Coronavirus State Benefits

What state benefits can I claim if I’m off work and self-isolating?


You may be eligible for the following state benefits if you are: - infected with coronavirus; - caring for someone in the same household as you who has coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms; - otherwise self-isolating in accordance with official public health guidance, because you or someone in your household has symptoms which could be coronavirus, for example, a new continuous cough or a high temperature. Depending on your contract, you may be entitled to company sick pay. You need to look at your contract to confirm this or ask your employer. If you’re not entitled to company sick pay, then you may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”). If you are an employee, and you normally earn £118 per week or more, then you should be able to claim SSP which is paid at £94.25 per week (or £95.85 from April 2020). If you have to stay at home because you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms, you can also get SSP, even if you are not ill yourself. This is because public health guidance says you need to stay at home in these circumstances. However, SSP doesn’t apply if you are following government guidance to avoid the risk of coronavirus but no one in your household has symptoms, for example, if you are practising social distancing as part of the general stay at home guidance for everyone in the UK. If you are not entitled to SSP and have paid sufficient class 1 or class 2 national insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years you may be entitled to Contributory Employment and Support Allowance (“CESA”). You may be able to get this if you or someone in your household has coronavirus or has symptoms, or you are caring for your child who is self-isolating. Medical evidence is not necessary, but your entitlement is at the discretion of the DWP, and it probably won’t cover you if you are following guidance to avoid the risks of coronavirus, but no-one in your household has symptoms. For most new claimants, contributory ESA is also called ‘new-style’ ESA. There is normally a seven day waiting period for CESA, but for claimants affected by coronavirus the law now says that the benefit can be paid from the first day, at the DWP’s discretion. Even if you discover you’re not entitled to contributory ESA, claiming can mean you get national insurance credits for limited capability for work (which could be important if you end up being off work for a long time). So it is worth making a ‘NI credits only’ claim.




I’m already claiming benefits, can I get more help if my income has gone down?


If your income has gone down, you may be able to get increased amounts on the income-related benefits you are already claiming. These include Tax Credits, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance. If you are off work because you are self-isolating, check the section on self-isolation above to see what you can claim. If you are claiming Universal Credit (“UC”) then the amount of UC you receive should go up if your income is reduced. Remember that if you start a claim for UC when you are on existing benefits which it replaces, these will usually come to an end (including Tax Credits and usually Housing Benefit) and you won’t be able to claim them again. Claiming UC for a short time may mean you lose out in the long run, so try to get advice. The amount of UC for adults is going up in April by around £20 a week, but depending on what benefits you were already receiving before, this will not prevent you losing out. In addition, because of the way UC works, you may not see this increase in your UC payment until May or June. The government has created some guidance here to help explain how Universal Credit will work during the pandemic. If you are claiming Housing Benefit, you can ask your local authority to increase your entitlement while your income is reduced. Housing Benefit can be adjusted on a weekly basis. Make sure you tell them about any other benefits you get, including Tax credits. If you are claiming Tax Credits (Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit) it may be possible to get more in Tax Credits if your annual income for the tax year is going to be at least £2,500 less than the previous year. However, because it is close to the end of the tax year, this probably won’t help immediately. If you have lost your job because of COVID-19, your Working Tax Credit will continue for a period of 4 weeks (it will continue for longer if you went from actually working immediately onto claiming ESA/National Insurance Credits for limited capability for work – see the section on self-isolation above). You can continue claiming Child Tax credit even if you stop working. See the section on self-isolation above for more guidance on how your Working Tax Credit could be affected if you are off work because of COVID-19 and you are still employed. You could contact your local authority because you might get a Council Tax reduction to help pay your council tax bill. Your local authority may also call this Council Tax Support. If you get a Council Tax reduction, make sure you tell the local authority about changes to your income including other benefits and Tax Credits. Please keep in mind that your local authority may also operate a Scottish Welfare Fund if you are having exceptional difficulties, so it’s always worth contacting them. Remember too, that you can check online benefits calculators like entitledto.co.uk to see if you are entitled to any other benefits.




I’m not claiming any benefits, what can I claim if my income has gone down due to coronavirus?


You may be able to claim Universal Credit (“UC”). If you have a partner, your eligibility for Universal Credit will take into account their earnings too. You can get an advance to help you during the approximate 5 week wait before your first payment, but this is repayable from your ongoing UC (if you stop being eligible for UC because your income increases again, you will still owe the DWP for the advance). The amount of UC for adults is going up by roughly £20 a week from April. You won’t get the increased amount until after 6 April though, and because of the way UC works, it could be as late as May or June before you receive the extra amount. The government has created some guidance here to help explain how Universal Credit will work during the coronavirus outbreak. You should contact your local authority because you might get a Council Tax reduction to help pay your Council Tax bill. Your local authority may call this Council Tax Support. If you get this, make sure you tell your local authority about any changes to your income, including any other benefits you get. Depending on where you live, if you get a Council Tax reduction, your Council Tax bill may be reduced further in 2020/2021. You do not need to apply for this separately, but this makes it even more important to claim a Council Tax reduction even if you’re not entitled to very much help now. Keep in mind that your local authority may also have a Scottish Welfare Fund. If you are having exceptional difficulties, it’s always worth contacting them to check. Remember too, that you can check online benefits calculators like entitledto.co.uk to see if you are entitled to any other benefits.




I’m struggling to pay my bills, what else can I do?


You should make sure that you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to. Use this online benefits calculator here. If you have children, and were getting free school meals, then ask the school or your local council what arrangements they are making instead. If you already get Housing Benefit or your Universal Credit calculation includes a housing element, but you still need help to pay your rent, you can apply to your local council for extra help. They might be able to give you a discretionary housing payment. You should contact your gas, electricity, phone companies etc if you are struggling to pay or top up your meter. There is more information available from Citizens Advice Scotland.





Gavin Booth

The Law at Work

19 Etive Court

Cumbernauld

Lanarkshire

Scotland

G67 4JA

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