Weekly benefit blog (11)
Joel Sloan – Welfare Rights and Money Advice Worker
Manchester Carers Network
If you or the person you care for are worried about benefits or have any questions or issues feel free to contact me via phone or email, our contact details are;
0161 834 6069 (option 2 & option 2)
Carers are currently even more essential than they already were, so we are keen to ensure everyone is claiming everything they should be to allow them to continue their incredibly important roles.
We will update on any benefit changes in each week’s newsletter.
Wednesday 29th July
1 – If you are moving from Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance over to Universal Credit, you could get two weeks of your previous benefit once you start claiming Universal Credit. This may help the transition over to Universal Credit and reduce any gap in payments.
2 – You will need a fit note from your doctor if you are on Employment and Support Allowance.This requirement was previously suspended due to the Covid-19 situation. Click here for more information.
Wednesday 8th July
1 – The ban on rental evictions has been extended until 23rd August 2020.
2 – This link details some of the changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme. The amount the government will contribute to employee’s wages will reduce each month until the scheme ends on the 31st October.
3 – United Utilities have extended their Back on Track scheme to cover those who have been financially impacted by the Covid19 situation. This scheme can cap your yearly water bill. An application form can be found here, or call them on 0800 072 6765.
4 – People who are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) because they are shielding due to Coronavirus are still entitled to this if they meet people from another household.
5 – Repayments of benefit overpayments and social fund loans are due to start again after being suspended for 3 months. If these deductions are likely to cause people to experience financial hardship’ can request deferral of repayments by contacting DWP Debt Management line on 0800 916 0647.
6 – Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reviews and renewals are starting up again, however this will be done gradually starting with claims that were already underway when this activity was suspended. However face to face assessments remain suspended so any reassessments will be done via paper and/or over the phone.
7 – From the 1st August 2020 people who are currently shielding due to being clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be eligible for SSP on that basis.
Wednesday 1st July
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a new campaign around Universal Credit and COVID-19. A new website has been launched to provide clear, factual information on employment and benefits support with advice on housing, furlough, sick pay and self-employment, alongside advice and FAQs for employers, those already claiming and those making a new claim.
- Jobcentre Plus is supporting jobseekers to prepare for and find work through Twitter. They can find local vacancies and join virtual jobs fairs, skills events and other online events on their local Jobcentre Plus Twitter account.
- Measured that allow people struggling financially due to the pandemic to request payment freezes on loans and credit cards have been extended to 31st October 2020. People can also ask for an interest free overdraft of up to £500.
- The government has confirmed that people will not be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) on the basis of shielding as a result of COVID-19 from 1 August 2020.
Wednesday 3 June 2020
- People who have a Post Office Card Account and who are shielding are receiving calls from the National Shielding Service to ensure they are able to access their benefit and pension payments. They can offer to deliver cash to people who are unable to access their money while shielding. People who live alone and fit the above categories will receive contact from a DWP visiting officer or their local council.
- Pension credit can now be claimed online here
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed some details for bringing the Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Employers will see support scaled down over the coming months while self-employed people will see a final payment in August.
Wednesday 20 May 2020
- DWP have announced that no new benefit or pension claimants will be able to use the Post Office card account to receive their money with effect from 11 May 2020. However existing customers will see no change and can continue receiving their payments in to their Post Office accounts.
- The government has extended the Coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of October. Furthermore from August employers will be able to bring Furloughed employees back on a part time basis and will also be expected to share the cost of paying salaries.
- Awards of Personal Independence Payment that were due to expire during the Coronavirus pandemic will now be automatically extended by 6 months
- It is now possible for people to get free benefit information from the DWP via WhatsApp. Details can be found in this DWP tweet.
Wednesday 11 May 2020
- The government has confirmed that people who can’t work their normal hours because of coronavirus (COVID-19) will still receive their usual tax credits payments. This includes those working reduced hours due to coronavirus or those being furloughed by their employer as long as they are still employed or self-employed.
- Detailed guidance is not available yet but it is understood that 16 year olds who are on DLA will not be transferred to PIP currently. Under normal circumstances they would need to apply for PIP as DLA is only available up to the age of 16. This appears to have been temporarily suspended and their DLA extended during the pandemic.
- People can now make a claim for Pension Credit online. This can be done here. If you are pension credit age, or 4 months or less away from pension credit age, it is worth checking to see if you are eligible for Pension Credit. You can do so here or get in touch with us and we can do a benefit calculation with you.
Wednesday 6 May 2020
- DWP and The Post Office have launched a joint initiative to deliver cash benefit payments direct to the homes of claimants shielding due to the risk of coronavirus infection. This new cash delivery system is initially available to people who have Post Office Card Accounts and are shielding at home. Customers are being contacted to ensure they are able to access their payments. More information can be found here.
- DWP has paused third party deductions from Universal Credit until the 10th May. Third party deductions are when a third party applies to have money repaid to them from a claimants Universal Credit payment, for example council tax arrears. These deductions will start up again from 10th May.
- DWP have issued a warning to people claiming Universal Credit for the first time. If someone claiming Tax Credits claims Universal Credit this will bring their Tax Credit award to an end, even if they are then not eligible for Universal Credit. This also applies to some other older benefits including Housing Benefit, Income Related ESA and Income Support. It is therefore important to check, or seek advice from a Welfare Rights adviser before claiming Universal Credit as you may be better off not claiming.
Wednesday 29 April 2020
- The Chancellor has confirmed that the Furlough scheme, which is keeping many people in employment, will be extended until the end of June.
- If you are claiming Working Tax Credits and your work hours drop, usually your working tax credits would end after 4 weeks, HMRC appear to have extended this period to 8 weeks so you can carry on claiming Working Tax Credits even though your hours have reduced below the required amount. Also we have heard that HMRC are allowing people to carry on claiming for childcare even if their hours have dropped below the required amount. This is also a temporary measure.
- If your disability benefit, for example PIP or Attendance Allowance, is due for reassessment in the next 3 months, DWP have automatically extended your benefit for six months so you will not be reassessed before then. If you feel your health has got worse then you are free to request a reassessment (seek advice first though) otherwise you do not need to do anything.
Wednesday 21 April 2020
- Due to Registrar Offices operating on reduced capacity new parents can claim Child Benefit without having to register their child’s birth first.
- In addition to those who are self-isolating (i.e. they or a member of their household has Covid19 symptoms), Statutory Sick Pay is now also available for those vulnerable people who are ‘shielding’.
- Employees who are unable to work because of caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19) – such as needing to look after children – can be furloughed.
Wednesday 15 April 2020
This week’s update details updates concerning Universal Credit claims given the current demand, additional support for those eligible for Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payments, and finally initiatives set up specifically for Greater Manchester residents.
- The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have issued an update regarding Universal Credit claims –
‘DWP has experienced a huge increase in claims and our phone lines have been extremely busy as a result. We’re taking urgent action to boost capacity, we’ve moved 10,000 existing staff to help on the front line and we’re recruiting more.
The system is standing up well to pressures and our dedicated staff are working flat out to get people the support they need.
Claims will start the day people submit their application online, this is not reliant on identity being verified online. DWP will never text or email asking for personal information or bank details.’
They have also stated that people making new claims for Universal Credit will now not need to phone DWP to book their initial phone appointment. Instead DWP will contact you if they need any further information either by phone or the online journal.
- The government have announced an increase in Funeral Expenses Payments –
‘Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payments help eligible claimants with the cost of arranging a funeral. Funeral Expenses Payments met the full, necessary costs of a cremation or burial; these are broadly, the cost of purchasing a grave with exclusive burial rights, basic crematorium or burial fees, the costs of necessary documentation and (in some cases) transport of the deceased’s body.
An additional discretionary element can be used to help pay for items such as flowers, car hire, the funeral ceremony and funeral director charges for making the arrangements. The discretionary element is capped at £700 (or £120 where the claimant is provided with some items or services under a pre-paid funeral plan).
The decision has been made that the current £700 cap for the discretionary element will be increased to £1,000 for all cases.‘
- DWP have given some info to people who were already claiming benefits before the Coronavirus outbreak. This can be found here.
- Greater Manchester Law Centre have produced a ‘Covid19 survival guide’ with information about housing, benefits, employment and more. They are also available if anyone needs legal advice in these areas. Contact details can be found on the online guide here.
- Manchester City Council have provided more information about the £7.5 million available to Manchester residents facing hardship. This applies to working age people on Council Tax Support. You do not need to do anything but you can find out more here.
Monday 6 April 2020
*UPDATES DIRECTLY RELATING TO UNPAID CARERS
DWP has introduced two important temporary measures to help unpaid carers through the current emergency.
- *Unpaid carers will be able to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets Coronavirus or if they have to isolate because of it. Under normal rules there are restrictions on breaks in care, but these have been lifted.
- *Providing emotional support rather than just more traditional forms of care to a disabled person will also now count towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week.
- The DWP has stopped recovery action associated with benefit overpayments, tax credits debt, and social fund loans. In a recorded message on its Debt Management telephone line (0800 916 0647, Option 3), the DWP says that due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak –
‘ … we are stopping recovery action associated to benefits overpayments, tax credits debt being managed by DWP, and social fund loans for a temporary period.
We will no longer start to recover any new debts and will be suspending repayment of any debts already being recovered. This includes deductions for the repayment of benefit overpayments, tax credit debt and social fund loans from all benefits, direct debit plans, and repayments made to employers.
You do not need to speak to an adviser to ask us to do this, we have arranged this on your behalf.
If you currently make repayments through a bank standing order, please contact your bank to cancel your arrangement. If you currently make repayments by bank giro credit, please suspend these payments immediately. If you currently make repayments through online banking, please suspend these payments immediately.’
This means that if you are having money taken off your benefit for this reason this should cease for a while which is good news and should mean people have some extra money coming in.
- If you are waiting for a date for a benefit appeal the Tribunals service are trying to make as many appeal decisions on paper, without an oral hearing, where possible. If this is not possible they will likely be conducting appeals via telephone. If this is not feasible they will likely be adjourned until a face to face hearing can take place. You do not need to do anything at the moment you will hear from the Tribunals service when necessary.
30 March 2020
- The standard rate of Universal Credit and Tax Credits is increasing by £20 per week for one year from the 6th April 2020. This is mainly to allow self-employed people to access the same amount as employed people who would claim Statutory Sick Pay if affected by Coronavirus. However the increase will be for all Universal Credit claims.
- Universal Credit has something called the Minimum Income Floor, this means that some self-employed people on a low income have their Universal Credit calculated based on this set amount, rather than their actual earnings, meaning they end up receiving less Universal Credit. The government are removing the Minimum Income Floor for those affected by Coronavirus.
- The government have announced £500 in funding for Council Tax support. So it is important to check whether you are entitled to council tax support, especially if you are affected by Coronavirus.
- A package of support has been announced for self-employed people who are affected by Coronavirus including a grant of 80% of their profits up to £2500 per month.
- Access to job centres has been limited, people can now only access job centres by pre-arranged appointment, these will be reserved for the most vulnerable claimants who cannot access services by other channels.
- People renting their home from private landlords may receive more help with their rent, as the amount of Local Housing Allowance, which is the capped amount the government will pay for private rental housing costs in Universal Credit or Housing Benefit is increasing.
- Renters are also protected from evictions for 3 months.
- The government announced support for employees whose jobs are threatened by Coronavirus through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Through this scheme employees can have 80% of their wages covered for 3 months if they are not able to work.
- Support has been announced for families whose children would usually be entitled to free school meals, information about this can be found here