Advice lines open

During the Coronavirus crisis we will be keeping this page up to date with information relating to employment, benefits, housing, immigration and crime. This is an evolving situation so make sure to check the links we refer to and the gov.uk website or call us for advice.

Whilst our office is closed, you can call our advice lines to speak to a solicitor or caseworker.

You can call 020 8638 7429 during the following times:

Immigration & Asylum 
Monday 10-1pm

Employment 
Monday 1 – 3pm

Housing 
Tuesday 10 – 1pm

Welfare Benefits 
Tuesday 1 – 3pm

Employment

If you would like advice and support from our employment team please complete our online form.

The following link contains up to date information on furlough, safe working, sick pay, shielding, home working and other COVID related matters:  Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees | Acas

You can find general guidance from the folowing sources:
ACAS
Gov.uk
Citizens Advice
GLA Employment Rights Hub
Employment rights videos in 12 languages

Benefits

Last updated: 6 May 2020

If you’ve been affected by coronavirus, you might be able to claim benefits or get more money on your current benefits.
If you need welfare benefits advice  please call on 020 8969 7473, email info@nklc.org.uk

Some recent benefit changes and assistance during the coronavirus crisis

What to claim in particular circumstances

  1. If you are already receiving welfare benefits, these will continue as normal. There have been changes announced as to how existing benefits are being administered.
  2. If you have a severe disability, you may be eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) if you are over 16 but under 65. If you are over 65 you may be eligible for Attendance Allowance. If you are under 16 you may be eligible for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
  3. If you become sick because of coronavirus. Firstly check your contract of employment this will govern what, if any sick pay your employer will pay. If you are not entitled to any contractual sick pay, you can claim statutory sick pay.
  4. If you cannot work because of coronavirus and you are still employed, you could be eligible for assistance from the government job retention scheme.
  5. If you are self employed and unable to work due to coronavirus, you could be eligible for the government self employment scheme. The grants will start to be paid in June 2020
  6. If you become unemployed you may be able to claim New Style Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Eligibility depends on payment of class 1 national insurance contributions over the last two years. New Style JSA is not means tested, so income and capital will not affect the amount you receive. You can also claim Universal Credit if you become unemployed. You can receive both New Style JSA and Universal Credit, but the JSA will be treated as an income and affect the amount of UC you receive.
  7. Many existing welfare benefits have been abolished for new claimants. If you become unemployed, or your income drops, you can make a claim for Universal Credit. You can do this online, or there is a facility to make a claim on the telephone. Universal Credit pays different elements depending on your circumstances. You can receive a standard allowance for you and if you have one a partner. You can then qualify for various other elements depending on circumstances. If you pay rent you may qualify for the housing element.
    There is an element payable for children. There is an element for disabled children. There is an element payable for child care costs although at present this is limited to essential workers.
    There is an element if you are a carer.
    If you have an incapacity that prevents you from being able to seek work, there are two elements for this. Which incapacity element you receive depends on the level and nature of your incapacity.
  8. Universal Credit is a means tested benefit, meaning that income and capital are taken into account. However if your income drops or you have a low income, you may still qualify for Universal Credit. You should always notify changes in income.
  9. Universal Credit can stop existing claims for benefits and tax credits, therefore seek advice before claiming if you have an existing claim.

Health and Disability Benefits

This includes PIP, Attendance Allowance, DLA, ESA, the disability elements of Universal Credit, Industrial Injuries Benefit. 

All Face to face assessments have been cancelled. 

Sickness and disability benefit reviews and reassessments are also being suspended for the next three months.  Awards for health and disability benefits are being extended automatically for six months. 

People are being advised that they do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for at least three months. 

The changes, will apply from 26 March

It means there will be no new reviews or reassessments across all sickness and disability benefits – including universal credit, employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP), disability living allowance, attendance allowance and industrial injuries disablement benefit – for at least the next three months.

However for assessments already underway

  • for PIP, if an assessment has already taken place this will continue to be processed and, if an assessment has been scheduled, claimants will be contacted by the assessment provider to discuss how it will be taken forward;
  • for ESA and universal credit, claimants whose cases have been referred to the provider will be contacted to take it forward;
  • if people experience a change in their needs, they are still encouraged to contact the DWP to ensure they are receiving the correct level of support;
  • where awards are due to expire, they will be extended so that claimants continue to receive financial support at their current rate.

Universal Credit

All new claims for benefit.  Those receiving existing benefits should seek advice before claiming as UC has big winners and losers.  For unemployed people and those with a low income.  People who receive PIP or DLA might be able to claim other benefits instead.

You can apply for an advance of Universal Credit.  The advances will need to be repaid.

The waiting period has been suspended, so people should be able to get payments as soon as UC is administered.

Work search requirements will not be imposed for 3 month period for new and existing claims.

Minimum income floor – normally if you are self employed, universal credit rules treat you as earning a minimum income and working a minimum number of hours.  This is usually that you are earning the national minimum wage and working for 35 hours a week.  This is the case even if your hours are lower and income is lower.  As universal credit is means tested, the minimum income floor rules can cause self employed people to receive considerably less income.

Now the DWP will have the discretion to lessen the floor, or treat it as zero. 

Job Seekers Allowance

People will be treated as available for work and actively seeking employment.  This means they will not need to look for work

Statutory Sick Pay 

Normally there was a three day waiting period before someone could be treated as eligible for SSP.  The waiting period has now been lifted.

People staying at home for 7 days with symptoms of coronavirus and people living in the household with people with the symptoms of coronavirus staying at home for 14 days are treated as incapable of work.  This means they can receive SSP.  This will apply retrospectively from 13 March 2020.

Welfare Benefit Tribunals

All tribunals are to be stayed for 21 days.

All time limits on any current proceedings extended for the same period 21 days

All time limits for making appeals to be extended for the same period 21 days.

Any current hearings already listed will only go ahead if it has already been agreed that they can be dealt with remotely.  Judges are being encouraged to screen cases.

Self Employment Income Scheme

Taxable HMRC grant will provide support at 80 per cent of average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 a month

The scheme will be available from the beginning of June 2020.

If eligible you can claim Universal Credit whilst waiting for a grant.  As Universal Credit is means tested, the amount of the grant once received will affect the amount of benefit you receive. 

Free School Meals

Schools can provide free meals for collection or delivery.  Where this is not possible a £15.00 voucher can be issued by the school.

Welfare Benefit Debts

The DWP have held recovery of debts and loans

Housing

For information relating to how Coronavirus may affect your housing, please see the Shelter website. 
You can also contact us on the advice line listed at the top of this page if you have an issue with your housing.

Immigration

The government has released advice for visa applicants and temporary residents. You can find this on the gov.uk website here.
You can also contact us on the advice line listed at the top of this page if you have an immigration or asylum issue.

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