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Last updated 28 July 

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.  

There is important information and advice about coronavirus on the NHS website and information about the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak on the Gov UK website.

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

Personal independence payment (PIP)

Employment and support allowance (ESA)

Universal credit (UC)

Attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance (DLA)

Statutory sick pay

Carers Allowance (CA)

FAQs

 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

There will be no face-to-face assessments for at least the next 3 months from 17 March  2020, until 17 June 2020. On July 6th 2020 the DWP announced that there will continue to be no face-to-face assessments for PIP.  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 June 3rd 2020 the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, announced in Parliament that if you request a review because your needs have increased it will be passed onto the assessment provider. There will still either be a paper or phone assessment.

On 23 April 2020 the DWP announced that if your ‘disability benefit’ is due to expire in the next 3 months, until 23 July 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.

 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

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. On July 6th 2020 the DWP announced that there will continue to be no face-to-face assessments for ESA. 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. The Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, announced in Parliament on June 3rd 2020 that in respect of new ESA claims, these will be passed onto the assessment provider. Any assessment will be either a paper or phone one. No information was provided in relation to a deterioration in your condition and any potential transfer to the Support Group. If this applies to you, request a review as soon as possible and if necessary, argue that it should be passed onto the assessment provider in the same way as for new claims.

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).

 The DWP announced on July 24th 2020 that all new claims for ESA will have to submit a fit note, commonly known as a sick note, and that this provision will apply to all claims submitted since July 10th. For claims submitted prior to July 10th the DWP will write to you saying what date you need to provide a fit note from.

Universal Credit (UC)

If you are claiming on the grounds of sickness there will be no face-to-face assessments, for a period of 3 months until 17 June 2020. The statement issued by the DWP on July 6th 2020 regarding face-to-face assessments for PIP and ESA (see above), made no mention of UC sickness assessments. Common sense would suggest that this was an oversight on the part of the DWP, and that there won’t be any face-to-face assessments for UC for the time being. 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 reviews have been suspended for a period of 3 months until 24 June 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::
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/universal-credit-claimants-to-verify-identity-through-government-gateway
or
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/introducing-govuk-verify/introducing-govuk-verify

When you claim you will be treated as having LCW, you will not have to submit fit notes or undergo a WCA.

 

Attendance Allowance (AA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Face-to-face assessments have been suspended for a period of at least 3 months from 24 March 2020, until 24 June 2020. The statement by the DWP issued on July 6th 2020 regarding face-to-face assessments for PIP and ESA (see above) made no mention of AA or DLA assessments. Common sense would suggest that this was an oversight on the part of the DWP, and that won’t be any face-to-face assessments for AA and DLA for the time being.

From 16 April  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 13 March  2020 which treats you as entitled to SSP if you are self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

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.

From 16 April  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 13 March 2020 which treats you as entitled to SSP if you are self-isolating as a result of Coronavirus.

The DWP announced on 23 June 2020 that from 1 August 2020 you will no longer be automatically entitled to SSP if you are shielding. You may of course be entitled to SSP because you are too ill to return to work.

From 28 May 2020 you will also be treated as incapable of work for the purposes of SSP if you have had contact with a person who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus and you are having to self-isolate for 14 days.

 Carers allowance

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.

 FAQs

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.

Assessments

Appeals

Debt recovery

DLA

ESA

UC

CA

Assessments

Q. I have a face-to-face assessment appointment do I need to attend?
A. From 17 March 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 17 June 2020, and covers appointments for Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Universal Credit.

 A further statement from the DWP dated July 6th 2020 stated that there will not be any face-to-face assessments for the time being, and that further information will be issued in due course.

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, 2 April 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 24 March 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. It was announced to Parliament by the Minister for Disabled People on June 3rd 2020, that your review would be forwarded to the assessment provider.

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.

Appeals

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.

Debt Recovery

On July 6th 2020 the DWP stated that they are going to begin recovering overpayments again. You will be notified by letter when recovery is to begin and the amount to be recovered. If you are receiving Universal Credit you will be notified via a journal entry. The DWP say that if you are suffering ‘real financial hardship’ you can request a deferral by phoning Debt Management on 0800 916 0647.

DLA

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 17 March 2020, until 17 June 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 17 March 2020, until 17 June 2020. The health care provider will be in touch with you to arrange paper or telephone assessment.

ESA

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.

The DWP announced on July 24th 2020 that all new claims for ESA will have to submit a fit note, and that this provision will apply to all claims submitted since July 10th. For claims submitted prior to July 10th the DWP will write saying from what date you need to provide a sick note from.

Q. I have claimed ESA, what will happen with my claim?
A. The Minister for Disabled People announced to Parliament on 3 June 2020 that your claim will be forwarded to the assessment provider in the normal way. Any assessment will be either a paper or phone one.

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 24 March 2020, until 24 June 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.  On 3 June 2020 the Minister for Disabled People announced to Parliament that new ESA claims will be passed onto the assessment provider to be processed. You should argue that the same should apply if you have requested a review to be placed in the Support Group.

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.

Universal Credit

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.

Carers Allowance

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 30 March 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.