Coronavirus outbreak: welfare rights and benefits update

Angus Council Welfare Rights service delivery during COVID-19

We will continue to provide our full service to anyone needing advice in relation to benefits, including benefit checks, help with claims and challenges to decisions. We will also continue to provide debt advice.   Our service is no longer operating face to face appointments however and we have no facility for drop-in services at our office bases. All of our staff are currently working remotely. 

Appointments and advice are being provided by telephone or by email where necessary.   The majority of benefit claims can be done online and we can provide telephone support to enable this where necessary.  For anyone requiring help with a paper-based new claim form we will make arrangements with the individual based on their circumstances.

New enquiries

please see our contact details on our webpage. You will also be able to access our online benefit calculator and budgeting tool through our webpages.

Current clients

If you are a current client with an existing case then please continue to contact us through the usual channels, our office telephones have been diverted onto staff mobile phones. 

If you are on Facebook then please like and follow Angus Council Welfare Rights for the latest advice and information.

If you are unable to work or your income has reduced, or you are currently in receipt of benefits there may be new or additional financial support available.

Employed and not claiming benefits

  • If you cannot work due to COVID-19 and are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of your illness.  SSP will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by COVID-19.
  • If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero-hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay. Check your eligibility for SSP.
  • If you have to self isolate because you have symptoms or live with someone who has symptoms and your employer needs a note you can get an online isolation note online from the NHS website.
  • If you are unable to work and have paid enough national insurance contributions you may be entitled to New Style Jobseekers Allowance or New Style Employment & Support Allowance.  You may be able to top this up with Universal Credit to help with other costs such as housing costs (rent) and additional amounts for children in your household.  
  • If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19 then they may be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and continue to pay you 80% of your wage up to £2,500 per month.  Even, if you were paid via your Employers PAYE system by 19 March 2020 then you may still qualify for this scheme, you should speak to your employer (or your very recent employer) in the first instance.
  • For free and impartial advice on COVID-19 employment-related matters please visit ACAS or Citizens Advice Scotland
  • Visit our free online benefit entitlement calculator which is regularly updated with new benefit rates and coronavirus related questions.

Already claiming benefits

  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has temporarily suspended all face-to-face assessments for health and disability-related benefits.
  • If you already have an assessment appointment arranged, you will not need to attend. Your assessment provider will contact you to discuss your appointment and explain the next steps to you.  If you are unsure then contact the assessment provider, their contact details will be on your appointment letter.
  • If you have made a claim for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) but do not yet have a date for an assessment appointment, you do not need to do anything. You will be contacted shortly by telephone or letter to let you know what will happen next.
  • If you are already receiving PIP, ESA, UC or IIDB you will continue to receive your current payments as normal.  If your award is due to expire then please be advised that there will not be any reviews or re-assessments at present and you will continue to receive your payment at the current rate.
  • If you have made a new claim or wish to make a new claim, DWP will continue to take claims for all benefits.  If you require support to complete a benefit claim form then please contact Welfare Rights or Angus CAB.
  • If you are appealing a benefits decision then you will be contacted by HMCTS to advise you about the appeal tribunal.

Jobcentre Appointments and Claimant Commitments

  • People receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least 3 months, this began on Thursday 19 March 2020. People will continue to receive their benefits as normal, but requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.
  • If you have a jobcentre appointment but are staying at home on government advice or have been diagnosed with COVID-19, you will not be sanctioned if you tell DWP in good time. If you have a Claimant Commitment, it will be reviewed to make sure it is still reasonable.
  • If you are staying at home as a result of COVID-19, your mandatory work search and work availability requirements will be removed to account for a period of sickness.
  • If you're already claiming UC and think you may have been affected by COVID-19, please contact your work coach as soon as possible either through your online journal or by calling the UC helpline.
  • If you are in work and already claiming UC, and are staying at home on Government advice, you should report this in the usual way via your online journal. If this means you are working fewer hours, the amount of UC you receive will adjust as your earnings change.
  • If you are self-employed and claiming UC, and are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus, the Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) will not be applied for a period of time whilst you are affected.

Help with Rent and Council Tax

  • If you are already receiving Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Reduction then you can report your change of circumstances online.
  • If you are receiving Universal Credit then you should report any change of circumstances via your UC Journal so that you get the correct amount of financial support. 
  • If you are not currently in receipt of any help towards your rent then you may qualify for financial support through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, which one will depend on your household circumstances.  We recommend you carry out an online benefit calculation in the first instance or contact Welfare Rights or Angus CAB for advice.
  • If you are liable for Council Tax but have no housing costs (e.g. you own your home outright) and have a low income then you may be entitled to a Council Tax Reduction.   We recommend you carry out an online benefit calculation in the first instance or contact Welfare Rights or Angus CAB for advice.
  • If you are not currently in receipt of any financial help towards your Council Tax then you may be eligible for a Council Tax Reduction depending on your household circumstances. 

Help with mortgage

  • Please contact your lender to enquire about payment breaks.  Most mortgage providers are allowing a three month mortgage holiday where people are financially struggling as a result of COVID-19
  • If you are claiming certain benefits you may be entitled to Support for Mortgage Interest.

Help with food, medicine or other essentials

Let us know if you or someone you know needs help with food, medicine or other essentials by completing this online form.

Crisis Grants

  • A Crisis Grant can be given to cover the costs of a financial emergency.  Some examples include; your circumstances have changed due to redundancy or a change in income; you are a victim of any type of abuse and you need help with things like moving away from an abuser; you have had a flood or fire in your home.  Crisis Grants do not have to be repaid.  Please also see information relating to Community Care Grants.

Self-employed

Benefits advice for self-employed people can be more complex.  If your income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 support may be available through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS): 

  • This scheme provides a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
  • HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant.
  • Open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000.
  • Open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

To be eligible you must:

  • Be self-employed or a member of partnership;
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19;
  • File a tax return for 2018-19 as self-employed or a member of a trading partnership. Those who have not yet filed for 2018-19 have an additional 4 weeks to do so;
  • Have traded in 2019-20; be currently trading at the point of application (or would be except for COVID 19) and intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021;
  • Have trading profits of less than £50,000 and more than half of your total income come from self-employment.

HMRC will contact those that are eligible and invite them to apply one the scheme is operational.  They are publishing guidance on (SEISS), which they will continue to update.

Grants are expected to start to be paid by the beginning of June 2020.  In the meantime, there may be other support available.

If you have paid National Insurance (NI) contributions you may be able to claim New Style Employment & Support Allowance to replace your income depending on your situation:

  • If you are unwell or having to self-isolate you may qualify for New Style ESA if you have paid enough NI contributions. The position is less clear if you are social distancing. If you haven't paid enough NI contributions you may be in a position to pay voluntary contributions so that New Style ESA can be paid (although you will have to wait 8 weeks before your New Style ESA can be paid).  
  • New Style ESA is paid fortnightly in arrears.
  • If struggling financially in the meantime you should apply for a Crisis Grant.

If you don't pay NI contributions or haven't paid enough you may qualify for Universal Credit (UC) to replace your income:

  • Making a claim for UC will end any claims for legacy benefits that are in payment.  Legacy benefits are Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing benefit.  If you are receiving any of these benefits we would recommend that you seek advice from Welfare Rights or Angus CAB before claiming UC.
  • If you were to claim Universal Credit then you will not receive your first payment for five weeks but you can apply for a repayable advance payment, if you wish to do so. 

Students

On 8 April 2020 the Scottish Government announced an extra £5 million of funding for students in hardship.  Students should apply directly to their college or university. In certain circumstances students may also be entitled to Universal Credit. 

 

For further information relating to Students and Universal Credit please visit CPAG’s Coronavirus and Universal Credit for Students information page, or contact Welfare Rights or Angus CAB for advice.