Covid-19 has affected all of us in different ways and these are very uncertain times. The association wants to give you as much support and guidance as it can right now and hope that this guide to benefits and income assistance can help clarify what’s currently available.
Job Retention Scheme
If you have been laid off, you may be able to speak to your employer and ask them to employ you again and to put you onto the furlough scheme introduced by the Government. This is also called the Job Retention Scheme. The Government introduced the furlough scheme to allow employers to continue to pay their staff up to 80% of their wage if they were unable to continue to cover staffing costs. This is capped at £2,500 per month (gross).
Your employer may choose to make up the difference so you continue to receive 100% wage, but they don’t have to. To be eligible for furlough, you have to have been employed with your current employer as at 19 March 2020 and your employer has to have registered your employment with HMRC. If you are furloughed, this will be for a minimum of 3 weeks and the scheme was recently extended until the end of October 2020. It is important to remember that you cannot carry out any work for your employer during the time you are furloughed. Your employer should pay you as normal or tell you when your pay date will be and they will claim the money back from the Government. To find out more about the Job Retention Scheme visit the Government website on: www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-what-to-do-if-youreemployed-and-cannot-work
Depending on your level of income you may be eligible for some Universal Credit on top of this. Universal Credit is a means tested benefit that takes your household income, savings and circumstances into account. Universal Credit can cover your living costs and housing costs. To find out if you may be eligible for Universal Credit visit the Government website: www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility.
If you have been made redundant or are on a low income, depending on your household income you may be eligible to claim Universal Credit (UC). If you have a partner that is still working, their wages will also be taken into account.
The standard applicable amount for Universal Credit has been increased by £86.67 per month from 6 April 2020 for a period of one year.
When you make an online application for Universal Credit you will be asked to verify your ID. If you have never done this before, the Government use websites such as the Post Office. If you cannot access these, as the demand has increased recently, don’t worry, select the option to verify at your appointment and make sure you phone the number given to make an appointment.
Jobcentre staff will call you and ask you for documents and, if you don’t have these, they should ask you simple questions to verify who you are. Jobcentre staff are in a similar position to most organisations just now and are not meeting people face to face. You may find that this will increase the number of telephone calls or email/journal requests you receive from them.
When you have made your claim for Universal Credit and have verified your identity you can ask for a benefit in advance payment up to 100% of your entitlement. This payment is an interest free loan provided by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that you will have to pay back at 30% off of
your initial payment and then the remainder over the next 11 months. It is important to remember that this payment is a loan and to try to use it to help with your bills such as rent, council tax, childcare, food and fuel.
To find out more about Universal Credit, check your eligibility or claim online, visit the Government website www.gov.uk/universal-credit/eligibility
If you don’t have online access, you can phone 0800 328 5644 and choose option 2.
New Style Job Seekers Allowance
If you’ve worked over the past two to three years and have enough National Insurance Contributions, you may be eligible for the new style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). The new style JSA takes into account the amount of national insurance contributions you have made in the last two to three years. If you have had long periods where you’ve been out of work, you may not be eligible.
To claim the new style JSA go online at https://www.gov.uk/how-to-claim-new-style-jsa or telephone: 0800 055 6688.
Remember, if you claim the new style JSA you may also be able to claim UC, depending on your household circumstances. You can receive both benefits at the same time. UC will take into account what you are receiving for your new JSA and take this off your eligible UC entitlement.
Statutory Sick Pay
If you are unable to work due to Coronavirus (Covid-19) you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from your employer. Statutory Sick Pay will now be paid from the first day off instead of the fourth day. Being unable to work due to Coronavirus means that you have symptoms, or a member of your household has symptoms and you are having to self-isolate in line with Government guidance. If you need confirmation of this for your employer you don’t have to contact your GP. You can get an isolation note from NHS 24 online if you have Coronavirus symptoms or if you are self-isolating due to a member of your household having symptoms.
You can also access the isolation note at website address www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-advice/
If you are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay your employer should tell you this. You may have options to claim other benefits during this period.
New style Employment and Support Allowance
Just like the new style JSA mentioned above, if you have paid enough National Insurance Contributions in the last two to three years, you may be eligible for the new style Employment Support Allowance (ESA). Remember, if you have had periods where you have not worked, you may not be eligible. New style ESA can be paid from the first day of your claim, instead of the seventh day.
You can claim ESA online at www.gov.uk/employment-supportallowance/how-to-claim or, if you don’t have online access, call 0800 328 5644.
If you claim new style ESA, you may also be able to claim UC, depending on your household circumstances. You can receive both benefits at the same time. UC will take into account what you are receiving for your new style ESA and take this from your eligible UC entitlement. If you are not entitled to new style ESA, you can claim UC (see Universal Credit above)
If you are unable to continue self-employment because you have found yourself with no work, you may be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which includes members of partnerships. This scheme has been introduced by the UK Government and will be administered by HMRC. They will contact you directly.
In the meantime, depending on your household income, savings and circumstances, you may be eligible to claim Universal Credit (see above).
If you are currently receiving Universal Credit and are having to self-isolate, make sure you update your journal to notify DWP of this so that they are aware of the change in your circumstances. Whether you receive Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit as a jobseeker, DWP have advised that you will not be expected to look for work during this time.
If you receive Employment and Support Allowance or Personal Independence Payment DWP have advised that they are not carrying out any reviews on claims for a three month period. This means you should not have to worry about your benefits stopping during this period. If you had a review ongoing before mid-March and have a form to complete, we can refer you to the Financial Fitness Team for advice on how to complete this at home.
There are a number of other forms of help that you may qualify for, here are just a few examples:-
- Scottish Welfare Fund
- Discretionary Housing Payments
- Council Tax Reduction
- Social Security Scotland Benefits
- Personal Independent Payments (PIP)
We can give you advice and assistance on how to get more information on the above.