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Money, Benefits and Coronavirus –Your Questions Answered 31.03.20 | South Lakes Housing

Money, Benefits and Coronavirus –Your Questions Answered 31.03.20

Many customers are getting in touch about their rights to welfare benefits and money worries if they are affected in some way by Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

South Lakes Housing will:

  • Offer advice and support to you about making any claim for benefits, including Universal Credit
  • Look to make affordable and realistic repayment arrangements if you get into rent arrears

We’ve put together a quick guide to benefits for people who are affected by Coronavirus based on current Government advice, but how this affects you depends on your personal circumstances.

For further advice please contact our Income Management team on 0300 303 8540 or email customerservices@southlakeshousing.co.uk

Q. I could lose my job. What is a Furloughed Worker?

If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access support to continue paying part of your wage, to avoid redundancies. If they did this it would mean that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off. Your employer could claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. You will remain employed while furloughed and your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but does not have to. If your salary is reduced as a result of these changes, you may be eligible for Universal Credit.

Q. I am at home ill due to the Coronavirus and won’t get paid. What help can I get?

The government announced that employees who need to self-isolate due to Coronavirus or are sick will have Statutory Sick Pay, paid from day one of their sickness/absence. Your employer will tell you if you are entitled to contractual sick pay. Statutory Sick Pay is £94.25 per week (£95.85 per week from April 2020) and can be topped up with Universal Credit, including an amount to help you with your rent. Those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront as a loan without physically attending a jobcentre.

Q. I am self-employed, what help can I receive?

Those who are self-employed can claim Universal Credit, providing the usual eligibility criteria are met. However, from 6 April the usual requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the Coronavirus outbreak. New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.

Q. What if I am not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?

If otherwise employed but not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to claim New-Style Employment Support Allowance if you have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions and/or Universal Credit. The Government has announced that N-SESA will be available from day one as a temporary measure.

However, the Government has also announced a temporary extension of Statutory Sick Pay, to cover people who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate, and people caring for those within the same household who display coronavirus symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.

Q. I’m already on Universal Credit, and I’ve started to get Statutory Sick Pay. What happens now?

Statutory Sick Pay is treated as earnings. The Department for Work and Pensions will automatically be informed of any Statutory Sick Pay received by the employee within the Monthly Assessment Period and your award will be adjusted accordingly. If you have been required by law to self-isolate, then you should also be treated as having a Limited Capability for Work and may be entitled to an extra allowance.

Q. I don’t currently get Universal Credit, but my wages have dropped due to me being absent from work because I’ve been affected by coronavirus?

Someone not currently in receipt of any means-tested benefits may find that their wages drop due to being absent from work as a result of the coronavirus. As long as you meet the general eligibility criteria for Universal Credit then you can make a claim for it. Whether you are entitled or not, and how much you are entitled to, will depend on your personal circumstances and income, so please get in touch with us to find out more.

Someone who is currently in receipt of a means-tested benefit, and whose wages drop due to being absent from work due to the coronavirus, may be better off if they claim Universal Credit if eligible. The Department for Work and Pensions has stated that those affected by coronavirus will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive an advance without physically attending a jobcentre. People who need to claim New-Style Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit because of the Coronavirus will not be required to produce a Fit Note.

Q. What about Jobcentre appointments?

As from 19th March, 2020 people in receipt of benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least three months. People will continue to receive their benefits as usual, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended. Jobcentres will remain open, in particular for those unable to use the telephone or apply for benefits online.

Q. I get Universal Credit and other benefits. I’m worried about missing appointments and being sanctioned if I’m affected.

The DWP has announced that it is suspending all planned reviews and assessments of benefit claims for the next three months. This includes Universal Credit, Employment Support Allowance, Personal Independence Payments, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance. It should be noted however that this suspension only applies to DWP initiated ones. Tenants should continue to notify any changes that could have a material effect on their benefit entitlement. For example, in the case of Universal Credit, tenants will still be expected to report changes via their online journal that impact on, their rent charge, family make-up, income etc. as normal. Similarly, if someone claiming DLA or PIP experience a worsening of their illness or disability, this needs to be reported as well, preferably as soon as this happens.

People who need to claim ESA or Universal Credit because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note.

If people tell the DWP in good time that they are staying at home or that they have been diagnosed with Coronavirus, they will not be sanctioned. The DWP should review the conditionality requirements in your claimant commitment, to ensure they are reasonable. Customers who are staying at home as a result of coronavirus will have their mandatory work search and work availability requirements removed to account for a period of sickness

Q. I am in receipt of Disability Benefits. What do I need to do?

If your Personal Independence Payment award is due to be reviewed, claimants do not need to do anything. The Department for Work and Pensions will extend the current award and contact later to review Personal Independence Payment claim.

If a claimant has returned the Award Review form the Department for Work and Pensions will extend current award and contact later to review Personal Independence Payment claim

If a claimant is currently in receipt of Disability Living Allowance Adult and has been invited to claim Personal Independence Payment, they do not need to do anything and do not need to make that claim. The Department for Work and Pensions will extend their Disability Living Allowances Adult award and payments will continue. The Department for Work and Pensions will contact claimant in the future about claiming Personal Independent Payments

If a Personal Independent Payment claimant has received a PIP2 form but is unable to return it as they cannot get assistance to complete it or leave their property to post it back to The Department for Work and Pensions, the claimant has have been given an extension to 90 days from when the form was issued.

If a claimant has received an AR1 form but is unable to return it as they cannot get assistance to complete it or leave their property to post it back to the Department for Work and Pensions the claimant doesn’t need to do anything.  The Department for Work and Pensions will extend the current award. The Department for Work and Pensions will contact claimant later to reassess Personal Independence claim.

If a claimant is due to attend a face to face assessment and hasn’t been contacted by anyone to cancel the appointment the claimant must not attend, they should await contact from the assessment centre. They may be invited to do a telephony assessment and should take part in this where possible

The Department for Work and Pensions are very aware that for some claimants, particularly those with certain health conditions or disabilities, it may not be possible to carry out assessments over the phone. In addition, there may also be cases where the paper-based evidence is limited. DWP are therefore urgently working to identify the best approach in these circumstances and will take all steps possible to ensure individuals can access the financial support they are entitled to.

Q. How will claims be processed if are there no face to face assessments?

The Department for Work and Pensions has suspended all face-to-face assessments in order to safeguard the health of claimants and staff members. IAS and Capita will be in contact to advise what the next steps and alternatives in their assessment are.

Q. As No Face to Face Assessments are taking place does this mean Personal Independence Claims won’t be processed?  

No,  the Department for Work and Pensions will continue to accept and process New Claims to Personal Independence Payments without the need for the face-to-face assessment using the information claimants you have already sent to in to make decisions on claims, alongside any other information held already, and will be in touch with claimants if necessary. For existing claimants, benefits will remain in payment while alternative arrangements are put in place.

Q. What about my rent? How will I pay it if my wages drop?

A claim for Universal Credit includes the Housing Cost Element which reflects the rental liability on your property. If you are already claiming Universal Credit with the Housing Cost Element, therefore, you will need to advise the Department of Work and Pensions, through the Universal Credit helpline or via your on-line Journal that your income has changed. Similarly, those claiming Housing Benefit will need to contact South Lakeland District Council to let them know that their income has changed. The Housing Benefit award will then be adjusted accordingly. The Benefits Team at South Lakeland District Council can be contacted on 01539 793200.

Q. Can I get help with the Council Tax?

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for Council Tax Reduction. For more information and to make a claim see https://www.southlakeland.gov.uk/council-tax-and-housing-benefit/council-tax-reduction-scheme/who-can-apply-for-council-tax-reduction/

Q. What can I do about my bills and debts if I can’t work or my pay has dropped due to Coronavirus?

If you have any bills or other payments that you cannot afford, please speak directly to those such as your Gas and Electricity suppliers, United Utilities, or other creditors straight away to explain your situation. Not all creditors have announced what they’re planning to do for their customers if they’re affected by Coronavirus. However, they will likely be willing to be flexible and supportive to try to prevent customers from getting into financial difficulty. Don’t delay getting in contact with them.

Q. How can I top up my meter if I am self-isolating?

Any customers who have prepayment meters and are self-isolating or unable to leave their home should speak to their energy supplier for their options.

This may include:

  • someone being sent to top up your prepayment card or token
  • having funds added to your meter credit
  • having a preloaded gas or electricity card sent to you in the post

Suppliers must tell you:

  • what customer service support is available, particularly if you are vulnerable
  • how you are supported if you can’t top up or could go off supply

No credit meters will be disconnected during the outbreak.
The latest guidance on energy supply and coronavirus can be found on the Ofgem website here.

Q. My child usually gets free school meals- How can I get help?

Children eligible for free school meals will benefit from a national voucher scheme allowing them to continue to access meals whilst they stay at home.

Schools can now provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth up to £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus.

To find out more information on the Voucher Scheme click here. 

Links to more information

Statuary Sick Pay https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

New S https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance

UC https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you

Claiming UC https://www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

Help to Claim     https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/help-to-claim/