Last updated 23 April
The changes to benefits being made as a result of coronavirus are piecemeal and rapidly changing. Please check back to this page regularly for the latest updates.
There is also a Benefits and Work members Coronavirus forum where you can post queries or information.
Unless stated otherwise these changes apply if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus or are self-isolating or caring for a child who has been diagnosed with coronavirus or is self-isolating.
The changes apply whether you are making a new claim or there is a review of your benefit.
We have now updated those of our members guides that have been most affected by the recent changes.
If you aren’t able to get to the Post Office to collect your benefits it is possible in certain circumstances to have the cash sent to your home. You need to have a Post Office Card Account and be shielding so that you are not able to leave your home to collect your benefits. Further details are available here
There will be no face-to-face assessments for at least the next 3 months from 17 March 2020, until 17 June 2020.The assessment provider that is due to carry out the assessment should contact you to tell you what will happen next. The assessment will either be a paper based one, or carried out over the phone.
If you are making a fresh claim no award will be made without an assessment.
From 24 March 2020 for 3 months, until 24 June 2020 no reviews will be carried out. So, if your condition deteriorates and you think you are entitled to a higher rate of PIP it is very important that you request a review anyway to ensure you receive the maximum arrears when the situation returns to normal.
On April 23rd 2020 the DWP announced that if your ‘disability benefit’ is due to expire in the next 3 months, until July 23rd 2020, it will automatically be extended for 6 months. Although they did not define ‘disability benefit’ it is reasonable to assume they meant PIP, DLA and AA.
The time limit for returning the PIP2 form has been extended from a month to 90 days. None the less it would be best to return the form as soon as you can.
When you claim you will be entitled from the first day of sickness i.e. there are no waiting days.
From 17 March 2020 for at least the next 3 months there will be no face-to-face assessments, until 17 June 2020 The assessment provider that is due to carry out the assessment should contact you to tell you what will happen next. The assessment will either be a paper based one, or carried out over the phone.
From 24 March 2020 for 3 months until 24 June 2020 no reviews will be carried out for ESA. So, if your condition deteriorates and you in the Work Related Activity Group and think you should be in the Support Group it is very important that you request a review to ensure you receive the maximum arrears when the situation returns to normal.
When you claim you will be treated as having Limited Capability for Work (LCW), you will not have to submit fit notes or undergo a Work Capability Assessment (WCA).
If you are claiming on the grounds of sickness there will be no face-to-face assessments, for a period of 3 months until June 17th 2020.The assessment provider that is due to carry out the assessment should contact you to tell you what will happen next. The assessment will either be a paper based one, or carried out over the phone.
From March 24th 2020 reviews have been suspended for a period of 3 months until June 24th 2020, in line with the changes to ESA outlined above. The Minimum Income Floor will be suspended. This is a measure that only applies to some self-employed UC claimants.
You will not be required to attend the Jobcentre for any appointments, and in particular you will not be required to attend to begin your claim.
The DWP announced on April 16th 2020 that you can verify your identity using either::
When you claim you will be treated as having LCW, you will not have to submit fit notes or undergo a WCA.
Face-to-face assessments have been suspended for a period of at least 3 months from 24 March 2020, until 24 June 2020.
From April 16th 2020 you will be entitled to SSP if you are at risk of Coronavirus as a result of an underlying health condition or you have been advised to follow shielding measures. This change is in addition to the one introduced on March 13th 2020 which treats you as entitled to SSP if you are self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus.
Some employees are entitled to this from their employer. Normally you cannot be paid for the first 4 days of sickness, known as ‘waiting days’. There will no longer be any waiting days.
You will be deemed to be incapable of work.
Carers allowance will continue to be payable if there is a temporary break in providing care, due to either the carer or the person being cared for developing coronavirus or having to self-isolate because of coronavirus.
Below are some of the queries we have received on the forum or by email. We have done our best to answer them, but bear in mind the situation is changing rapidly and it is worth checking this page regularly.
Q. I have a face-to-face assessment appointment do I need to attend?
A. From March 17th 2020 all face-to- face appointments in relation to sickness and disability benefits have been suspended. This will apply for at least the next 3 months, until June 17th 2020, and covers appointments for Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance and Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Universal Credit.
It also covers verification appointments for Universal Credit if you are claiming on the grounds of sickness.
Q. I'm waiting on an appointment, will I get one?
A. The suspension of face-to-face assessments does not mean that your claim will not progress. It has never been the case in law that you are required to have a face-to-face assessment in relation to your claim. The health care provider who is responsible for carrying out assessments in your area will decide whether to carry out a paper or phone assessment. If they carry out a phone assessment, they must give you 7 days’ notice of when they are going to phone you.
Q. Several people have been told by the assessment providers when they phone them that there is no intention to do phone assessments?
A. This is incorrect. The statements from the Department for Work and Pensions make it absolutely clear that carrying out phone assessments is one possibility.
Q My PIP award ends in x months what happens then?
A. The beginning of the process of claiming again has not changed. You will be written to and invited to make a new claim. You should do this, and complete the claim form ‘How Your Disability Affects You’. The health care provider will then carry out either a paper assessment or a phone one. It is very important that you keep to the time limits for claiming and returning the form.
Payment of your current award will continue until a new decision is made on your claim.
Q. How long do I have to return the ‘How My Disability Affects You’ form, commonly known as a PIP2?
A. A message on the PIP inquiry phone line as of today, April 2nd 2020 , says the time limit for returning this has been extended from 4 weeks to 90 days. It says the 90 days starts from the date you received it. We think this should say 90 days from the date on the covering letter that came with it.
Q. I already have a PIP2 and have received a reminder letter saying I need to return it. What do I do?
A. The message says to ignore any reminder letters, you have 90 days from the date of the covering letter.
Q. I requested a review of my PIP in December 2019 before the process changed, and haven't heard anything. What will happen?
A. Your review will proceed as normal until PIP reach a stage of deciding whether to carry out an assessment. This cannot now be a face-to-face assessment, as there are no face-to-face assessments until at least June 17th 2020 and will either be done on the papers or a phone assessment.
Incidentally given the passage of time since you requested a review, you should chase up PIP.
Q. What do I need to provide for a paper assessment?
A. It is vitally important that you provide as much information as possible, as you will not have the opportunity to attend a face-to-face assessment. Examples of information you should think about including would be medical reports, care plans, statements from family and friends who know about your disability and how it affects you. Also details of changes in medication and treatment if this shows that your condition has worsened, or you have not responded positively to your previous medication or treatment.
Q. My condition has deteriorated and I think I am entitled to a higher rate of PIP. What should I do?
A. A review will not be carried out for at least 3 months starting on March 24th 2020. You should request a review now so that you are entitled to the maximum of arrears in due course when the situation returns to normal.
Q. Can I be found Fit for Work (fail the Work Capability Assessment,) without having attended a face to face assessment?
A. Yes, the decision as to whether you are Fit for Work will be based on a paper or phone assessment. There is no requirement in law that says that the health care provider must carry out a face-to-face assessment, unless they are minded to award you 0 points, in which case they must carry out a face-to-face assessment.
Q. Will it take longer to assess claims if there are no face-to-face assessments?
A. No one knows what the impact will be. In theory if a significant number of paper assessments are carried out it could make the process quicker.
Q. What are the PIP phone numbers?
A. For new claims – 0800 917 2222, for everything else – 0800 121 4433.
Q. What about appeals?
A. From 20 March 2020 for a period of at least 6 months all appeals will be dealt with initially on the papers if it is highly likely that the appeal will be decided in your favour. A provisional decision will be issued and if you and the DWP agree with it that will become the final decision. Otherwise a full hearing will take place which will be conducted either by phone or by video-link.
As of April 1st 2020 there is a recorded message on the DWP Debt Management phone line. It says that they are suspending recovery of social security overpayments, Social Fund loans and Tax Credit overpayments.
The phone line as of today, April 2nd 2020 , will not let you speak to anyone about the recorded message.
Even taking account of the suspension of the debt recovery procedures, you are strongly advised to consider challenging the decision that you have been overpaid.
Q. What do you need to do if you are already paying back an overpayment?
A. According to the phone message, nothing. It then contradicts itself by advising you to immediately cancel any standing orders that you have set-up to repay the DWP.
Q. Will the DWP set-up any new recovery arrangements?
A. According to the message, no.
Q. Which benefits does it apply to?
A. All overpayment of benefits paid by the DWP, plus Tax Credits and Social Fund loans.
Q. Does it apply to repayment of Housing Benefit overpayments?
A. In certain circumstances the DWP recovers these. Normally this would be because you have an overpayment of Housing Benefit, but are no longer receiving it. The local authority will sometimes ask the DWP to recover it from any social security benefits you are receiving.
It doesn’t mention these in the recorded message. If this applies to you phone Debt Management – 0800 916 0647, between 10.00/4.00 Monday to Friday. It says no new arrangements will be set up, and it implies that it will cease recovery of existing arrangements.
Q. What happens to recovery of Housing Benefit and Coucil Tax Reduction?
A. These are the responsibility of the local authority. You should argue strongly that these should be the same arrangements as the DWP.
Q. Does it apply to recovery from deceased peoples’ estates?
A. This is where someone who has died had an overpayment outstanding. The DWP has the power in certain circumstances to recover these from their estate. It doesn’t mention these in the recorded message. If this applies to you phone Debt Management – 0800 916 0624. Their site doesn’t say when they are open.
Q. Is the number different if I am repaying a Social Fund loan and still receiving benefit?
A. Yes, ring 0800 169 0140, between 8.00/6.30 Monday to Friday.
Q. My debt is being recovered by a private debt agency on behalf of the DWP. What will happen?
A. The DWP have instructed them to cease recovery.
Q. What happens to DLA awards if the procedure has not been carried out and my award is due to expire?
A. If you are migrating from DLA to PIP your DLA will carry on at its existing rate until a decision is made on your PIP claim.
If your DLA is due to expire and you have reclaimed DLA, in effect you are a child under 16 (18 in Scotland), then your DLA award will also continue to be paid at its existing rate.
Q. How long will these procedures last?
A. At present for at least 3 months from March 17th 2020, until June 17th 2020.
Q. I have an assessment for my child’s DLA. Will this go ahead?
A. There will be no fact-to-face assessments for a period of at least 3 months from March 17th 2020, until June 717th 2020. The health care provider will be in touch with you to arrange paper or telephone assessment.
Q. I want to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Do I have to send in a sick note?
A. If you have been diagnosed with coronavirus or are self-isolating, or are caring for a child who has been diagnosed or is self-isolating, you do not have to send in a sick note. You will be deemed to have Limited Capacity for Work, and will be paid ESA if you satisfy the other conditions for it.
Q. Are there any waiting days for ESA?
A. No, not if have been diagnosed with coronavirus or are self-isolating. You will be paid from the first day of your sickness.
Q. Are there are any waiting days for Statutory Sick Pay?
A. No, not if you have been diagnosed with coronavirus or are self-isolating.
Q. I am claiming ESA and are in the Work-Related Activity Group. I think I should be in the Support Group. What do I do?
A. A review will not be carried out for at least 3 months from March 24th 2020, until June 24th 2020, but you should not delay requesting a review. This is so that you receive the maximum amount of arrears when the situation returns to normal.
Q. I have been receiving Contributory ESA (CESA) for 10 months, and so it is due to end in 2 months’ time. What will happen?
A. It is not clear. If it ends, you should request a Mandatory Reconsideration arguing that a review can’t be carried out until 24 June 2020 at the earliest. You should also request a separate review arguing that you should be in the Support Group, and then your CESA is not limited to 12 months.
Q. Are the Universal Credit rates changing for 2020/21?
A. The personal allowance, that is the basic amount depending on whether you are under or over 25 and single or a couple, has been increased by £1,040 for the financial year 2020/21. The equivalent for Tax Credits is £1,045.
Q. I receive transitional protection with my Universal Credit, because the amount of my Universal Credit is lower than my legacy benefits. Does this increase mean I will get more transitional protection?
A. No, the increase isn’t used in your transitional protection calculation. Your transitional protection will remain at the same rate.
Q. I receive Carers Allowance and can’t care for the disabled person because of Coronavirus. What will happen to my Carers Allowance?
A. The law was amended from March 30th 2020 so that if you either have Coronavirus or you are self-isolating you will remain entitled to Carers Allowance. The definition of caring for the purposes of Carers Allowance has been expanded to include emotional caring.