If you are unable to work due to COVID-19 there may be financial help available.
Already claiming benefits
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have temporarily suspended all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.
- If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you do not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.
- If you have made a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal credit (UC) or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) but do not have a date for an assessment appointment, you do not need to do anything. You will be contacted shortly by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.
- If you are already receiving PIP, ESA, UC or IIDB you will continue to receive your current payments as normal.
- If you have made a new claim or wish to make a new claim, DWP will continue to take claims for all benefits.
If you’re appealing a benefit decision to the tribunal
If possible, a tribunal judge will assess your case without a hearing. Instead they’ll make a decision based only on the documents.
Some tribunals have closed so it’s a good idea to check where you should send your documents - you can find contact details for your tribunal on GOV.UK.
Send any evidence you have as soon as possible – for example medical evidence.
If the judge assesses your case based on the documents, they’ll send you a ‘provisional decision’. If you don’t agree with the provisional decision, tell the tribunal you want a hearing instead.
If there has to be a hearing, the tribunal might suggest a phone call or video conference.
Tell the tribunal as soon as possible if you will find it difficult to have a remote hearing. For example, tell them if you don’t have the equipment for a conference call. You can find out what happens at a remote hearing on GOV.UK.
Jobcentre Appointments and Claimant Commitments
- From 1st July, DWP will reintroduce the requirement for claimants of Universal credit and legacy Jobseekers Allowance to accept a claimant commitment as part of any new claim. For existing claimants, DWP will review and update their claimant commitment as capacity allows. Claimants will be able to make an appointment with their work coach if they cannot get the help they want online or over the phone.
- People receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least 3 months, starting from Thursday 19 March 2020. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.
- Interviews and medical assessments will be done by telephone.
- If you have a jobcentre appointment but are staying at home on Government advice or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will not be sanctioned if you tell DWP in good time. If you have a Claimant Commitment, it will be reviewed to make sure it is still reasonable.
- If you are staying at home as a result of COVID-19, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness.
- If you're already claiming UC and think you may have been affected by COVID-19, please contact your work coach as soon as possible either through your online journal or by calling the UC helpline.
- If you are in work and already claiming UC, and are staying at home on Government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. If this means you are working fewer hours, the amount of UC you receive will adjust as your earnings change.
- If you are self-employed and claiming UC, and are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, the Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) will not be applied for a period of time whilst you are affected.
Working Tax Credits - Employed and Self Employed
The Government has announced an extra £20/week in the basic allowance for Tax Credits. If your income remains the same, you should receive more Tax Credit support from April 2020. If your income has reduced due to Covid 19 and you remain eligible for Working Tax Credit (WTC), you need to ensure that HMRC have been informed of your estimated income for 2020/21.
You are employed and receiving Working Tax Credit, but your hours have reduced
If your hours have reduced temporarily, or you have been furloughed, or you have been temporarily laid off and you expect to return to working your previous hours at some time in the future, HMRC will ignore your reduction in hours for 8 weeks and treat you as working the same hours as before Covid-19. After 8 weeks of reduced hours, you should inform HMRC of your reduced hours. But check to see if the 8 weeks rule has been extended. If a temporary change becomes permanent (for example, a temporary lay-off is made permanent), you should tell HMRC as soon as you know about the change.
Even if you can continue to receive WTC, you may be better off claiming Universal Credit if your income has reduced. It is worth noting that if you move to Universal Credit you will not be able to return to receiving Working Tax Credits and will remain in receipt of Universal Credit once your work returns to normal.
If you have a permanent reduction in your hours or you have been permanently laid off
You need to let HMRC know about the change in your hours as soon as you know the change is permanent. You may qualify for a 4-week run-on of tax credits. If you have under £16,000 in savings you should claim Universal Credit as soon as possible.
If you are made redundant and move to a new job
If you are made redundant and move to a new job within 7 days of your old job ending, and you still meet the hours rules for tax credits, you can continue to claim WTC. You will still need to inform HMRC of the change.
If you have more than a 7 day gap in employment, or your hours reduce permanently you should inform HMRC. Your eligibility to tax credits may end and you may need to move to Universal Credit.
You are self-employed and receiving Working Tax Credit, but your hours have reduced
If your self-employed income has reduced, HMRC will ignore the change for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks of reduced income you should report the change to HMRC. But check to see if the 8 weeks rule has been extended.
If you are no longer trading due to COVID-19 HMRC will ignore this and continue to treat you as self-employed for 8 weeks as long as you haven’t closed your business and intend to return to self-employment once you are able. After 8 weeks you should inform HMRC that you are no longer trading. This period may be extended. If you have permanently closed down your business you need to inform HMRC. If your income is severely reduced you may qualify for Universal Credit and Council Tax Support.
You receive childcare support through Tax Credits
You may still have to pay childcare even if your child can no longer attend the childcare facility. Your childcare support is linked to your working hours. For the first 8 weeks of reduced hours you will be treated as though you are working the same hours and will continue to receive childcare support. The 8 hours may be extended in the future.
Working and not claiming benefits
- If you cannot work due to COVID-19 and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness. SSP will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice or shielding under NHS advice, not just if you are infected by COVID-19.
- If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay. Check your eligibility for SSP.
- If you have been told to self isolate and your employer needs a note you can get an isolation note online.
- If you are not eligible to receive sick pay depending on your income, savings and make up of your household, you might have entitlement to UC.
- If you have made enough NI contributions you may be entitled to NS ESA or NS JSA.
- If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19 they may be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and continue to pay you 80% of your wage up to £2,500 per month.
All up to date information on Coronavirus and claiming benefits can be found here understandinguniversalcredit/coronavirus
Help with Rent & Council Tax
Help with mortgage
- Please contact your lender to enquire about payment breaks.
- If you are claiming certain benefits you may be entitled to Support for Mortgage Interest.
It is extremely important that you contact us, under the circumstances preferably by email, to get the right advice for your situation, benefits advice for self-employed people can be more complex:
You can find information on support and grants for business’s here coronavirus/business-support/.
If you have paid National Insurance (NI) contributions you may be able to claim New Style Employment & Support Allowance (NS ESA) to replace your income depending on your situation:
- If you are self-isolating, shielding under NHS advice or unwell you may qualify for NS ESA if you have paid enough NI contributions. The position is less clear if you are social distancing. If you haven't paid enough you may be in a position to pay voluntary contributions so that NS ESA can be paid, although you will have to wait 8 weeks before your NS ESA can be paid. It is important to make sure that your NI contributions are up to date for State Pension too.
- NS ESA is paid fortnightly in arrears.
If you don't pay NI contributions or haven't paid enough you may qualify for Universal Credit (UC) to replace your income:
- Making a claim for UC will end any claims for legacy benefits that are in payment. Legacy benefits are Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing benefit. If you are receiving any of these benefits please seek our advice before claiming UC.
- If you were to claim Universal Credit then you will not receive your first payment for five weeks but you can apply for an advance payment, if you wish to do so.
The Scottish Welfare Fund has received additional funding from the Scottish Government and is now able to offer additional crisis grant applications even if a client has had their max of 3 in a rolling year. To apply ring 01389 737640 or apply online.
Other useful information
Emergency Food Parcels
If you are in the unfortunate position of being without food, there are emergency food parcel providers locally.
- West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare – telephone 01389 764135
- Food For Thought – telephone 01389 734514
We are working in partnership with these providers to help vulnerable people in this situation so Working4U can refer on for this support.
Emergency Credit for those with Prepayment Meters who are Self Isolating
All fuel companies have been instructed by Ofgem to support customers who are self isolating. A client should tell their supplier straightaway if they can’t top up their prepayment meter. This includes if they are ill with coronavirus or following guidance to stay at home and self-isolate, and if they don’t have anyone to help you.
- Help 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
- If you are a smart meter customer, you should be able to top-up remotely, such as by phone, mobile application or online.
Contact Numbers for the Big 6
- British Gas GAS 0333 202 9802
- EDF 0333 200 5100
- EON 0345 052 000
- N Power 0800 073 3000
- Scottish Power 0800 027 0072
- SSE 0345 026 2658
Other fuel companies will have similar assistance available.
If you need any further information or advice contact Working4U or West Dunbartonshire Citizens Advice Bureau.