COVID-19 Benefits Advice

If you have been affected by COVID-19, whether it is through infection, self-isolation or social distancing requirements, below is advice on what to do if you were/are in work and/or self-employed. The latest information from the UK Government is available on the link below.

www.gov.uk - Coronavirus support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses

Please also see the link below for the latest Welsh Government advice:

https://gov.wales/work-skills-financial-support

https://gov.wales/get-financial-help-pay-your-bills-during-coronavirus-pandemic

For advice on the Discretionary Assistance Fund, please go to:

 Relaxation of Discretionary Assistance Fund rules extended

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.

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.

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/ previously shielding;
  • people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.

Further information is available on:

www.gov.uk - COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses

If you are receiving tax credits and you cannot work, are on furlough or your hours of work have been reduced due to COVID 19 the government has confirmed that you will still receive your usual tax credit payments providing that you remain employed or self-employed. This will not apply if you lose your job, are made redundant or cease trading. 

HMRC will continue to treat you as working your normal hours until the Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Scheme close on 31 October 2020, even if you are not using the schemes.

If after this period your usual hours of work have not been reinstated or there are any changes to your circumstances, you should contact HMRC within 1 month of the date of the change. You may qualify for the 4 week run on of Working Tax Credit. Further information is available on the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/changes-affect-tax-credits

Important: if there has been any change that means you are no longer claiming as a couple and need to make a claim as a single person or become part of a couple - this always means you have to make a new Tax Credit claim, which means you will usually need to claim Universal Credit.

https://www.gov.uk/how-tax-credits-affect-other-benefits

Changes in Earnings

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. The first £2,500 of any increase or decrease in your earnings are disregarded and will therefore not affect your tax credit payments. If you have had a change to your earnings and want your tax credits recalculated you can contact them online:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs/contact/tax-credits-enquiries

If you are Self-Employed:

To check if you are eligible for the Government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme if you are in receipt of Tax Credits please follow the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

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 weeks; 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.

Changes in Earnings

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.

If you are already in receipt of Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction and your income (it decreases or increases) or circumstances have changed it is important that you tell us as soon as possible. We will reassess your entitlement to this benefit and this will prevent any underpayment or overpayment. This applies whether you are employed or self-employed.

Please email us at revenues@ceredigion.gov.uk or visit our Benefits page for more information.

If you are Employed:

If you are working and claiming Universal Credit and have been affected 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.

Department for Work & Pensions - Employment and benefits support

If you are Self-Employed:

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.

Universal Credit - New to Universal Credit

See more on Universal Credit under People who are not claiming any benefits

If you have not yet made a claim for any benefits then listed below are the options available to you.

New-style Employment and Support Allowance

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

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.

Further information is available at www.gov.uk - New Style Employment and Support Allowance.

Jobseekers Allowance

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

If your hours of work have reduced or you have been made redundant you may be able to qualify for 'new style jobseekers allowance'. To qualify you must meet the relevant national insurance contributions conditions. This is a contributory benefit, so entitlement depends on your circumstances. As it is not means tested, 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.

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.

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

If you do not have enough money to live on you may be advised to claim Universal Credit. 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, Housing Benefit) and. you will not be able to reclaim these benefits. You should get advice before you make a claim, especially if you are self-employed, a student or have savings of £16,000 or more.

Citizens Advice - Universal Credit

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.

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.

As soon as you submit a claim for Universal Credit any entitlement to legacy benefits ceases. You will not be able to re-claim Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Income Related Jobseekers Allowance and Income Related Employment and Support Allowance even if you are not entitled to a payment of Universal Credit.  

Claims are made and managed online via a 'journal'.

https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/new-to-universal-credit/help-with-managing-your-money/

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.

All claimants, including your partner if you have one, must sign a claimant commitment, which will outline what work related requirements you have to undertake in order to receive this benefit. 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.

Department for Work & Pensions - Employment and benefits support

If you are a couple and one of you is over state pension age and one of you is under state pension age in benefit terms this means you are a mixed aged couple - this means you are usually unable to claim Pension Credit and may need to claim Universal Credit - please seek advice first.

The Government have announced that once you have made a claim online, if they need any further information to process your claim, they will either request this via your online journal or call you.

Housing Benefit

No new claims (or re-claims) for legacy benefits (except Housing Benefit for some temporary or supported accommodation) can be made unless you meet the SDP (severe disability premium) gateway conditions. This is a complex area but if you have been in receipt of another legacy benefit within the last month and the way this benefit was made up included 'the Severe Disability Premium' and you continue to qualify for it you will not be able to claim Universal Credit.  

This is the only group of people who can now make a new claim for legacy benefits.  If you fall into this group you can make an application online:

http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/benefits/application-forms/

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 which you can do by visiting our Benefits page.

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

www.gov.uk - Lay-offs and short-time working

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, Council Tax Reduction you should notify the local authority of these changes.

If you are liable to pay childcare costs to your childcare provider 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.

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:

You 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.

www.gov.uk - benefit and 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.

If your award is coming up for a review it should be automatically extended, we have not been provided with any details yet that this has officially ended, however people now appear to be receiving review forms. We will provide further updates as soon as possible.

This includes existing claimants of child Disability Living Allowance who have reached the age of 16 and would normally be invited to claim Personal Independence Payment after their 16th birthday. If you were in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and had been invited to claim Personal Independence Payment prior to lockdown, the DWP have confirmed that you do not have to take any action now, your current payments should continue and they will contact you in the future to explain what to do next - please be aware that the three month suspension has ended and you should now reply asap to any invitations to claim Personal Independence Payment.

If your condition has deteriorated and you would like to have your award reassessed, you can still request this. Any reassessment will be undertaken by telephone and paper-based review.

To be furloughed means that you have either been temporarily laid off due to the current situation; or you have to be shielded or are living with someone who has to be shielded; or you have child care responsibilities. A period of furlough can be short or long term but you still have a contract of employment with your employer. During a period of furlough you can seek other employment as long as this is allowed within your contract of employment (please check first).

It is your employer who has the authority to furlough and you have to agree to it. Some employers are not furloughing staff despite employees meeting the above situations, or cutting hours of the workforce instead of laying off some of their staff. Unfortunately you cannot insist on being furloughed.

If your employer applies for you to be furloughed, you must have been paid through PAYE and been employed before 19 March 2020. Those on zero hour contract, students and those who have no recourse to public funds can qualify for this Job Retention Scheme. Your employer recovers a percentage (see below) of your gross earnings back from HMRC to assist with paying your wages. It is at the discretion of your employer whether they top this up to your full wages (if you are paid at the national minimum wage, your employer can legally pay you 80% of your usual wage). You will still be liable to pay national insurance and tax.

Details of whether your employer can still furlough you can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
 

  • September: The government will reduce the amount they pay under the Job Retention Scheme to pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will have to pay employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. You should still be paid 80% of your wages (up to the cap) of your furloughed hours that you are not working and your employer is claiming assistance from the Job Retention Scheme for - you should be paid your full wage by your employer for the hours you actually work.
  • October: The government will reduce the amount they pay under the Job Retention Scheme to pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will have to pay employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. You should still be paid 80% of your wages (up to the cap) of your furloughed hours that you are not working and your employer is claiming assistance from the Job Retention Scheme for - you should be paid your full wage by your employer for the hours you actually work.

The furlough Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October 2020

If you are still employed following being furloughed and have been earning over £520 per month until the end of January 2021, your employer will be entitled to a £1,000 bonus to incentivise your employer to keep you in your job.

The Welsh Government has provided sources of online training for furloughed workers, to both update your skills if you will need to find a new job, or even if you are bored and details of what is available can be found at:

https://gov.wales/online-training-furloughed-workers-coronavirusOpens new window.

If you are furloughed for benefit purposes you are still counted as a worker and can continue to receive 'in-work' benefits that you were previously receiving such as tax credits, housing benefit, council tax reduction, universal credit.

It is important to remember that these benefits are means tested - any change you have in income you should notify the relevant organisation

If your income has reduced, you should check whether you have now become entitled to any benefits to top-up your income and check with us whether you qualify for Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

The Government has provided a Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), as an equivalent to the Job Retention Scheme for employees, to assist people who are self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

The deadline for applying for the first SEISS grant has now closed. The SEISS second and final grant will be available if your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus on or after 14 July 2020. You will be able to make a claim from 17 August 2020 and you can make a claim for the second grant if you're eligible, even if you did not make a claim for the first grant.

This scheme is open to self-employed workers even if they do not have recourse to public funds.

The second and final grant is capped at £6,570. The grant is worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months' worth of profits. You will be able to claim the second and final grant from the 17 August when the online service will be available. The conditions of the scheme are quite complicated and the link below provides more information on how to check if you are eligible for the scheme and how to apply.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme#claim

It is also worth looking at the information on https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/04/self-employed-help-coronavirus/

If you are not eligible for a grant from SEISS, then it may be worth seeing if you can get help from the Bounce Back Loan: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-a-coronavirus-bounce-back-loanOpens new window although as this is a loan and you might want to seek independent financial advice first.

Personal Independence Payment

Attendance Allowance

Disability Living Allowance

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

These benefits are for people with a long term illness 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.

www.gov.uk - benefit and reviews and reassessments suspended

If your condition has deteriorated and you would like to have your award reassessed, you can still request this. Any reassessment will be undertaken by telephone and paper-based review.

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

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.

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 new-born is a third or subsequent child in which case the two child rule will apply unless they are exempt.

However if you wish to register the birth of a child you can now request a face to face appointment with Ceredigion Council by using the link below: visit

http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/births-deaths-marriages-civil-partnerships/