The rules about claiming benefits and tax credits do change on a regular basis during the year. We have highlighted below some of the more significant changes and helpful information, affecting what you can claim and have included links for you to obtain further details.
You can find detailed information about Coronavirus and claiming benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website.
Test and Trace Support Payment
28 September 2020
You may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme if you are required to stay at home and self-isolate. Local authorities will be putting arrangements in place to make these payments, with further details to be made available shortly. You will be eligible if you live in England and meet all the following criteria:
- you have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
- you are employed or self-employed
- you cannot work from home and will lose income as a result
- you are claiming at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credits, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit
Universal Credit – Treatment of monthly earnings
4 August 2020
If you are a Universal Credit claimant and your wages are paid monthly, you may have been adversely affected by the current system, which sometimes treats you as having earned two monthly salaries in one UC assessment period and nothing in the next assessment period. This can lead to fluctuating monthly UC payments and the loss of the work allowance in your UC payment.
In June 2020 the Department of Work and Pensions lost its appeal in the Court of Appeal about the rigidity of the UC payment system for calculating earnings. If you have been affected by this, you should ask on your UC journal for any payment decisions where two months wages have been taken in one month, to be revised in light of the court case "SSWP v Johnson & Ors  EWCA Civ 778" and for arrears to be paid.
Shielding and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Update
31 July 2020
Individuals will no longer be eligible for SSP on the basis of being clinically extremely vulnerable from 1 August, as they will no longer be required to shield from this date. Those who are unable to work from home but can work on site are allowed to, providing the workplace is COVID-safe. Employers are encouraged to help their employees to transition back to work safely and support them to follow strict social distancing in the workplace.
If shielding guidance is reintroduced, either in the case of local lockdowns or nationally, and individuals receive a notification advising them to shield, they will be eligible to receive SSP again if they meet all eligibility criteria.
Two week benefit run on for new Universal Credit claimants
22 July 2020
If you make a new claim for Universal Credit, you can get a two week "run on" of your existing legacy benefits. This applies if you are switching from income-based Jobseekers Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Income Support.
This can help while you wait for your first Universal Credit payment to come through, is paid automatically and unlike Universal Credit advances, does not have to be paid back. There is already a two week run on of Housing Benefit, however there is no two week run on for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit payments.
More information (Understanding Universal Credit)
Face to face assessment suspension to continue for health and disability benefits
6 July 2020
Face-to-face assessments suspended by the DWP in March 2020 are to remain suspended, but will be kept under review following a consideration of the latest public health guidance. They will shortly be re-starting review and renewal activity in Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance, starting with those claims which were already underway when this activity was suspended. The DWP advise you should not delay making a claim if you believe you need support, or hesitate to update them about a change of circumstances. All services remain open and telephone and paper based assessments are in place where appropriate.
Housing Benefit or housing costs on Universal Credit - extra support
If you receive either Housing Benefit or housing costs on Universal Credit and you're currently struggling to pay your rent or looking to move house and need a rent in advance deposit, you may qualify for a (non-repayable) Discretionary Housing Payment from your local authority to help with short term difficulty:
Do you claim Working Tax Credit or Universal Credit?
You may be eligible for Help to Save and get an extra 50p for every £1 saved over 4 years.
Help to Save is a safe and secure way to get government support to start saving.
Tax credits customers will continue to receive payments even if working fewer hours due to COVID-19
4 May 2020