiss you from employment to avoid paying you SSP but dismissal on grounds of sickness is not necessarily illegal and employees needs to get advice from their union regarding possible unfair dismissal.

SSP rules have been extended, to pay from the 1st day of sickness and not the fourth and to cover:

  • individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self isolate;
  • people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self isolate.

People who are employed and receiving Tax Credits

Are you affected by the coronavirus?

If you do not have enough money to live on you may be advised to claim Universal Credit.  A claim for Universal Credit will stop any award of tax credits or housing benefit you receive and you may not even be entitled to this benefit and you will not be able to reclaim tax credits or housing benefit.  You should get advice before you make a claim. Especially if you are a student or have savings of £16,000 or more.

If you meet the qualifying criteria for working tax credit (i.e. depending on your circumstances working either 16/24/30 hours); you are treated as still being in work for the first 28 weeks of sickness when:

  • You are being paid Statutory Sick pay
  • Being paid new-style contributory Employment and Support Allowance
  • You are incapable of work due to pregnancy
  • Receiving national insurance credits because you are incapable of work or have limited capability for work.

If your work has ended completely or your hours of work have reduced to less than 16/24/30, you can still qualify for tax credits during the 4 week run on.

If you have been laid off or put on short-time working the four week run-on starts after an initial period of up to four weeks, or after you have been notified that you will not be able to return to work, or work of sufficient hours. 

If you are a furloughed worker, you are still employed and can remain entitled to working tax credits.  Entitlement to Working Tax Credits only ends if your employment has ended.  https://www.gov.uk/hmrc-internal-manuals/tax-credits-technical-manual/tctm02453

We are waiting for further information from Government on whether such a provision will be put in place for those who are self-employed people in receipt of tax credits.  If you are self-employed and your income has reduced and you are already receiving Housing Benefit, you need to notify them of a change of your income.

Childcare costs within Working Tax Credit

To qualify for help with childcare costs you must be entitled to Working Tax Credit and your child must be in approved childcare.  You can continue to receive the childcare element within Working Tax Credit if you stop paying for childcare costs for less than 4 week;  After 4 weeks any change of £10 in charges needs to be reported.  If you are still paying for childcare, but your child is no longer attending due to the necessity to stay at home, HMRC have said that these costs will be covered.  We are awaiting further guidance.

A change of your earnings is not a change of circumstances that you have to report; however by reporting this change you are reducing the risk of being over or underpaid when they finalise your award at the end of the financial year.  If you have had a change to your earnings and want your tax credits recalculated you should ring Tax Credits on 0345 300 3909, however the first £2,500 of any increase or decrease are disregarded.

People who are employed and receiving Housing Benefit / Council Tax Reduction

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction are means tested benefits. If you have any change in your income (it decreases or increases) it is important that you tell us as soon as possible and we will reassess your entitlement to this benefit and to prevent any underpayment or overpayment.
Please email us at benefits@swansea.gov.uk  

People who are employed and claiming Universal Credit

If you are working and claiming Universal Credit and have been infected with Covid 19 or you are required to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work.  You will not be required to submit fit notes to the Department for Work and Pensions nor will you be called for a work capability assessment.  As you will be treated as having limited capability for work, your work related requirements will be work focused interviews and work preparation. 

You should write all changes on your journal and keep the Department for Work and Pensions informed of your situation.

People who are employed and not claiming ANY benefits

If you are claiming benefit for the first time because you have been infected with Covid-19 or you are required to self-isolate you will be treated as having limited capability for work.  This means that you will not have to provide fit notes nor have to attend a work capability assessment. 

There are two benefits that you may be entitled to claim:

New-style Employment and Support Allowance.

To qualify for this benefit you must have met the national insurance contribution conditions and not be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.  This benefit can be paid after SSP even if you still have a contract of employment. This is a contributory benefit, and entitlement depends on your circumstances as the claimant. There are no capital or income rules except any occupational pension over £85.00 per week that is paid to you as the claimant can affect the amount you receive.  Claimants may also qualify for Universal Credit to top up this benefit.

Universal Credit

Those needing to claim a means tested benefit (entitlement will depend on your capital, income of you and your partner) for the first time will now have to claim Universal Credit unless they meet the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) gateway conditions

Universal Credit replaced Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; Housing Benefit; Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support; Income Related Jobseekers Allowance. 

To qualify you must have less than £16,000 in capital and meet the means test.  The means test will differ depending on your personal circumstances and what other income or earnings you have coming in and the amount of savings you have between £6,000 to £16,000.  Claimants may qualify for this benefit if they are in work; not working; sick or have caring responsibilities.

Universal Credit can be the only income you have coming in or top up other income (e.g. statutory sick pay, new-style ESA) to the level that the Government says that you need to live on.

Statutory Sick Pay and other income is taken into account when calculating any entitlement to Universal Credit.  For example, if you are single aged 25+ and have no dependent children and do not pay rent, at the time of writing it is our understanding that a work allowance will be applied within the calculation of Universal Credit, in this case, you could qualify for a payment of Universal Credit of up to £317.82 per month.  You may qualify for more than this depending on your circumstances e.g. if you pay rent you are likely to get an additional amount to help with your rent payments.

A claim for Universal Credit will end entitlement to any of the other means tested benefits (Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; Income Related Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Income Support).  If you are receiving one of these benefits you are advised to have a better off calculation to check if you are better off staying on your current benefits with adjustments or claim Universal Credit. It is also important to know that under Universal Credit if you have a partner, both of you will have to have a signed claimant commitment which will outline what work related requirements you have to undertake in order to receive this benefit.

All claimants must sign a claimant commitment and if you are claiming because Covid -19 or the requirement to self-isolate your work related requirements for your claimant commitment will be work focused interview and work preparation.  The Department for Work and Pensions will tell you what to do.

Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Reduction provides assistance to those who have a liability to pay council tax.  It is means tested so it will depend on the income and capital of you and your partner; but it can be claimed whether you are in or out of work.  This reduction is under claimed, so it is important that you check your entitlement to Council Tax Reduction.

If you are self employed

The Government have brought in a self-employment income support scheme that will cover the three months to May in the first instance and be available from the 1st June 2020.  The scheme will provide self-employed workers with a taxable HMRC grant of 80% of their average monthly profit over the last 3 years up to a maximum of £2,500 a month and will be paid in a single lump-sum payment. 

You can continue to do business whilst claiming this grant.

This scheme will be available to those with a trading profit of up to £50,000 in 2018/19 (or an average of less than £50,000 between 2016/17 and 2018/90 where the majority of their income came from self-employment and where they were already in self-employment with a tax return for 2019; and continue to be self employed.

If you missed the deadline to return to file your tax return in January, you now have four weeks to do so.

Self-employed and claiming Universal Credit

If you are self-employed and your earnings have stopped / reduced and you may be entitled to claim Universal Credit - see below. BUT if you claim Universal Credit and were in receipt of tax credits and/or housing benefit, any award of tax credits will end and you will not be able to reclaim.  It is advised to check whether you would be better off remaining on tax credits (see above) or claiming Universal Credit. It is also important to know that under Universal Credit if you have a partner, both of you will have to have a signed claimant commitment which will outline what work related requirements you have to undertake in order to receive this benefit.

The minimum income floor that applied to those who had been self-employed for 12 months or more has been suspended.  This means that the actual amount of profit you receive from your self-employed earnings will now be used in the calculation of entitlement.

Support available to those who have been laid off, or hours or work have been reduced

https://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking/guarantee-pay

Working Tax Credit and reduction in hours of work

See information above on 'benefits for those in employment/self employment and receiving tax credits'.

'New-style' Jobseekers Allowance/Universal Credit

If your hours of work have reduced or you have been made redundant you may be able to qualify for 'new style jobseekers allowance' and/or Universal Credit.  See section below on 'benefits for people who are looking for work'.

Childcare costs

If you become liable to pay childcare costs for the first time you may be able to receive some financial support via Tax Credits (if you are already receiving Child Tax or Working Tax Credit); Housing Benefit or Universal Credit); or Universal Credit; and if you are receiving Housing Benefit, you should notify the local authority of these changes.

If you are liable to pay childcare costs to your childcare provider and and your child is no longer able to attend due to the necessity to stay at home, HMRC have confirmed that for tax credits these will still be paid.


Benefits for people who are looking for work

For those looking for work there are two benefits that you may be claiming;  Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit.  To qualify for either of these benefits you must have a signed jobseekers agreement / claimant commitment outlining your work related requirements and what is expected of you. 

 Jobseekers Allowance

This benefit is made up of two elements:  Income Related Jobseekers Allowance and 'New Style' Jobseekers Allowance. 

If you are receiving Income Related Jobseekers Allowance it either means that you are unable to claim Universal Credit because you meet the SDP gateway conditions or you have been claiming this benefit prior to full roll out of Universal Credit.  Entitlement will continue providing you still meet the criteria or until you are managed migrated over to Universal Credit.

To qualify for 'New-Style' Jobseekers Allowance you must meet the relevant national insurance contributions conditions.  This is a contributory benefit, so entitlement depends on your circumstances; It is not means tested, so it doesn't matter about the income of your partner if you have one.  Income that is taken into account is any earnings you receive for part time work (under 16 hours), less the relevant earnings disregards (usually £5) and occupational pensions of more than £50.00.  Most other income is disregarded providing you continue to meet the basic conditions.  New-Style Jobseekers Allowance is paid for a maximum amount of six months.  Universal Credit is the means tested benefit that can top up any contributory JSA.

From 30 March 2020 all work search and work availability have been suspended for 3 months.

If you become sick whilst claiming Jobseekers Allowance you can continue to claim this benefit.  The Job Centre can relax your work related requirements and treat you as available for work for up to two two-week periods of sickness in the last twelve months or up to 13 weeks, if you have been or expect to be unable to work for more than two weeks but not more than 13 weeks or you have already had your two two-week periods of sickness.

Unfortunately to be treated as sick for Jobseekers Allowance you will require a fit note after seven days of self-certification.  At the time of writing the Government has not changed the regulations like they have for Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance to relax this condition.

Universal Credit

This benefit replaced new claims for Income Related Jobseekers Allowance; Income Related Employment and Support Allowance; Housing Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit unless you meet the SDP gateway conditions.

If you are claiming this benefit because you are looking for work, you will have a signed claimant commitment outlining your work related requirements within the all work related requirement group.  From the 30 March 2020 all work search and work availability have been suspended for 3 months. Claimants who have become infected with Covid-19 or have been told to self-isolate will be treated as having a limited capability for work and will not have to provide fit notes or undergo a work capability assessment. 

This means that your claimant commitment will be relaxed and you will be required to undertake work focused interviews and work preparation only. 

Work Related Requirements

To qualify for the above benefits your jobseekers agreement / claimant commitment will outline your work related requirements; these include Work Focused Interviews; Work Preparation; Work Search and Work Availability.  Failing to comply with your work related requirements can result in your benefit being sanctioned.

The Department for Work and Pensions have said that if you are unable to attend the Job Centre for an appointment and you tell them in 'good time' because you have either COVID-19 or have to self-isolate you will not be sanctioned and they will adjust your work requirements to ensure that they are reasonable.  They will then remove the requirement to be available for work and work search.  You will however still be subject to undertaking work preparation and work focused interviews.

If you are sanctioned because you have not informed them in 'good time' you need to ask them to revise their decision and appeal it if necessary.

However, the Job Centre are removing the requirement for face to face appointments and all necessary contact will be made via the telephone and journals.  They will continue to support claimants' fact to face for the most vulnerable.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-support-for-employees-benefit-claimants-and-businesses


Benefits for people who are sick

If you are sick there are two benefits that you may be entitled to claim:

'New-style' Employment and Support Allowance

This is a contributory benefit and entitlement will depend on whether you meet the correct national insurance contribution conditions.  The income of your partner is not taken in to consideration nor any capital or savings you have.  However any occupational pension that you, as the claimant receive over £85.00 will reduce entitlement.  See above for further information. 

Universal Credit

This is a means tested benefit and entitlement will depend on whether you and your partner meet the financial means test. See above for further information

Have you already claimed one of the above benefits and waiting for an assessment?

If you have claimed a sickness benefit and are waiting to be assessed as having limited capability for work and the Decision Maker within the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) is satisfied that you are a person affected by the coronavirus you will be treated as having limited capability for work. You will need to contact the DWP to inform them. A person is affected by coronavirus disease if they are:

  • infected or contaminated with coronavirus disease; or
  • in isolation; or
  • caring for a child under 16 or under 20 and in full time education or approved training who lives with them and is:
    • in isolation or
    • infected or contaminated with coronavirus disease.

Your will be contacted from time to time to check whether you are still affected by coronavirus.

If you were claiming only because you were affected and are no longer affected by coronavirus you will no longer be treated as having limited capability for work.

If you were claiming because of other health conditions and became affected and are no longer affected by coronavirus you will continue to be treated as having limited capability for work whilst awaiting a medical assessment.

Already in receipt of one of the above benefits and it is due to be reviewed?

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-update-benefit-reviews-and-reassessments-suspended

As from the 24 March 2020 all reviews and reassessments have been suspended for three months.  This means that your benefit will continue to be paid until such time when the DWP reinstates reviews and reassessments.


Disability benefits

Personal Independence Payment

Attendance Allowance

Disability Living Allowance

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

These benefits are for people with a long term illnesses and/or disabilities.  To qualify you must have had or expect to have the condition for a 'qualifying' period and or for a future period.  These change depending on the disability benefit. Which disability benefit you claim will depend on a number of factors.  They can be claimed if you are in work and/ or in receipt of other benefits.

New claims:

New claims for these benefits will continue as normal.  

Existing claims:

Anyone already receiving these benefits will continue to receive their current payments as normal.  As from the 24th March all reviews and reassessments have been suspended.  Your benefit will continue in payment until such time when review and reassessments are reinstated.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-update-benefit-reviews-and-reassessments-suspended

Health care assessments

All face to face assessments have been suspended.  Anyone who has a scheduled appointment for an assessment from 17 March 2020 onwards does not need to attend.  Alternative arrangements will be made to carry out either paper-based assessments or assessments undertaken over the telephone. It is advised that as much supportive evidence is submitted at the point of claim/review.

Appeal hearings

Currently all oral tribunal hearings have been suspended. DO NOT attend the Appeal Tribunal hearing even if you have received a text message or email asking you to attend 15 minutes before your case is to be heard.

Tribunal appeal hearings are to be on papers where possible. There is a triage procedure for judges to identify cases where the appellant is likely to succeed and ask the parties to agree to it going ahead on the papers. These decisions will be a tribunal decision and binding. If you are unhappy with the tribunal decision made, you may be able to get it set aside - seek advice. If the Department for Work and Pensions change the decision in your favour prior to any type of appeal will be cancelled. If you are not happy with the new decision made, you will have fresh appeal rights and should challenge the new decision within one month, however during this period it is likely that time limits will be lengthened.

Where a hearing in person is required, the salaried judge can make decisions about the composition of the panel. As far as possible, hearings will be done remotely, and may be done in the absence of parties.

This process is set to last six months but this may change.

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/General-Pilot-Practice-Direction-Final-For-Publication-PDF.pdf

https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/General-Panel-Composition-Pilot-Final-for-Publication-1.pdf


 

Child benefit

Registering a birth of a child has currently been deferred. The General Register Office have confirmed that Child Benefit can be applied for without a birth certificate and verification will need to be provided once the birth of a child has been registered. This should enable other means tested benefits, such as Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to include child dependent increases, unless the newborn is a third or subsequent child in which case the two child rule will apply unless they are exempt.

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