Coronavirus benefits guide

Services

As the Government’s guidance around the coronavirus situation changes, our customers have been calling us with a range of queries about benefits and other assistance. We will amend this guidance regularly as soon as we receive updates.

Coronavirus benefits advice

Last updated 14 May 2020

Increases in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit

The standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit have both been increased by £20 per week for one year, from 6 April 2020.

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People claiming tax credits


If you’re claiming tax credits, then you’ll be sent a pack that tells you how to renew them.

You’ll receive one of two letters:

  • A letter with a red line across the first page. If you receive this, you’ll need to renew your tax credits by the date printed on the letter.
  • A letter with a black line across the first page. If you receive this, you just need to check all details are correct. If they’re incorrect, you need to inform HMRC.

If you receive a red-lined letter, make sure you renew your tax credits by your allotted deadline. If you don’t, you will stop receiving credits.

More information.

People on Universal Credit

You will need to update your Universal Credit (UC) journal if your circumstances change. If you are not earning as much money as you were previously, your entitlements will be automatically updated.

There are no face-to-face interviews at JobCentres for the time being, which means you’ll need to check your UC journal regularly.

If you’re finding it hard to verify your ID for Universal Credit, you can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

If you have trouble calling the helpline, you can still update your Universal Credit journal online and note you’re having difficulty getting through to book your ID appointment - a member of the Universal Credit team should contact you by phone to verify your ID.

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People not on Universal Credit

If you are not already on UC, but your circumstances have changed due to coronavirus, you can apply for UC online. Our Tenancy Sustainment team are on hand to help you with the process if you need it.

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Furloughed employees

If you are currently in employment and you and your employer both agree, your employer may be able to keep you on the payroll when they’re unable to operate or have no work for you because of coronavirus.

Your employer could pay 80% of your wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, up to a monthly cap of £2,500.

The scheme will run until 31 October 2020, but you may be asked to return to work before then.

You could be asked to return to work under reduced hours or on a part-term basis, even if you normally work full-time.

If this happens, the government will pay for the hours you don’t work so you receive your normal wage or salary.

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People on legacy benefits (Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credits, Council Tax Support)

You’ll need to report any changes to your Local Authority and HMRC as soon as possible. All assessment for Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is currently suspended.

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Self-employed people

If you, or someone else in your household, is self-employed and your earnings have reduced, you may be entitled to claim some benefits.

The government’s Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm) can give advice if you are self-employed.

If you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to Coronavirus, you may be eligible to claim a grant through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme.

If you apply, you may be eligible for a taxable grant of 80% of your average monthly trading profits.

The money will be paid in a single instalment to cover the months of March, April, and May.

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Going to JobCentres

JobCentres will remain open for now to help people access services over the phone or online. All face-to-face assessments for PIP/DLA are suspended. If you are due to renew your PIP/DLA award, you must still send in your review application with supporting documents.

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Council tax reductions


If you’re on a low income or claiming benefits, your council tax bill could be reduced by up to 100%.

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Statutory sick pay

If you have coronavirus you are entitled to statutory sick pay from your first day of absence, instead of your fourth day.

You can self-certify your sickness for the first 7 days, but you will need a medical certification for any other days. To avoid people visiting GP surgeries, you can do this online.

Child Benefit

You can now claim Child Benefit without registering your new-born’s birth at a General Register Office.

If you’re a first-time parent, you’ll need to fill in a claim form and post it to the Child Benefit Office – making sure you add a note explaining that you’re unable to register your child’s birth.

If you already claim Child Benefit, you can complete the form or add your new-born’s details over the phone on 0300 200 3100.

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Mortgage Holiday


Until 31 October, if you are struggling to pay your mortgage, you can request a payment holiday of up to three months.

At the end of your payment holiday, your lender will contact you to assess your circumstances and provide options on what to do next.

Options could include a mortgage term extension, changes to your monthly payments, or an extension to the payment holiday.

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Prepaid gas or electricity meter debt

The government has put in place several ways to help people who may struggle to top-up their prepaid energy account, whether due to financial issues or sickness.

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Funeral expenses

The maximum amount of money you can be paid as a Funeral Expenses Payment has increased from £700 to £1000.

You are eligible for a Funeral Expenses Payment if you receive certain benefits and need help paying for a funeral.

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Insurance payments


If you’re struggling to afford insurance payments, you should contact your insurer to discuss your available options.

You should maintain essential insurance cover and not leave yourself uninsured.

Insurers will have a range of options to help you, including reviewing cover, payment holidays, or the waiving of additional fees.

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School meals

Eligible pupils will continue to receive school meals provided if:

  • They or a family member are affected by coronavirus
  • The school is still open for certain groups.

If your child is unable to receive free school meals as normal, their school may be able to provide you with supermarket vouchers.

Speak to the school catering team provider for information specific to you.

More information.

Community hubs

The government will begin rolling-out community hubs across the country to help people access essential services such as medicine and food.

Care parcels will be available for vulnerable people. More details will follow in the coming days. If you are a vulnerable person please contact us to talk about your needs.

Our Tenancy Sustainment team

Our team are on-hand to help you with any financial queries you might have including changes to benefits, access to funds and budgeting. Call our Customer Contact Centre and ask to speak to a TSO.

Remember to revisit this article for updates.

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