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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice

Main benefits

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Attendance Allowance (AA)

This benefit is for people with care needs aged 65 and over, who are not already getting Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. You cannot claim this benefit if you are permanently in hospital or funded by the council to live in a care home. You must have had the care needs for at least 6 months unless your condition is terminal. This benefit is not based on your income or contributions; it is paid at two rates depending on how much help you are assessed as needing.

Attendance Allowance helpline: 0345 605 6055

Apply for Attendance Allowance

Bereavement benefits

From 6 April 2017 there is a new Bereavement Support Payment for those who were married or in a civil partnership, under State Pension Age and living with your spouse or partner when they died.

Your spouse or civil partner must have paid National Insurance for at least 25 weeks in a single tax year. When you apply, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will check to see if they paid enough National Insurance.

If you don't have children, you can get a lump sum payment of £2,500 and monthly payments of £100 for up to 18 months.

If you have children or you're pregnant, you can get a lump sum payment of £3,500 and monthly payments of £350 for up to 18 months.

You won't have to pay tax on any of the payments, including the lump sum.

Bereavement Service helpline: 0345 608 8601

Apply to Bereavement Support

Bereavement Benefits on or before 5 April 2017

If you were married or in a civil partnership and your partner died on or before 5 April 2017, you may be able to get extra financial help. These benefits are called bereavement benefits.

If your spouse or civil partner died when they were serving in the Armed Forces, you may also be able to get financial help from the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SP VA). You can get this help as well as bereavement benefits.

Bereavement benefits include:

  • Bereavement Payment - a one-off lump sum you claim when your spouse or civil partner dies
  • Widowed Parent's Allowance if you have dependent children
  • Bereavement Allowance if you don't have dependent children

Bereavement benefits are paid to widows, widowers or the surviving partner of a civil partnership. You can get a bereavement benefit if your husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 9 April 2001.

Citizens Advice have more details on these benefits.

Budgeting Loans

Budgeting Loans are interest free loans from the Social Fund to help you pay for one-off expenses. You can only claim one if you have been receiving an income based benefit (such as Pension Credit, income-related ESA or Universal Credit) for at least 6 months; you will then pay back the loan by receiving lower benefit payments for a period of time.

Apply for a Budgeting Loan

Carers Allowance

This can be claimed by people who are providing 'regular and substantial care' to someone who has a disability or long-term illness. You have to provide at least 35 hours care a week, and cannot be earning more than £116 a week (after deductions) from another job. The person you care for has to be getting one of the following: Attendance Allowance, Constant Attendance Allowance, the middle or higher rate for personal care of Disability Living Allowance; the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment. 

Claiming Carers Allowance may affect the benefits received by the person.

Carers Allowance helpline: 0345 608 4321

Apply for Carers Allowance

Child Benefit

You can get Child Benefit if you are responsible for child or young person under 20 and still in full-time education. The rules about receiving Child Benefit are different for higher earners, usually those with an income of more than £50,000 per year.

Child Benefit calculator

Council Tax reduction

If you are on a low income and/or in receipt of certain benefits you may be able to get a reduction on your Council Tax bill. Generally you will need to be resident in the house you are claiming for, live in the UK and have less than a certain amount of capital. 

There is also a separate reduction scheme for Disabled People: If your household contains a child or adult who is substantially and permanently disabled, the 'band' of your Council Tax is reduced (e.g. a Band C property becomes a Band B property). You also need to show that you have made adaptations for this person, for example an extra bathroom or kitchen for their use.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for adults

DLA is for people with a long-term disability. You can only make a new claim for DLA if you are under 16. If you are between 16 and 65 you need to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Information on DLA and PIP is available on the government website.

Or you call call 0800 121 4600 for advice about Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children

DLA has different care and mobility components. For children with care needs you can claim from when they are 3 months old if you can show that your child has substantially more care needs than a child of a similar age. Mobility has two components; higher rate is paid after a child reaches the age of 3 if they have physical problems walking or are unable to walk at all. The lower rate mobility rate can be claimed from age 5.

You can call 0800 121 4600 for more advice on DLA for children.

DLA for children claim form

Employment and Support Allowance (contribution based)

If you can't work because of sickness or disability and are not getting Statutory Sick Pay, you could claim Employment and Support Allowance.

This benefit will be based on your National Insurance contributions. You may also need to claim Universal Credit if your contribution record is inadequate, you have other people in your household or you have other housing costs.

For Employment and Support Allowance you will have to submit medical certificates and other evidence of your condition to prove you cannot work. You will probably have to attend a medical examination which looks at both physical and mental health factors. You may be expected to take some steps to look at getting back into work. A personal adviser will look at what would help you, including options such as volunteering, training and work trials.

This benefit will eventually be replaced by Universal Credit.

From 1 April 2017, the ESA Work-Related Activity component is abolished: New ESA claimants who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will receive the same rate of payment as those claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and the equivalent in Universal Credit.

From 3 April 2017, ESA claimants who undertake permitted work and earn between £20 and £120 per week will no longer have to give up their work or stop claiming ESA after 52 weeks.

You can call 0800 169 0310 for advice on Employment and Support Allowance ESA.

ESA benefits calculator

Emergency Welfare Assistance / Local Welfare Assistance / Discretionary Housing Payments

The council runs an Emergency Welfare Assistance scheme to help people on low incomes deal with emergency expenses. Help is provided in the form of vouchers, pre-paid gas and electricity cards, food and goods.

There is still the general 'Social Fund' which provides Budgeting Loans for those on certain income-based benefits. These can help you buy some equipment or furniture, or help with unexpected travel costs; there are also grants towards the costs of a funeral, and if you are expecting your first baby (maternity grants) - again these are dependent on you receiving certain mean-tested benefits.

Local Authorities have a limited budget available for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to make up a shortfall between rent and Housing Benefit (or rent and housing costs in Universal Credit). Each Local Authority sets its criteria, and these payments are usually seen as short-term to help people through temporary difficulties.

Housing Benefit

Housing Benefit is being replaced for some people by Universal Credit (housing costs element) from October 2017.

For those still entitled to it (for example, people of pension age or anyone living in certain kinds of 'supported' housing), Housing Benefit helps people who are on a low income to pay their rent. You can get help if you are on a low income or in receipt of certain benefits. 

Housing Benefit can be restricted if all your benefits combined bring you over the 'benefit cap'. You may also be able to claim a Discretionary Housing Payment from the council if you are facing financial hardship. 

Housing Benefit calculator

Housing costs

For some of the income-related means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, you may be able to get some help with your mortgage interest payments. The rules on this are complex so it is a good idea to speak to a financial advisor.

Income Support

Income Support is no longer available to any new claimants. It was a means-tested benefit for people on a low income who were not 'available for work'. You may continue to get it if you are a lone parent of a child under 3 or a carer.

You can call 0800 169 0310 for advice about Income Support.

Universal Credit will eventually replace Income Support.

Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

There are several benefits that you might get if you have a disability as a result of an injury or accident at work, or have become ill due to work. You must have been employed at the time this happened; you cannot claim these benefits if you were self-employed.

Apply for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

Jobseekers Allowance (contribution based)

Jobseeker's Allowance is payable if you are not working, or working under 16 hours/ week, and you are seeking work. There were two types, one based on your National Insurance contributions, and the other based on your income.

If you are seeking work and living on a low income you will now need to claim Universal Credit instead, but you should check any entitlement to contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance as well.

You can call 0800 169 0310 for advice about Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA).

Apply for Jobseekers Allowance

Pension Credit

There are two elements to Pension Credit: the 'guarantee' element tops up your income to a set level. The 'savings' pension credit element may mean you can get a top-up even if you have a modest level of savings; this element can only be claimed from the age of 65. You can get both types of pension credit and other benefits at the same time.

If you will reach State Pension Age on or after 6 April 2016, you can only get the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit.

If you are able to claim Pension Credit and do not live in a care home you are also likely to be eligible for help with fuel costs in the winter, including Winter Fuel Payments and Cold Weather Payments.

Pension Credit claim line: 0800 99 1234

Pension Credit calculator

Personal Independent Payment (PIP)

This is a benefit for people aged 16 to 64 who have a disability or long-term health condition. It replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for new claims for people aged 16 to 64 and is gradually replacing the DLA currently being claimed by people in that age group. If you need to transfer from DLA to PIP you will receive a letter from the government about this before October 2017.

You will be asked about your ability to carry out daily living tasks and about your mobility.

You will need to write a statement about what you can do which will be given a score. You are also likely to have a medical examination.

PIP new claim line: 0800 917 2222

PIP enquiries (not new claims): 0800 121 4433

Apply for PIP

State Pension

If you have reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016 and you're already getting State Pension you're not affected by changes to the State Pension introduced in April 2016.

The full basic State Pension you can get is £119.30 per week.

You need 30 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions to get the full amount. You can get less than the full amount if you don't have 30 qualifying years.

You may also qualify for an Additional State Pension depending on your contributions. This is sometimes known as State Second Pension.

If you reach State Pension Age on or after 6 April 2016 you will get the new State Pension.

There is information and advice on claiming State Pension. There is also a State Pension calculator.

Get your State Pension online

Deferring your State Pension

You don't have to claim your State Pension when you reach your State Pension age. If you want, you can put off your claim and get extra pension when you do claim.

If you've already claimed your State Pension, you can cancel the claim so that you can get extra pension later on, but you can only do this once.

The extra pension will be paid as an increase in your weekly rate of State Pension. For every nine weeks you defer, you'll get a pension increase of 1%. This works out at 5.8% for every full year.

This means you will have to live for around 19 years to benefit from the decision to put off claiming for one year.

Deferring your State Pension

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you're off work sick you may be able to claim SSP from your employer. You will need to have been earning over a certain amount per week to qualify. SSP is paid for 28 weeks. If you cannot get SSP, or when the 28 weeks ends if you are still not fit to return to work, your employer must give you a form, SSP1, which you use to make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance.

You can claim Universal Credit if you do not qualify for contribution based Employment and Support Allowance.

More information on Statutory Sick Pay

Tax Credits

You may be able to claim Working Tax Credit if you are disabled, in receipt of a qualifying benefit for example PIP/DLA/AA, working at least 16 hours a week, and your income is below a certain level. (The rules for Tax Credits are different if you are not disabled). This can be paid in addition to other benefits such as PIP, though Working Tax Credit can affect other income-based benefits such as Housing Benefit.

Child Tax Credit is paid if you are on a low income and responsible for a child or young person (one that is still at school until age 18).

Tax Credit helpline is 0345 300 3900

Apply for Working Tax Credit

Apply for Child Tax Credit

Support for children through Tax Credits and Universal Credit will be limited to two children from April 2017. For Child Tax Credit, elements will not be included for a third (or more) child born on or after 6 April 2017 unless an exception applies. Elements will continue to be included for all children born before 6 April 2017.

Also, people starting a family after April 2017 will no longer be eligible for the Family Element in tax credits.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a benefit for people of working age. It started in October 2017 replacing 6 current benefits:

  • Income based Jobseeker's allowance (JSA)
  • Income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit 

Find out more about Universal Crediton the government website or call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 9344.

Universal Credit is designed to be claimed online and you will need to manage your claim online on a regular basis.  There is assistance available for those who may find this difficult.

Payment can only be made into a bank or building society account.

Apply for Universal Credit online

Keeping warm in winter

Winter Fuel Payment

The Winter Fuel Payment is an annual one-off payment to help you pay for heating during the winter. Anyone born on or before 5 January 1953 can get it, if you live in the UK or another eligible country.

Find out more about the Winter Fuel Payment

Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payments are one-off payments to help you pay for extra heating costs when it's very cold. You'll get a payment each time the temperature drops below a specific temperature for a set period of time.

You'll only be eligible if you already get:

  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Universal Credit

Find out more about Cold Weather Payments

Warm Homes Discount

You might be able to get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you either:

  • get the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit
  • are on a low income

Check with your supplier to see if they offer the Warm Home Discount - not all suppliers are part of the scheme.

If you've applied for the Warm Home Discount but you switch supplier before you get the payment, you have to apply again with your new supplier. Your new supplier might have different rules about who gets the discount. This doesn't affect you if you get the discount automatically, without having to apply.

Find out more about the Warm Home Discount Scheme

Important changes to the benefit cap from 7 November 2016

The government sets an upper limit on how much you can receive in total from certain benefits. If you are not exempt and your benefit amount is above the cap, your Housing Benefit or Universal Credit amount will be reduced to bring your benefit amount into line with the cap. Your household income from many different types of benefit is taken into account, though some benefits are completely ignored by the cap amount.

Only those receiving Housing Benefit or Universal Credit are affected by the benefit cap. Some people are also exempt from the cap, particularly those receiving Working Tax Credit, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, or those over pensionable age.

From 7 November 2016, Benefit Cap Amounts are being reduced, and are as follows:

  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 per year) if you live as a couple, if you have children living with you or not
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 per year) if you're single and you have children living with you
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 per year) if you're single and you don't have children living with you

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