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Financial assistance / benefits update - Covid-19


Here are the many recent extensions to the provisions that have previously helped those requiring financial assistance to manage better during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme- extension-Furlough (employed) extended until 31 March 2021 (replacing the planned Job Support Scheme).  For claim periods running to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The £2,500 cap is proportional to the hours not worked.  Employers can claim for employees who were employed and on their PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020. Employees that were employed and on the payroll on 23 September 2020 who were made redundant or stopped working for their employer afterwards can be re-employed and claimed for.

Self Employed Income Support Scheme - The extension will last for 6 months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in 2 lump sum instalments each covering a 3 month period. The third grant will cover a 3 month period from 1 November 2020 until 31 January 2021. The Government will provide a taxable grant calculated at 80% of 3 months average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £7,500 in total.  Details on the fourth grant are yet to be announced.

Universal Credit- Minimum income floor (affects many self-employed).  This was suspended on 13 March 2020.  A new law extends it now until 30 April 2021. A claimant will be able to look at whether they are still self-employed before they are hit by the reintroduction. The law also allows until 12 May 2020 any period during which a person is infected or contaminated with Coronavirus disease, in isolation or caring for a child or qualifying young person in their household who is so infected or contaminated or is in isolation, to not be counted towards a period of sickness under JSA. Temporary breaks in caring where a client is in receipt of Carers Allowance is also allowed.

Winter Grants Package- includes £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme (run by councils) to support children, families and the most vulnerable over winter, Holiday Activities and Food programme to be expanded, covering Easter, Summer and Christmas in 2021 and Healthy Start payments set to rise from £3.10 to £4.25 a week from April 2021. At least 80% earmarked to support with food and bills, and will cover the period to the end of March 2021.

  • Job centres will open during November lockdown, including in person if people need extra support and are unable to interact on the phone or digitally.
  • Face to face medicals remain suspended- also from 2 November 2020, claimants who fail to attend (by telephone) may have their ESA stopped or universal credit entitlement changed.
  • BSL Video relay service-DWP has extended Video Relay Service (VRS) for British Sign Language (BSL) users across all service lines. Accessed via an app:
  • ESA extend the waiving of ESA waiting days until 12 May 2021.


A quick reminder:

Test and Trace payments:

If you receive certain means-tested benefits, and you are requested to self-isolate, you are unable to work from home so lose income, you will now be eligible for a payment of £500 for each period of self-isolation. (10 days if you've tested positive; 14 days if someone in your household has tested positive).

Since 28 September, each time an eligible person is told to self-isolate by 'Test and Trace' they will be able to claim £500 for the time you or a family member has to self-isolate. It's not a one-off payment, meaning you can claim it EVERYTIME you have to self-isolate.


Who can claim?

  • You must receive one of the following benefits: universal credit, working tax credit, income-based employment and support allowance, income-based jobseeker's allowance, income support, housing benefit or pension credit. 
  • Councils have discretion to make payments to those who don't receive the qualifying benefits.  Only for those on a low income who could suffer financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.
  • You must have a notification from the NHS Test and Trace Scheme asking you to self-isolate. This can be because you've tested positive for Covid-19 or if you've recently been in contact with someone who has tested positive and you will need to prove this. 
  • You'll need proof of your employment. Plus, confirmation from your employer that you're unable to work from home. 
  • If you're self-employed, you will need to show evidence of self-assessment tax returns. Plus, proof that you cannot run your business without social contact. 


How do I claim & when? 

  • The grants are administered by local authorities.
  • As soon as you get the notification to self-isolate, you need to contact your local authority, online or by phone. It is then up to individual councils to make payments as quickly as possible. 
  • Local authorities should now have set up their systems to allow you to make a claim. You can request a backdated claim to 28 September, when the scheme first opened. 
  • Here's the council website checker.


What else do I need to know?

  • Even with a joint claim for universal credit, you can claim the support payment as an individual, so if you AND your partner need to self-isolate, you can each make separate claims for the £500 payment. 
  • If you need to self-isolate again, you can claim a subsequent payment, as long as you meet the criteria. 
  • The payment will not affect your benefits. The DWP has confirmed that the payment will be 'disregarded' for benefits purposes, you will still need to log it as a payment in your online journal. 
  • The payments are subject to income tax, but not subject to national insurance contributions. 
  • Anyone who qualifies for this payment will receive it on top of any statutory sick pay they are entitled to.