Benefits and personal financial support

The government's response to the coronavirus outbreak is constantly being updated. During this time you may become eligible for support or for benefits you have not claimed before. Or you may want reassurance about what is happening with your existing benefits.

Claiming for the first time during Covid-19

Welfare benefits can seem very complicated and if you are claiming for the first time it can be difficult to find out which benefits are right for you. Visit our Better Off page for help with claiming and managing benefits which includes access to a benefit calculator to help you work out what benefits you may be able to claim.

Our welfare support advisors will also be able to help you if you need support with making a claim.

Help with bills you pay and managing money

If you are suffering financial hardship there may be ways of reducing or spreading bill payments during Covid-19.

Council Tax

Options you may be eligible for if you are experiencing financial difficulty paying your Council Tax:

  • If you are on a low income you may be eligible for Council Tax Reduction. You can apply for this online at www.herefordshire.gov.uk/eclaim.
  • As part of Central Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a maximum Hardship payment of £150 was applied to all customers who receive help with their Council Tax payments via our Council Tax Reduction scheme for the financial year 2020/2021. This payment has been credited to all qualifying customers and letters have been issued dated 5th August 2020.

    If you are eligible for Council Tax Reduction after 5th August 2020, your hardship entitlement will automatically be applied.

  • If your Council Tax instalments currently finish in January or February 2021 then your instalments can be extended to finish in March 2021. To request this, please email counciltax@herefordshire.gov.uk quoting your Council Tax account reference number
  • If you are already receiving Council Tax Reduction and your income has reduced, you should send confirmation of your income reduction, if you haven't already done so, to benefits@herefordshire.gov.uk as you may be entitled to more help
  • If you are having difficulty paying your Council Tax due to severe financial hardship then you may be entitled to a Council Tax Hardship Payment. Find further information, along with an application form on our Council Tax hardship relief page

Help with your rent

If you are struggling to pay your rent then you may be able to claim for Housing Benefit if you meet the housing benefit eligibility criteria.

If you do not meet the Housing Benefit criteria then you may still be entitled to the Housing Element of Universal Credit (UCHE). Find more information and  make an application at: www.gov.uk/universalcredit.

If you are entitled to UCHE and are liable to pay Council Tax, you should ensure you also apply for help with your Council Tax

If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or the Housing element of Universal Credit, the options below may be available to you:

  • If you receive either of the above and have a shortfall in your rent and are facing financial hardship, you may be eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Further information, including an application form is on our Discretionary Housing Payment page
  • If you are already receiving Housing Benefit and your income has changed, you should notify us as soon as possible, if you haven't already, at benefits@herefordshire.gov.uk as you may be entitled to more help with rent if you are not receiving the maximum support
  • Central government announced an additional earnings disregard of £20 per week. These adjustments will be made automatically to your claim
  • If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit, central government have announced an increase in the weekly amounts of Local Housing Allowance. This is the maximum amount of weekly rent you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. Any increase in your entitlement will be made automatically

Help with utility bill payments

There is government guidance if you are struggling to pay energy bills. Further advice is available from the CAB and Money Advice Service, tel: 0800 138 7777. Both services can also provide free independent debt advice.

Emergency assistance for food

Our Local Welfare Provision scheme provides short term support to people who have a low income or can demonstrate they do not have the immediate resources to meet the basic needs of themselves and/or their dependants. To request assistance complete the on-line referral form or phone 01432 383838

Help with funeral costs 

You may be eligible for a Funeral Expense Payment if you receive certain benefits and need help to pay for a funeral you're arranging.

  • More money is available for funeral grants from 8 April 2020

Help with managing debts

Benefit debt recovery

  • The DWP are stopping debt recovery activity as soon as possible and until further notice. This includes all benefit-related overpayments, Tax Credit debts, rent and utility arrears. Many activities will cease immediately but others may take longer to implement. A recorded message on the debt management telephone line informs people currently making repayments through a bank standing order to contact their bank to cancel the arrangement.

DWP confirm that recovery of Universal Credit advance payments will still continue.

Debt advice  Herefordshire CAB offer debt advice and the organisations below also offer free, independent advice to people who are experiencing financial difficulties:

Covid-19 financial support for workers

There are government support schemes for employees and the self-employed who are unable to work or lose income due to the restrictions of coronavirus.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

  • You can get £95.85 per week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you’re too ill to work. It’s paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.
  • If you cannot work while you are self-isolating because of coronavirus, you could get SSP for every day you’re in isolation. You must self isolate for at least four days to be eligible.
  • SSP may now be paid from day 1. Employees who are sick, self-isolating or shielded due to Covid-19 may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay from the first day of their illness or self-isolation.
  • If your illness is not related to coronavirus (Covid-19), you must be eligible for SSP and have been off work sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days) to get SSP.
  • You cannot get less than the statutory amount. You can get more if your company has a sick pay scheme (or ‘occupational scheme’) - check your employment contract.

Coronavirus job retention scheme Find out if your employer could keep you on the books and pay you 80% of your wages during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Support for self-employed workers  Find out about and apply for the government's scheme to support self-employed workers. HMRC also have a dedicated helpline for anyone running a business or self-employed and affected by Covid-19: 0800 024 1222. There is more about support and grants on our Covid-19 business support page.

Employment and Support Allowance

New style jobseeker’s allowance  From 30 March 2020, people getting Jobseekers Allowance don’t have to look for work or be available for work. The work search requirements are also lifted for this period and there is guidance relating to Covid-19 related sickness, isolation or caring commitments.

Find out about any changes to your existing benefits during Covid-19

Restrictions on movement and business opening and the need for social distancing and quarantine requirements may have an impact on the way your benefits can be managed. For example, it may not be possible to attend assessment meetings in person or apply for jobs during this time or there may be increases in the amount or changes to eligibility for some central government benefits.

Check the individual benefit on the government's site to see how any changes will affect you. We have highlighted some of the ways the benefit may have changed during this time. Visit the gov.uk page for the full update.

Universal Credit 

Universal Credit is usually claimed on line but there is a Help to Claim Service for UC online provided by the Citizens Advice Bureau. Their help line number is 0800 144 8444 or visit the CAB online Help to Claim service.

During the period of Covid-19:

  • Workers who are sick, self-isolating or caring for others, and whose household income and capital are low enough, may qualify for UC.
  • Claimants are no longer required to attend face-to-face meetings with work coaches.
  • For three months from 30 March 2020, out-of-work universal credit claimants are not required to look for work or to be able and willing to immediately take up paid work. This will avoid people being ‘sanctioned’ and losing benefit.
  • UC claimants ‘affected by Covid-19’ do not have to provide Fit Notes or medical evidence to be treated as having limited capability for work.
  • Self-employed people claiming UC do not have to attend an interview with a case manager at the start of their claim to establish whether they are in gainful employment.
  • The DWP has temporarily removed the Minimum Income Floor (MIF) used to calculate UC when the net profit from self-employment is low.

Working tax credit and child tax credit These benefits have been replaced by universal credit for new claimants. If you are already claiming one of these benefits you will be informed of any Covid-19 related changes via your online account.

Carer's Allowance  If you or the person you care for are affected by coronavirus, you may still be able to claim Carer’s Allowance if you provide care remotely. This includes giving emotional support over the phone or online.

Child Benefit  It is not possible to currently register births. However, you should still go ahead and claim Child Benefit even if you have to do so before you are able to register the birth.

Free School Meals  During Covid-19 the government expects schools to provide support to eligible pupils even if the school is closed or only open to certain groups.

Pension Credit

Disability related benefits 

  • Where benefit awards are due to expire, the DWP will extend end-dates of benefits so that claimants continue to receive their existing level of financial support
  • Changes in assessment methods and end-dates for benefits expiry or claim submission

Personal independence payment (PIP) extension to time to submit claim, but advice is still to submit claim as soon as possible after initial phone call to start claim