Coronavirus related benefits changes

Please note that all the information below is based on our best knowledge at the time. We expect further details to be available shortly and will update where necessary.

Tax credits

The basic element of working tax credit will increase by £20 per week on top of the April up-rating. This increased rate will last for 12 months in the first instance. An additional £20 will be disregarded from earnings (+WTC where relevant) in the calculation of housing benefit, so that this increase is not clawed back in reduced housing benefit.

Universal credit

The standard allowances of universal credit will increase by £20 per week on top of the April up-rating. This will last for 12 months in the first instance.

For self-employed claimants, the minimum income floor has been suspended for the duration of the crisis.

The chancellor has announced that universal credit will be available to self-employed claimants who are unable to work because of the crisis at a similar rate to SSP. It seems likely that this simply reflects the fact that the new standard amount of universal credit for a single claimant aged 25+ is very similar to the rate of SSP. If so, this means that self-employed claimants will be in a significantly worse position than employed claimants entitled to both SSP and universal credit, as SSP is treated as earnings for UC and therefore can attract a work allowance and does not have a 100% taper

Face to face appointments

All face-to-face appointments for health related benefits are cancelled for health and disability related benefits: this covers:

It is expected that these will be replaced by pen-and-paper assessments where necessary, eg to support a new claim.

All jobcentre appointments are cancelled for three months from Thursday 19th March.

Furloughed workers

Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, companies can claim support to pay 80% of the salaries of employees - up to a monthly maximum of £2500, who have been laid off because of COVID-19. Empoyers can top up the money to full salary, but are not compelled to. The scheme will initially run for March, April and May, but may be extended further.

Statutory sick pay and New-style ESA

Claimants who are absent from work because they have Covid-19 or are required to self-isolate can qualify for Statutory Sick Pay or New-style ESA without having to serve waiting days. Claimants in this position should get an 'isolation note' by visiting NHS 111 online rather than the usual fit-note.

Private rented accommodation: increase in LHA for housing benefit and universal credit

From April 2020, Local Housing Allowances will be increased to the 30th percentile of Market rents, reversing the freeze of the previous four years.

Local council tax reductions in England

The government has instructed local authorities in England to increase local council tax reductions by £150 for each claimant. As authorities were required to fix their schemes for 2020-21 by March 11th, they have been asked to apply this further reduction using their discretionary powers.