There are many different benefits available for carers and those they care for, but course, the current coronavirus is bringing many new challenges for communities. Most noticeably, carers are having to give up work either to look after family as schools or as businesses close – causing difficult financial circumstances for many.
Your rights at work: What am I entitled to?
Furloughed Workers Scheme
If you are working and your employer can not pay you due to the virus situation, they can apply to the government for help to get 80 per cent of your wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. This scheme is initially for 3 months.
Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
You might be eligible for this scheme if: you have sent in a tax return for 2018 to 2019, are still trading and intend to carry on. You need to be earning under £50,000 in profit a year and more than half of your taxable income should come from your self-employment.
If you only get income as a company director through a dividend you will not be able to claim. Claimants will get an average of their monthly income over the trading years April 2016 to April 2019 (or part of) up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for three months. You will not be paid until the end of the three months.
Changes to Statutory Sick Pay
You may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay £94.25 per week from your employer if you are self-isolating but not actually sick.
New Style Employment and Support Allowance
You may be entitled to this if you’re ill or have a health condition or disability that limits your ability to work. If you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions (and are not working) you might be able to claim this and get it from day one of the claim.
This is a payment to help with living costs for those on a low income or out of work.
Changes during the coronavirus outbreak include:
- The equivalent of up to an extra £20 per week has been added to the basic allowance.
- The “minimum income floor” (MIF) has been removed for self-employed people. This previous measure assumed that self-employed people were getting profits of 35 times the minimum wage per week.
- Restrictions on the Local Housing Allowance have been relaxed. If you have a higher rent than the government allows, you will get more help with housing costs.
- Other restrictions still apply. These include the two child limit (if you had a third or more children after 4th April 2017) the bedroom tax (if you live in social housing and you are deemed to have one or more spare bedrooms), the benefit cap and the mixed age couple rule (where the partner under pension age has to claim the lower UC rate rather than the more generous Pension Credit) still apply.
As you may have heard, checking your identity is now done over the phone and there is a huge waiting list for this now.
Up to £20 per week has also been added for those still claiming Working Tax Credit.
- If you are claiming Income Support/income-based ESA/income-based JSA, help with housing costs is only paid after a 39-week waiting period; a 9-month waiting period applies for Universal Credit. This help is now a loan from the government and not a grant.
- The government has announced plans for mortgage lenders to offer a three-month payment holiday for people struggling to pay.
- To get it, you have to be up to date with your mortgage payments. If you have to claim Universal Credit or Pension Credit because you have lost your job, there is a nine month wait before you can get help with the mortgage.
- The payment holiday is only a loan, as this article explains, this could result in an increase in monthly direct debits once you resume payments.
- If this affects you, you’ll need to speak to your lender for individual advice.
For people renting
- Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is available for those renting in the private sector and eligible for housing costs through the benefits system.
- For people renting in the Council or Housing Association sector, those who have to give up work may have to pay the bedroom tax. This is a 14% reduction in eligible housing cost with one extra bedroom and 25% reduction with 2 extra bedrooms.
- You may be able to claim Discretionary Housing Payments to cover any shortfall in either of the two cases above.
- The government has said that private and social housing renters will be protected from eviction for three months due to the coronavirus. However, rent arrears will not be written off.
Changes to Disability Benefits Assessment
All face to face assessments have been postponed, meaning decisions will be made from evidence on paper and through phone calls. People are being given extensions to fill in forms that need sending in.
Citizens Advice: Coronavirus – What it means for you
Money Saving Expert: Coronavirus Financial Help & Rights
The Money Advice Service: Coronavirus and your money