Benefits and financial help

14 August 2020 | The information on this page is also available as a download


Financial help that you may be able to access

Food and shopping

If you are classed as a clinically extremely vulnerable person, you can register with the Gov.uk website and get a weekly box of basic supplies, priority supermarket deliveries and help with your basic care needs.

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable

You can register if you have a medical condition which means you are classed as being at much greater risk than the general population of catching coronavirus. This could be someone taking certain medication which lowers their natural immune system or someone who has medication for asthma.

You should also register if you have been told by your GP or hospital that you are clinically extremely vulnerable and need to shield (which means not leaving your home and also minimising contact with other members of your household)

Free school meals

Children eligible for free school meals will be offered meals or vouchers as an alternative if they can no longer attend school due to coronavirus measures. In England and Wales, all children in reception and years 1 &2 at state school automatically qualify. If you get Universal credit you may also be entitled depending on your earnings. The limit is £7400 annually in England and Wales, £610 monthly in Scotland and under £14,000 in Northern Ireland.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-set-out-to-support-pupils-eligible-for-free-school-meals

Family Fund Grants

The Government has announced extra funding for families on low incomes if their children have complex needs or disabilities.

The £37.3 million settlement for the Family Fund, detailed today by Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford, will help low-income families with children up to age 18 who are seriously ill or disabled.

£10 million of this amount has been dedicated to help with difficulties that have arisen due to the covid 19 pandemic because children have had to stay at home more than usual.

As it has in the past, it can help with the cost of equipment, goods or services from bedding, clothing (if there is extra wear and tear), tumble dryers, washing machines, computers, refrigerators to sensory and educational equipment that they might not otherwise be able to afford

The grants will be accessed through The Family Fund, an independent charity funded by the Government which has helped many of our families over the years. It is means tested and you can check if you are eligible on the link below

Their website is https://www.familyfund.org.uk/

If you prefer to call, their telephone number is 01904 550 055

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/37-million-to-support-children-with-complex-needs

Childcare

Working parents or carers, who are eligible for Tax-Free Childcare or 30 Hours Free Childcare but have temporarily fallen below the minimum income requirement because of coronavirus, will continue to receive financial support until 31 October 2020.

Critical workers who may exceed the income threshold for the 2020 to 2021 tax year, as a result of working more to play a vital role in tackling coronavirus, will continue to receive support this tax year.

You can check if this change affects you here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-can-get-tax-free-childcare-and-30-hours-free-childcare-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Work

Coronavirus job retention scheme

The Government will cover 80% of the wages of ‘retained’ employees, meaning those who would otherwise have been laid off due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The maximum amount will be £2,500 per month for each employee, and the money will be issued through grants which can be paid out to any employer.

The scheme will be closed to new entrants from the end of June and furloughed workers will need to have been added to the scheme by 10th June.

The scheme opened just before the end of April, with wages being backdated to 1 March.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until end of October with changes to the rules and the amount of funding that will be available. The scheme is being made more flexible from 1st July allowing workers to go back to work part time.

From 1st August 2020 employers have been asked to make a contribution toward the funding of the job retention scheme. The Government will continue to cover 80% of the furloughed workers wages (up to £2,500), but employers will need to cover the national insurance and pension contributions for their employees.

From September 2020 the amount that the Government will fund is reducing to 70%, meaning maximum wage will be £2,190. This means that the employer will pay 10% of the wage as well as Pension and NI contributions. The final drop will be 60% in October with employers now paying 20% of the wage and then the scheme will end.

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

Workfit candidates

Many of you have been in touch to say that you have decided to temporarily suspend your jobs at the moment. The situation around pay and sick pay is based on who makes the decision to not attend the workplace.

If you are in receipt of Employment and support Allowance (ESA) and are classed as doing either permitted work or supported permitted work, you will not be able to claim SSP on top of your ESA (if you have symptoms) as you are already receiving a sickness benefit.

If it is your decision not to go into work because of concerns then your employer may not pay in this instance. In theory you should have the same furlough protection as everyone else and if retained then receive 80% of your wage if your employer asks you not to come in (whilst your ESA payment continues as normal).

If you are in receipt of Universal Credit and your wage has reduced, you should notify UC.  The majority of our members will have had a work capability assessment (and have limited capability for work). Having limited capability for work means that you are able to earn extra money before it affects Universal Credit. This is because there is a work allowance similar to the permitted work scheme in ESA.

You should always keep Universal Credit up to date with new changes in income or circumstances.

If you are not on ESA or UC you will be paid SSP from your employer . This at its basic level is £95.85. Many employers will pay a full wage for a set amount of time and you will need to check your contract. After this time you will need to claim Universal credit.  Many of our members with Downs syndrome will already be in receipt of these benefits. Keep Universal credit informed though as it works on a sliding scale and will be adjusted accordingly.

The Government have a dedicated benefit page that you may find useful:

Employment and benefits support

Employer lays you off (or puts you on short time working)

If there is a clause in your contract (referred to as ‘lay off’ clause) your employer does not have to pay you, there is no limit to how long you can lay off an employee, but if you have been away from work continuously for 4 weeks or 6 weeks within a 13 week period where no more than 6 weeks are consecutive, then you are able to apply for redundancy pay and resign from your position.

For agency workers, or those on zero hours contract you are not likely to be paid if your employer tells you not to come into work. You need to check your contract.

Guarantee pay

You are entitled to guarantee pay during lay off or short time working. You cannot claim for any day that you do work.

In order to qualify you need to have been continuously employed for 1 month whether full or part time

The maximum you can receive is £29 per day for 5 days in any 3 month period which equates to £145. Those normally earning less than £29 per day will receive their usual amount. For part time workers the entitlement is worked out proportionally.

https://www.gov.uk/lay-offs-short-timeworking/guarantee-pay

You should also be able to claim ‘new style’ Jobseekers allowance during this period. This will apply if you have paid class 1 National Insurance contributions. You need to let your employer know that this would be temporary and not a conflict of interest with them (for example working for a rival company).

Self-employed, work not coming in or reduced.

Self-employed people can now apply for a grant of up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months.

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

The Chancellor announced that this scheme has also been extended to August (to cover pay of 70% from June to August). After this time it will close.

The Government has also announced grants for small businesses during this time.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

Sick pay for employees who self-isolate

If you take time off due to corona virus you should be entitled to usual sick pay and sick leave

If you are self- isolating on Gov advice you should be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP).

This is a scheme run by HMRC and paid to employees by their employers for up to 28 weeks in any period of sickness lasting 4 days or more. You do not have to have paid National Insurance contributions. It cannot be claimed by self employed people.

In order to qualify, you need to be employed and earn an average wage of at least £120 each week. It is usually paid after day 8 at its basic level, but the Government announced that it will be paid from the first day. This day 1 commencement only applies to those self- isolating due to corona virus, if you are off sick for any other reason, the usual rules apply.

In order to qualify for SSP you must be told to self-isolate but this is not clear whether it has to be NHS111 or your GP. Please see the most recent information below regarding proof of absence from work

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-isolation-notes-launched-providing-proof-of-coronavirus-absence-from-work

Employers have their own policy regarding what they will pay you. Some companies will continue to pay a full wage for a longer period than others but some will only pay the basic amount of £95.85

Check your contract as it will tell you how much and how long your company will pay it for.

An employer cannot pay less than Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If an employer pays more than SSP it’s known as ‘company’, ‘contractual’ or ‘occupational’ sick pay.

If there’s nothing in writing

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum amount employers must pay. It’s a good idea to check your workplace’s policy to see if your workplace pays more than SSP.

SSP can be topped up by universal credit if your income is low

https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay

Sick pay for Self employed

People earning less than £120 a week and the self employed are not eligible for SSP but they will be able to claim New style ESA from day 1 of a claim rather than waiting for a week as they did before. They may also be entitled to a Universal Credit top up depending on their circumstances and savings. The Chancellor announced on 20.3.20 that the amount they receive should be the same amount as SSP which is currently £95.85.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-employment-and-support-allowance

Please see ACAS website which gives more detail on employment law

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Help with bills

Council Tax Reduction

Check if you are entitled to a reduction if your income has fallen. The reduction is means tested and separate from the disregards.

https://www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction

The Government announced extra help in addition to help already available for those facing hardship

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-confirms-500-million-hardship-fund-will-provide-council-tax-relief-for-vulnerable-households

Mortgage help

On Tuesday 17 March, banks agreed with the Chancellor that they will offer ‘forbearance’ on mortgages for 3 months. There are now plans to extend this scheme a further 3 months for those who are still having difficulty making their mortgage payment due to the current crisis.

Contact your bank straight away if you are struggling to pay your mortgage. You should be able to request a 3 month mortgage break. This is not a compulsory measure. You need to contact your bank for their policy around this.

It specifically targets those who are financially struggling and unclear whether you’ll have to prove that’s directly linked to coronavirus.

You will need to be up to date already with your mortgage payments and your lender will check that you can afford the extra repayment further down the line. In simplest terms, the money not paid for the 3 months would be added to the existing term thus slightly raising the monthly payment.

If you are already struggling with repayment and have an existing plan in place, it is unlikely that you will be given a 3 month respite. Talk to your lender though to see what can be done. Landlords may also apply for this 3 month break for buy to let mortgages.

Renters

Extra help was announced on 20 March for renters.  Universal credit and housing benefit will be increased so that it covers at least 30% of the market rent in the recipient’s area.

You can check current local housing allowance rates for your area using

https://lha-direct.voa.gov.uk/search.aspx

Rental – ban on evictions

A renter who has lost income due to coronavirus will not be forced out of their home, nor will any landlord face unmanageable debts.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Benefits

Caring for a vulnerable person (who is in receipt of care DLA –(middle/higher), PIP daily living component, Attendance Allowance)

If you care for someone, you are able to claim carers allowance which is currently £67.25 per week. It can be paid to those earning less than £128 a week after tax, NI and half of any pension contribution. Carers allowance entitles you to a class 1 NI contribution and you can also have it topped up with Universal credit depending on your circumstances. You will not be required to look for work while you receive carers allowance.

Increase to Working Tax Credits – what this means

The government announced that Working Tax Credits payments would be increased by £20 per week from 6 April 2020 – find out what’s happening and who this affects.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/increase-to-working-tax-credits-what-this-means

It has also been announced that those people who cannot work their normal hours will not see any change if their hours reduce. Please see the official link below

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/tax-credits-customers-will-continue-to-receive-payments-even-if-working-fewer-hours-due-to-covid-19

Increase to Universal Credit

For 12 months from April the government also increased the standard allowance from £317.82 to £409.89 per month. This will depend on your income as to how much of the increase you will receive (as UC works on a sliding scale of earnings). Remember to keep UC informed of your earnings.

Face to face assessments suspended

Claimants on disability benefits will no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments for the foreseeable future. The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-to-face-health-assessments-for-benefits-suspended-amid-coronavirus-outbreak

I will add to the article as more info or help becomes available

Benefits checkers:

www.turn2us.org.uk

www.entitledto.co.uk