Benefits news

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.

Fit note changes

1 July 2022

From today, fit notes to confirm incapacity or fitness for work, which employees need to provide after 7 days off work for Statutory Sick Pay or benefit purposes, can now be certified and issued by nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists in addition to doctors.

Further information on gov.uk

Cost of living support payments

9 June 2022

Last month the Government announced various measures to help with the cost of living crisis including:

Some households will receive more than one type of the above payments.

For further information, including details of when these payments will be paid, see the Cost of living support factsheet: 26 May 2022 on gov.uk.

Managed move of claimants to Universal Credit set to restart

26 April 2022

The DWP has announced that from 9 May it is resuming its project to migrate more claimants from their legacy benefits (income support, income-based Jobseekers Allowance, income-related employment & support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit) onto Universal Credit. This will start with around 500 claimants from across the country initially, with more claimants migrated in subsequent months and the process aims to be completed by 2024.

Although some claimants will be better off on Universal Credit, a lot could potentially be worse off, particularly if they choose to migrate to Universal Credit, before the DWP directs them to do so, as they could lose valuable transitional protection. It is therefore vital for claimants to get independent and individual advice if considering such a move.

For further information, please see the Government’s press release about Universal Credit migration 

Fit note changes

6 April 2022

GP fit notes - (previously known as sick notes or medical certificates) which are used to notify your employer about sickness and to support claims for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment & Support Allowance or Universal Credit on the grounds of limited capacity for work - are changing.

GPs can now authorise fit notes digitally without the need to print and sign them. This means instead of a handwritten signature in ink, fit notes will have the doctor’s name included in the form, which can either be printed or sent digitally to patients. There will be a period during which both the new and previous version of the fit notes are legally valid.

Further information and guidance about fit notes on on gov.uk.

Changes to benefit rules for the terminally ill

4 April 2022

The Government has published further details about how the "Special Rules", which provide benefit support for people nearing the end of life, will operate from now on. Further changes are expected later in the year.

For more information, see The ‘Special Rules’: how the benefit system supports people nearing the end of life from gov.uk.

Spring Statement 2022

23 March 2022

Among other measures, the Chancellor announced that from July 2022, the Class 1 national insurance primary threshold for employees will rise from £9,880 to £12,570 to align with the income tax personal allowance. This means that liability to pay national insurance contributions will not begin until earnings reach £12,570 per annum.

He also announced an extra £500 million for the discretionary Household Support Fund to 'support the most vulnerable families with their essentials'.

For further information, please see the news story on gov.uk

Benefits support for people arriving from Ukraine

21 March 2022

The DWP announced people fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in the UK can claim benefits immediately. People who were residing in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022 and who left Ukraine in connection with the Russian invasion on 24 February 2022, will not be subject to the habitual residence test or the past presence test, which apply to some benefits.

The benefits affected include Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, Personal Independence Payment, child Disability Living Allowance, Carer's Allowance and Attendance Allowance.

For further information, please see the DWP’s Understanding Universal Credit website.

Amendment to terminal illness rules for ESA and Universal Credit

11 March 2022

New regulations apply from 4 April 2022, extending the definition of terminal illness for Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit, so that a person whose death is reasonably expected within 12 months, as opposed to 6 months currently, can claim under the Special Rules. 

Claims made under the Special Rules are not subject to a face-to-face assessment or waiting periods and in the majority of cases receive the highest rate of benefits.

The government says that the 12-month approach will be extended to Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance "as soon as Parliamentary time allows".

For further information, please see the press release on gov.uk

Covid-19 self-isolation support payments ending and some future benefit changes

24 February 2022

The Government has announced that Covid-19 self-isolation support payments will no longer be available with effect from 24 February 2022. However, people who were instructed to self-isolate before this date will still be able to claim support payments within the next 42 days.

Further benefit changes will come into effect from 24 March 2022 when a number of temporary measures, introduced to help claimants during the pandemic will come to an end:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will not be paid for the first 3 days of sickness absence, even if the person is sick due to Covid-19.
  • People with symptoms of Covid-19 staying at home and people living in the household of a person with symptoms of Covid-19 staying at home, will no longer be automatically deemed as incapable of work for SSP purposes.
  • The 7 waiting days (when benefit is not paid) will apply at the start of all claims for contribution-based/new style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • Claimants of ESA and Universal Credit who have Covid-19, are self-isolating or are looking after a child (or qualifying young person) will no longer be treated as having limited capability for work without the requirement for any medical evidence or having to undergo a work capability assessment.

The benefit changes do not mean that people with Covid-19 cannot get SSP, ESA or Universal Credit, but the full normal conditions of entitlement for each benefit will apply instead.

Further information about the Government’s strategy for living with Covid-19

Universal Credit Help to Claim service will continue for another year

27 January 2022

For customers struggling to make a claim for Universal Credit via the online claims system or by phone, the Government has confirmed that they will continue to be able to get support from the Citizens Advice Help to Claim Service, which will be funded to provide help via telephone or online until at least March 2023. People can access the Help to Claim support from the Citizens Advice website and through the free phone service by calling 0800 144 8444 in England.

For more information, please see the press release: Funding boost to citizens advice to deliver help to claim universal credit support on gov.uk

Benefit Uprating for 2022

26 November 2021

The government has published the proposed benefit rates for 2022/2023, which will come into force from April 2022.

For more information, please see Benefit and pension rates 2022 to 2023 on gov.uk.

Changes to Working Tax Credit

16 November 2021

Claimants not working their normal hours because of Covid-19 will no longer automatically retain entitlement from 25 November 2021.

An easement introduced in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic has treated claimants working reduced hours due to coronavirus, or those furloughed by their employer, as if they are still employed or self-employed. This has enabled their tax credit awards to continue while also removing the requirement to inform the Tax Credits office of temporary reductions in working hours.

From 25 November, claimants will again be required to report changes in working hours and can no longer be treated as working the number of hours they had previously been working prior to the pandemic. This could lead to some awards being reduced or ended and claimants may need considering claiming other benefits instead, including Universal Credit.

For further information, please see the press release on gov.uk.

Extension period for Covid-19-related easements to ESA

22 October 2021

This article has been archived.

Help for claimants with online appeals

13 October 2021

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has announced that a new digital service is to launch next year to provide support for people who find it difficult to access online services, including social security appeals. The support is planned to be delivered face to face through community and advice centres, such as Citizens Advice and law centres. It will also be available over the phone or via online software. Work should begin this month, with the service being designed and tested over the first six months before 'ramping up' to a full national service being in place by spring 2022.

Further information on gov.uk

Universal Credit reduced

6 October 2021

From this date, the Universal Credit £20 per week temporary "uplift", which was introduced during the coronavirus pandemic comes to an end. Monthly payments to all Universal Credits claimants will now be reduced by £86.67.

Appeals for all benefits now online

30 September 2021

It is now possible to submit an appeal for all DWP benefits online. Until recently, online appeals were only available to claimants of Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. Appeals can still be made on a paper form SSCS1.

For further details please see appeal a benefit decision on gov.uk.

Post Office card accounts to remain until November 2022

10 September 2021

The DWP has recently announced that Post Office card accounts, which are only available to some benefit and tax credit claimants and which had been planned to be withdrawn by November 2021, have now been extended until November 2022.

For further information, please see the press release on gov.uk 

Universal Credit – system change for monthly paid employees

31 August 2021

Following a Court of Appeal ruling last year and the introduction of amending regulations in November 2020, allowing monthly earnings to be reallocated to a different universal credit assessment period where necessary to maintain a regular payment cycle, the DWP has recently confirmed that it has now automated the process for identifying claimants who receive two monthly wage payments in one universal credit assessment period.

Claimants wishing to take advantage of the new legislation previously had to tell their work coach about the double payment of wages. The new process means that the universal credit system now should automatically identify such claimants, enabling the DWP to move the second payment forward to the next assessment period in the system, ensuring the claimant’s payments don’t fluctuate from month to month.

For information, please see the latest DWP Touchbase update

Universal Credit carer element

13 August 2021

If you are a carer and claiming Universal Credit, you could be eligible to have the additional 'carer element', worth £163.73 per month, added onto your claim. Make sure you don’t miss out - if you think you're eligible, report this to the DWP. 

For more about universal credit, see Universal Credit on gov.uk.

Reintroduction of the universal credit minimum income floor for the self employed

31 July 2021

The minimum income floor (a minimum assumed level of self-employed earnings, used by the DWP to assess entitlement to Universal Credit) was suspended during the coronavirus pandemic and actual earnings, however low, were used instead. The suspension has now been lifted and will be gradually re-introduced between now and 31 July 2022.

Claimants will be given a month’s notice that the minimum income floor is being applied and no one will see a decrease in their universal credit award before September. For claimants whose business remains affected by coronavirus, work coaches will have the power not to apply the minimum income floor for up to two months at a time on a case-by-case basis, for a maximum of three suspensions, adding up to six months in total.

For further information, see the Parliamentary Written Statement 

Tax credits – return your annual income declaration by 31 July or risk losing money

22 July 2021

This article has been archived.

Bereavement support update

15 July 2021

The Government has announced plans to extend bereavement support to the former partners of unmarried couples with children.

This will extend Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payment to surviving co-habiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death. These changes will be retrospective and will apply from 30 August 2018, once they have been passed by Parliament.

For more information, please see the press release on gov.uk

Extra statutory payments for benefit claimants who missed the EU Settlement Scheme deadline

9 July 2021

The DWP has confirmed that extra statutory payments are to be available during a Grace Period for benefit claimants who failed to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by the 30 June deadline.

In a letter to local authorities, the DWP advises that:

"The Home Office EUSS Grace Period ended on 30 June 2021…The extra statutory payment allows benefit payment to continue for existing claimants for a short period of time, after the end of the Grace Period, whilst DWP does some final signposting."

The letter explains that the Home Office will now write to all EEA and Swiss nationals who have still not applied for their EUSS status and prompt them to urgently contact the Home Office and apply or risk their benefit payments being stopped.

The DWP will then carry out its final signposting exercise in September 2021 by writing to outstanding cases, advising that their benefit will be disallowed where no EUSS application is made. Benefits can then be suspended a month later if no application is received, but can be re-instated if the claimant makes an application within a further month. Extra statutory payments can then continue until a final immigration decision is made, including the outcome of an EUSS appeal.

For further information, see the DWP's letter to local authorities (PDF).

ESA Update: claimant commitments re-introduced

22 June 2021

The DWP has confirmed that it has started a phased reintroduction of claimant commitments for all employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants.

In the June 2021 edition of its Touchbase online update, the DWP advises that -

"For all new claims to new-style ESA, processed from 26 April 2021, claimants will be required to have an appointment with a work coach and agree a claimant commitment before they can receive new-style ESA.

For new-style ESA claims processed prior to 26 April 2021, the requirement for an agreed claimant commitment, and for ESA legacy claimants an action plan, will be introduced gradually from 28 June 2021. We will contact claimants to arrange an appointment with a work coach and agree a claimant commitment or action plan."

For more information, see Touchbase: 18 June 2021 from gov.uk

EU Settlement Scheme - final month to apply

1 June 2021

This article has been archived.

Increased help with housing costs for some younger people in privately rented accommodation

31 May 2021

The age at which some younger people can claim the higher one-bedroom rate of housing support (rather than the lower shared accommodation rate) through Universal Credit or Housing Benefit is being extended.

From the above date the one-bedroom rate can also be claimed by:

  • A person who was a care leaver before the age of 18, but is now aged between 18 and 25 (previously 22)

or

  • A person aged between 16 (previously 25) and 35, who has at any time, lived in a hostel for the homeless for a total of 3 months and, whilst there, were offered and accepted support services to aid their resettlement and rehabilitation

These are in addition to the existing categories of people who are exempt from the shared accommodation rate.

Further information on GOV.UK about changes to housing benefits

Lower housing benefit personal allowance rates for some pensioners

1 April 2021

Lower housing benefit personal allowance rates now apply to claimants reaching pensionable age from now on:

  • £177.10, where a single claimant has attained pensionable age on or after 1 April 2021;
  • £270.30, where both members of a couple have attained pensionable age on or after 1 April 2021; and
  • £270.30, where the claimant is a member of a polygamous marriage and all members of the marriage have attained pensionable age on or after 1 April 2021, plus £93.20 for each additional spouse who is a member of the same household.

Where one or more members of a household attained pensionable age before 1 April 2021, they will continue to receive the higher personal allowance, which for 2021/2022 is £191.15 for single claimants and £286.05 for couples. The reason for the differential is that the housing benefit rates for older pensioners incorporate an amount equivalent to the savings credit element in pension credit, which itself was abolished for people reaching pensionable age from 6 April 2016. The Government retained the higher housing benefit rates for older pensioners for a further 5 years, but this period has now expired.

Face-to-face assessments to resume for health and disability benefits

31 March 2021

The DWP has now confirmed that: 

  • Face-to-face assessments for industrial injuries disablement benefit will resume from 12 April 2021
  • Face-to-face assessments for personal independence payment and work capability assessments for universal credit and employment & support allowance will resume from May 2021

Existing paper-based assessments, telephone and video assessments will continue to take place where suitable. The assessment centres will be fully compliant with COVID-19 safety measures.

Further information on GOV.UK about attending your face-to-face assessment.

Medical assessments by telephone or video

25 March 2021

New regulations are now in force which enable medical examinations and consultations to be conducted between a claimant and an assessor approved by the DWP either in person, by telephone or by video as part of the process for determining entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Further information PDF from legislation.gov.uk

Budget 2021: Benefit related announcements

3 March 2021

This article has been archived.

Removal of the SDP Gateway

27 January 2021

From this date, benefit claimants who currently receive the severe disability premium (SDP) as part of their entitlement to income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Housing Benefit are no longer prevented from making a claim for Universal Credit instead of the above benefits.

More information about the severe disability premium from GOV.uk

Former SDP recipients who change to Universal Credit will be automatically considered by the DWP for an additional Universal Credit SDP transitional element.

More information about Universal Credit transitional protection from entitledto.co.uk

PIP Change of Circumstances Form

11 January 2021

The DWP's Personal Independence Payment change of circumstances form PIP2(UI) (How your disability affects you) is being by replaced with a new form called the AR1UI (How your disability affects you).

The new form aligns the change of circumstances process with the award review process, to provide a consistent approach when customers report changes in their needs. The aim is to reduce the time it takes for customers to complete the form, so the new form is shorter, requiring them to provide less information. In the meantime, customers should continue to return any outstanding PIP2(UI) forms as directed in their letter.

More information on PIP change of circumstances from GOV.uk

Benefits for those unable to work due to shielding

5 January 2021

This article has been archived.

DWP re-introduces "Failure to Attend" process for PIP claimants who miss their telephone assessment

14 December 2020

This article has been archived.

PIP Award Extensions

7 December 2020

This article has been archived.

Attendance Allowance reviews

27 November 2020

This article has been archived.

Universal Credit – Treatment of monthly earnings (update)

30 October 2020

The DWP has amended the Universal Credit regulations for those who are paid monthly by their employer, and occasionally receive two payments from their employer in one month – please see our earlier news item from August 2020 for further information. The new regulations, which come into force from 16 November 2020, enable the DWP to reallocate a second monthly payment from a customer’s employer into a different assessment period. This means that if, for example, people are paid early by their employer due to their regular monthly pay date falling on a weekend or bank holiday, they won’t have two wages allocated to one assessment period.

Test and Trace Support Payment

28 September 2020

This article has been archived.

Universal Credit – Treatment of monthly earnings

4 August 2020

This article has been archived.

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

This article has been archived.

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:

More information - Find out if you’re eligible

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.

More information - Find out if you’re eligible